Thursday, September 17, 2009

More Than A Nice Piece Of Furniture

LIVING COLOUR – “The Chair In The Doorway” CD ’09 (Megaforce, US) – My live experience with New York’s LIVING COLOUR began in 1991 when I saw ‘em tear the house…er…the sun-baked open field down at Lollapalooza. My interest in them, however, had it’s flames fanned long before that when the band issued their debut, 1988’s “Vivid.” Built on a rock-solid metal-riffing foundation most notable in the band’s biggest radio entry “Cult Of Personality,” they also proved to excel at many shades. The funky riffed “Middle Man” & the danceable-yet-rockin’ “Open Letter To A Landlord” made a splash in a bunch of ways. They not only revealed a seriously keen social awareness but musical stalwarts. Rhythm section Muzz Skillings (bass) & Will Calhoun (drums) could lay down a smouldering funk-laden bottom to rival anybody. Vox man Corey Glover had a set of pipes as sweet as anybody and guitarist Vernon Reid came off like a cross between Ty Tabor & John Coltrane. In short, “Vivid” was a blinding debut.

LC then followed up with “Time’s Up” (1990), basically everything that “Vivid” was except a little less in the songwriting department. In trying to spread the variety even further, they stretched the tunes a bit thin on a few cuts, thus making “Time’s Up” a VG+ effort compared to “Vivid’s” EX. 1993’s “Stain” saw the departure of Muzz Skillings, to be replaced by another monster 4-stringer, Doug Wimbish. The results were a notch less again, the songs a tad less developed. It was still a good album but it also marked the next point in a downward curve that would reach an especially disturbing nadir with “Collideoscope” some 10 years later (2003). Simply put, this was a poor-to-fair (and “fair” only in brief spots) release that really made me believe these still-shit-hot musicians had blown their wad in terms of interesting songs.

So, now we come to a brand new album, LIVING COLOUR’s first in 6 years and the question is, did they bring it back from the grave? The answer, most thankfully, is a definite “yes.” You can tell LC are back right from the opener “Burned Bridges.” Granted, it’s not a balls-out rocker but the upward-building, spiraling atmospheric feel of this number puts the songwriting depth back in the red. And if it IS balls-out rawk you’re talking about, you don’t need to listen any farther than the 2nd and 3rd tracks. “The Chair” and “DecaDance,” respectively, this pair opens up a can of audio whup-ass the likes of which Dime (rest his soul) and Pantera would’ve been proud to call their own. But before you go ahead thinking this is just going to be a one-dimensional metal smack-down from stem to stern, plop down in this “Chair” and take in more of it’s diverse upholstery. Feel the street rhythm in “Young Man.” Have your heart wrested out of you with the emotional one-two punch of “Behind The Sun” and “Bless Those (Annie’s Little Prayer).” Feel the message behind the humor of “Asshole.” Can I sit here and tell you this is a better album than “Vivid?” No, I wouldn’t say that, as I still think that debut is LIVING COLOUR’s calling card and “insect-in-amber” moment. Still, “The Chair In The Doorway” is the best damn record the band has done since then and, as such, one you should own. Come And Sit A Spell

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