Review Summary: A potent reminder of Visiter's excellence, a tragic souvenir of Time to Die's short-comings. Welcome back boys.
It is very difficult for an album’s content to blossom when the very same album contradicts itself upon every track.
The Dodos are an indie rock/ folk outing from America. The band has had quite the half-pipe of album releases from the stunning Visiter to the less ambitious; quite flock from beauty: Time to Die. To say the least; The Dodos have themselves as a band to prove that they can retain consistency with their recent record No Color.
No Color begins with much urgency in the form of ‘Black Night’, a track with hesitant sentences spat from lead vocalist Meric Long behind a backdrop of their signature sound; the acoustic guitar and ear thumping drums, charmed with an occasional electric guitar swimming blissfully within the depths of the song. The track follows a simplistic verse –chorus structure, with the final minutes reminiscing to that of ‘Fools’ from Visiter. The track sparks quite the opening, not coaxed to that of being splendid, this is not red drapes brushing softly against the wooden panels of the stage to introduce No Color. This track is tugging the curtains open and yelling “HELLO!” It’s a much welcomed reminder of the talent The Dodos can muster.
The opening is followed by ‘Going Under’, which elevates its way through six minute epic of fleshed out pantomime. A workshop filled with glue, ‘Going Under’ undergoes much change throughout its play-time, from a breezy chorus complimented by an equally calm verse to an all out powerhouse roughly three minutes in. These minutes felt removed from the first portion of the song, almost making those early minutes forgettable by the time the track ends. It’s rather difficult to appreciate sacrificing dependable structure for irrelevant change, when the last minutes of ‘Going Under’ fail to live up the excitement that ‘Black Night' produced.
The band really throw their faults out the window with the symmetrical excellence of ‘Good’ and ‘Sleep’.
Urgency is at home within ‘Good’, a literal wham of The Dodos characteristic formula but yet; never feels small in comparison, frankly; it never gives you the time. Even on the softer moments of the song, you feel anticipation for Long to howl and the party to begin. Perhaps the ending may soil itself for some, with its tiresome repetition of the song’s title, but for me; ‘Good’ establishes a solid foundation for the follow up ‘Sleep’.
‘Sleep’ reminds me of earlier track where The Dodos could rely on intimacy to connect with their listeners, likely housing the best chorus of the entire album.
“I cannot sleep, I cannot think, I cannot dream!”
With piano keys brushing warmly against Long’s guitar and Kroeber’s drums trotting alongside; introducing the violin with much appreciation, ‘Sleep’ is one of the stand outs of No Color, never once through the three minutes was I left uncertain of the direction the track was taking, even when moods start devouring into sophomoric idiocy towards the last minute where someone...or something moans the song to sleep.
‘Don’t Try And Hide It’ acts as a reminder of exactly how poor Time To Die was in comparison to such wonderful tracks we have heard before it, doing so by being such a track to appear on Time To Die. It’s tired, without any real substantial value and all currency it poses is wasted on what could have been a rocking track list for No Color, but alas, something had to fail. The track is so forgetful, you wonder if The Dodos really put care into writing it at all. It acts not as a slow track, not as an up tempo foot-stomper but a habitual, average souvenir of Time to Die’s mediocrity, a huge mistake for both The Dodos and their hard work within No Color.
‘When Will We Go’ is The Dodo’s equivalence to a slow number, or at least in No Color’s terms. It’s certainly the softest track on the album and it’s an acceptable change of pace. It’s not incredible, it’s not poor, it’s a woven ring wrapped around the finger of No Color as a beautiful decoration, not of any use or substance. Needless to say, it is well written, it’s a change of pace and one can’t really fault it.
Now, things get back on track with ‘Hunting Season’. It’s not quite up to the standard of earlier tracks on the album but it softly builds to an outstanding ending, closing all doubts I had through the progression and pacing of the track.
“You take care of him; I’ll take care of...”
This sort of uncertainty within the track paints an unusual landscaping story of loneliness. The hunting season in question likely a hunt for the fairest lass to find Long but as he clings on to memories of his loved one and how she is gone for another man, who will he take care of? This of course is speculation, but like any good poet, without any decisive direction, it is our duty as listeners to paint the tracks with perpetual assumption and I have fun doing so. It makes ‘Hunting Season’ one of the more intriguing tracks on the album, not for its musical merit but the untold lyricism.
The Dodos plot to end No Color in style and so they do with the definitive stand outs on the album ‘Companions’ and ‘Don’t Stop’. ‘Companions’ is like nothing The Dodos have done before, much like the magic found in Visiter. I love it.
It is this sort of compassion and care that made The Dodos such an interesting prospect. With no real direction in mind, all the forks within the track make each road it takes more and more engaging and annex worthy, certainly my most played track throughout my time with No Color. Upon every listen I found something new, it uses these pot holes to fill the track with puddles of music and spell-binding sounds that The Dodos have never explored before.
By the end of No Color, The Dodos close similar to how they opened; now tearing down the drapes, bowing and pumping a foot stomping tune for the audience to have one last hoorah. ‘Don’t Stop’ is the very track that can rival ‘Fools’ (of Visiter) lasting success. Much like ‘Fools’, this track never quits, churning out all kinds of tempo driven goodness. Candy for The Dodos’ fans, a reminder that as artists; The Dodos are a talented pair of lads for the sceptics, such as myself. The track swoons in and out of focus from a delicate plucking pattern of the acoustics into an energetic, sneering electric guitar before the album comes to a stop.
‘Don’t Stop’ The Dodos say, even when the stop is impending.
To conclude, No Color has its share of reminders of how poor an album Time To Die was but still manages to prove that they are a band with plenty of tricks tucked in their sleeve that shuffle out after every strum and after every drum beat. It is nowhere near the quality and coherency of Visiter but yet a massive step up from Time to Die. Some tracks have a tendency to take the back seat; ‘Don’t Try and Hide It’ and ‘Going Under’ are specifically these track. However, others match that of the intensity of Visiter, which almost cancels out the bad, but not to a full degree, one simply cannot hold your breath and the hiccups are gone; nope, you still remember you had them. It sits perfectly in the middle, though I admit, I wasn’t too sure whether to consider this a good album or a great one, I guess the hooks that have been implanted into my brain this past week will do all the talking. No Color proves The Dodos have more to give, proves that they have a long way to go. Welcome back boys.