Review Summary: It was fun while it lasted and we're still great friends.
2006 marked my second quantum leap into a greater appreciation and understanding of music. I look back on my past preferences in the areas of music, film and literature with that strange sense of fondness and amusement that I’m sure many of you can relate with. It’s this charming sense of nostalgia that holds my hand from smiting Skillet and MxPx from my iTunes library, because after all, it’s undeniably endearing to revisit that awkward stage of head banging off time to Creed and Godsmack. As my high school career began, my preferences slowly sharpened. The atrocious monotony of over-produced hard rock was traded in for the more slick yet still adolescent angst of screamo. Underoath, Dead Poetic and Finch offered that level of higher engagement my maturing ear needed for the time being as I elected to attend high school clad in girl jeans, small-sized tee-shirts and black track jackets.
It was my junior year when I decided to download a few songs off of Alaska. I had bought All Bodies, Selkies and The Primer on the recommendation of a friend, but more so on the impulse that I felt the need to be challenged. I wouldn’t have put it that way at the time, but I felt as if the “musical food” I had been devouring had suddenly liquefied into milk. Two step beats and breakdowns were no longer solely satisfying and I needed to be eating solids again. Anyone who loves music knows this process well, and therefore I don’t need to explain my own experience of falling in love with Between the Buried and Me. It happened, and I was infatuated with all things technical, angular and in 7/8. “Colors” was released at the peak of my obsession with Alaska, and I still remember driving to Best Buy with a couple fellow BTBAM fanatics to purchase my copy on September 18th, 2007. Of course I felt like my head was being blown off with the sheer volume of triumphant melodies and awesome displays of technicality that assaulted me, and of course, “Colors” was the unchallenged king of my favorite albums list. Things remained this way for over three years. I wouldn’t say that my tastes remained static for that period of time, but it was definitely the “Colors Era” of my musical life. I practically swore by this album.
I write this now because a week ago, I finally saw that “Colors” had turned to milk. With the drive from Santa Barbara to LA in front of me, I saw the opportunity to listen to the hefty 64-minute album in its entirety for the first time in almost half a year. In the months leading up to this listening experience, I had been saturating myself with the likes of Radiohead’s entire discography, Sufjan Stevens and Sigur Ros. I knew this chunk of time had constituted another musical growing period for me, but it hadn’t hit me yet just how dramatically my tastes had changed. The hit happened as I realized, halfway through Ants of the Sky, “This doesn’t make me feel anything anymore.” I mean "feel" as in how the last orchestral passage of Radiohead’s “How To Disappear Completely” slowly pulls my rib cage apart. How “The Predatory Wasp” by Sufjan Stevens pushes the most blissfully joyful images of life into my mind and before my eyes. How “Stand And Feel Your Worth” by Thrice takes me up into a place where my heart beats stronger and my steps have new purpose. For “Colors,” that impact and that depth of feeling was gone.
So what is “Colors” now? Well, it’s fun. It is fantastically, truly, and somewhat deeply, fun. The speed, the flowery arpeggios, the classical melodies, the groove, the Mr. Bungle; everything on this album is still ridiculously enjoyable for me, just in a whole new way. I no longer take “Colors” seriously, and it’s a wonderfully freeing thing. Leading up to last week, there was an ever increasing discomfort when I would look at the “5” section in my ratings and see “Colors” in the same box as “Kid A.” Now that odd tension of such a crude juxtaposition is gone, and I have, quite wholly and contentedly, a new view of my music.
As I type and as you read, it’s increasingly obvious to us both that this review isn’t as much about the music of “Colors” as it is about my experience with the album, but I don’t want to short-change Between the Buried and Me on this front. As much as I can understand the complaints that this album is disjointed and pretentious, those claims always seemed unfair. I never had any trouble connecting the strings that tie it all together, and quite frankly, I find “Colors” to be an incredibly organic piece of music. Each song acts as a movement and has a distinct feel that, despite all the noodling and genre hopping, is maintained quite rigidly. The front half of the album – save for “The Backtrack” – is primarily denser, less melodic and less accessible. It’s even evocative of more yellow-brown tones, whereas the second half brings cooler hues of blue and violet to mind with its intense emphasis on melody and flow. One should know that any other information about the insane guitar work and wacky time signatures is exhaustively covered in the other forty-six reviews of this album and that stuff isn’t my point anyway. My point is that at the end of the day, all of these factors fully contribute to the main draw of “Colors,” which is not its technicality or its ambition; it’s the sheer fun of it.
All in all, this is somewhat of a farewell to what once was my favorite band and what once was my favorite album. I finally outgrew the fifteen-minute songs, the epic sweeping passages and the White Walls breakdown. What I hope I never outgrow is the ability to listen to an album for the sheer childish enjoyment of it; something I fear the Radiohead fanboy I’m turning into may have a hard time doing in the distant future. My love for “Colors” will surely continue to dwindle as life and music go on, but may I never look down on it with that snobbish sneer that leaves no room for the simple joys of ridiculous music.