Review Summary: With Get Color, LA noise outfit HEALTH have improved upon their penchant for simply crafting weird sounds by actually crafting songs, and listenable ones at that, out of their usual chaos. (8.8/10)
Looking back on HEALTH’s self-titled debut (especially in conjunction with its subsequent remixing, HEALTH/DISCO), it wasn’t hard to see the direction HEALTH has taken with Get Color coming. Whereas that debut album was more about introducing the world to the fact that they could, in fact, create what the soundtrack to the apocalypse would sound like, HEALTH’s second effort expands on that, and tries to get you to enjoy yourself as their manic blasts of sound explode around you. Get Color is as much of an experiment as the first album in that we find the band attempting to both craft some sense of pop/rock/dance/electro sensibility out of their usual spasms of energy, monotonous, incomprehensible vocals, and intensely pounding rhythms, as well as refine the style they had attempted to master on their first effort.
The results of this experiment are varied. “Die Slow”, then, is the album’s lone "masterpiece" in the sense that it’s the most instantly dance floor-ready track on the album. The grooving stomp of the rhythm section along with the normally manic guitar and feedback workouts being transformed into approachable, yet still heavy, electro riffage combine to produce a track that is as much Nine Inch Nails (whom they opened for in the fall of 2008) as it is F*** Buttons. Add on top of this Jake Duzsik’s oddly beautiful droning vocals, and we get one of the top songs of 2009, truly a rare slice of bliss that combines the danceable with the experimental.
Perhaps, then, it is disappointing to some that the rest of the album mostly forgoes the effort to expand upon this dance-noise style in favor of cultivating the traces of potential beauty that could be found throughout their debut. However, to look at HEALTH’s refusal to follow in the footsteps of bands such as, say, Crystal Castles, would be to miss the point of this album as a whole. With Get Color, HEALTH have devised an album that is brimming at the seams with as many art-noise moments as there are head-banging ones. This juxtaposition that comes with formulating beauty out of ugliness may not be the most original concept, but HEALTH take this idea and run with it throughout the album. For all its seemingly ear-straining moments, Get Color is strangely listenable because of the splashes of just plain prettiness that pop their heads up throughout.
Take, for example, “Severin”, which has drummer BJ Miller once again stealing the show with his driving, manic, yet ungodly precise, stop-at-will rhythm. The track starts off ugly enough, with swells of screeching feedback and cymbal crashing assaulting eardrums everywhere to the point where the average listener would probably be begging to tune out. However, out of the chaos comes Miller’s tireless groove, a stellar, razor-sharp riff that sounds like something out of an updated soundtrack for an 80’s-era Nintendo action videogame (yes, HEALTH’s sound is hard to describe to those who haven’t listened to them before), a faint wall of feedback cautiously swelling off in the distance, and Duzsik’s atonal drone, which all combine to create a piece of art that evokes as much fear in you as it does pump you up with its intensity.
If “Die Slow” is the masterpiece of the dance-noise sensibilities of the album, the best example of a “top 10” hit that Get Color has, then “We are Water” has to be the king of HEALTH’s techno-metal pieces. With a biting, metallic riff created out more painfully wailing feedback, Miller’s tight, pace-changing rhythms, and a step up in intensity for the Gregorian chant-like vocal of Duzsik, “Water” is the culmination of HEALTH’s improvements on the record. Another top song of the year, it is a beautiful mix of punk energy and noise experimentation.
Get Color is all anyone can ask for a band’s second album to be: an expansion and improvement over a group’s particular sound. The album as a whole functions as a cohesive unit, with all the songs fitting together and pacing themselves nicely while still maintaining semblances of individuality between tracks. It is true that some of the tracks borrow traits from each other, creating a bit of repetitiveness, but this can be expected when dealing with this style of music. HEALTH’s sound may not be for everybody, despite Get Color’s attempt to make itself at least somewhat more listenable with tracks like “Die Slow”. Still, this is group that will still be rough on the ears to those not willing to expand their musical palettes enough to give them a chance. For those who dare to venture deeper, though, Get Color is an album that rewards the listener by creating a sonic mixture of punk, noise, dance, shoegaze, and art, all of which combine to make one of the most unique experiences of the year.