Review Summary: Everyone’s favourite colour is back… With a song of '09 contender in tow!
As effective opener ‘Burned Bridges’ builds up over its three and a half minute duration, it gives off an exciting sense of an upcoming explosion. Climaxing with Vernon Reid’s frantic guitar-playing, one cannot help but feel that Living Colour’s first album in six years could be a return to the form which saw them storm on to the scene two decades ago, collecting Grammys along the way. It is a disappointing shame then that what follows are two short, sludgy and rather boring tracks (‘The Chair’ & ‘DecaDance’), the former of which contains amateurish forced rhymes. The funky ‘Young Man’ that follows is solid, but seems totally out of place with what has come before it. “Hey fellas, how about we start again?”
And start again the NYC quartet do, since fifth track ‘Method’ (pardon the pun) methodically builds up in a moody fashion not too unlike the opener. But this time, what comes next is thankfully all class. ‘Behind the Sun’ contains a super tight rhythm section, thrilling guitar-work, passionate vocals and meaningful lyrics. ‘Hard Times’ adds a fantastic solo, while ‘Out of Mind’ throws in screams, snarling vocals & thick riffs that remind why some classified Living Colour as a metal band when they were at their peak. Elsewhere, ‘That’s What You Taught Me’ and light-hearted hidden track ‘Asshole’ prove that hooky mainstream rock does not have to be so musically bland.
However, as strong as these cuts are, they pale into insignificance when compared to track 7; ‘Bless Those (Little Annie’s Prayers)’. Guitarist Reid is astounding here, seamlessly transitioning from a bluesy twang to a metallic riff, and then finally to a mind-blowing solo that will have you on your knees either playing air-guitar or proclaiming “we are not worthy”. The most amazing fact however, is how this virtuoso guitar performance does not overshadow the remainder of the band. The vibrant and well-defined bass-lines of Doug Wimbish, the punchy drums of Will Calhoun, and the character-adding vocals of Corey Glover all make this a real musician’s piece and a genuine song of the year contender.
Living Colour has always been a band willing to push boundaries and experiment with their technically proficient sound. It is arguably what resulted in the group’s 1995 disbanding and why it is probably unrealistic to expect them to release a consistent album of gems. However, what can be viewed as a weakness can also be seen as a strength, and for the most part one can conclude that ‘The Chair in the Doorway’ is a successful return to form. Sure, they are capable of better and could very well do with some advice on track ordering, but there is enough evidence on show here to remind us why an inconsistent Living Colour releasing two albums a decade is better than no Living Colour at all.
Recommended Tracks: Bless Those (Little Annie’s Prayers), That’s What You Taught Me, Behind the Sun & Hard Times.