Review Summary: unless you're counting the colors of the rainbow, of course.
As far as titles go, No Color
really sucks. Who wants to see the Dodos in black and white and grey? The Dodos are all about the beating of the drum and the slips and tangles they get us lost in, so to take away that vibrancy, that spring in their step, is to create something out of the space this duo occupy. Even if you locked these guys in a room and set them to task with a strict slow-jams policy, you’d get the hung-up, devastatingly sad sounds of the Dodos
- a track as crushing as “Winter” is a product of its band, a product of Visiter
, a track in which Kroeber thumps at his kit like he’s teasing his other half to put more into it. Which, by the way, he actually is: there’s life and colour enough even for a track as cold as “Winter,” and it ends up as a minor moment played fast and loose. So it kind of feels like there’s no place for a Dodos who dress in gothic shades when they can do it all playing their own game. Which is all the colours of the rainbow, or something.
But really No Color
suggests a different incarnation of the same band behind Visiter
. That album really was ridiculous, which is where a lot of its appeal lies: it carried great emotional weight on its back (“Undeclared,” obviously), and it explored it so intensely that everything came out. At fourteen songs, Visiter
was the Dodos in pursuit of every little thing, and it suited a band so frantic. It was a real rabbit-chase of an album, moving from one moment into the next completely unrelated one, from the quickie in “Eyelids” to “Fools,” from the album’s most chaotic track (“Joe’s Waltz,” chock full of dissonant piano and folk-punk duets) to, well, “Winter.” It was a mess from a band without an editor, and how could it have been any other way? Most bands would’ve realised that two songs as heavy-hearted as their last couple on that album shouldn’t sit together, but Long and Kroeber seemed to know exactly where the peaks and valleys of Visiter
And man was it wild, so where do the Dodos go from there? Their next two records have been nine tracks a piece, which seems both a statement of shortness and a wish to fragment things just a little less. It’s an album length so abrupt it sort of harkens back to how mad the whole Viister
thing was. And what is so great about No Color
is that it unravels the crazy patterns in the Dodos’ sound in a completely different way. It allows them to discover what they can do with their songs
rather than what their songs can do to their album. That’s what’s so supposedly uncolored about this cheekily titled album: it’s the same Dodos, silly, but one treating every song like its own moment, which is why even if “Black Night” flows into “Going Under” as well as anything on a prog-rock album, the explosion between the two isn’t laboured over. Nor is it some crazy transition- instead we can talk about what the songs do. “Black Night” feels as pushy as any Dodos track, moving from its steady tempo into a sudden twist in pace that opens the album with a fresh energy. “Going Under” sounds more than ever like the band trying to glue two different songs together, but it makes sense to have these moments together because emotionally, they’re within touching distance. And a nine-track Dodos album with “Good” on it? I guess this structure frees up the band in ways we never knew, because those guitar riffs fume forward out of the indie-folk and thrust the band ever forward through their song.
It saddens me to hear it said that No Color
throws itself in with Time To Die
and rests firmly on the laurels that the Dodos have earned. We can accuse the duo of playing the same card a hundred times over, or that this sound comes with its territory (you can only bang on a drum so many times), but No Color
goes deep into emotional places the Dodos have never expressed so well. Much in the same vein as the sad-saps behind that new Fleet Foxes record, tracks jump out that sound wholly new for the Dodos because they look at a different feeling. It seems hard to think that the Dodos could pull of a track with all the desperation “Hunting Season” carries in 2008, with this crafty, silly musical style they play. Nor do I think it’s possible that we’ve seen them repeat a thing with “Companions,” a track that refuses to sacrifice that same style but is somehow the most downbeat we’ll ever see it. More so than “Winter” for sure, because it doesn’t give us the band upfront. And there’s something to be said of the record’s centrepiece, “Don’t Try And Hide it,” which brings indie superstar Neko Case aboard for a folksy anthem in-between that doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. It’s complex stuff for a band who used to simply express themselves, and do so a lot- it’s Long and Kroeber looking at everything in a little more depth, and giving everything a little more time. And so once more, the Dodos feel fresh, a little bit more thoughtful, and every bit as happy to get us tangled up in ourselves. Of course there’s color to No Color
. It’s just this time there’s black and white and grey as well
- colors they’ve never used before.