Review Summary: One of the most important transition albums of all time
Many people look back on Talk Talk as the band that pioneered post-rock. It's easy to look back favourably on them in retrospect, but as is the case with many genre pioneers, they weren't appreciated in their day and age. Despite the cult following both The Spirit of Eden
and Laughing Stock
have developed, they were largely passed off as pretentious and bloated at their time of release, when nobody could look back like we can to see the impact these albums would have on the modern musical landscape. It should be noted that the bands third album, The Colour of Spring
is actually their best-selling album, containing their most popular singles while performing leaps and bounds over their previous releases in terms of both originality and quality. By doing away with the synth-heavy new wave the band had developed and taking influences from jazz and art-pop, the band created an eclectic melting pot that paved the way for it's successors without alienating fans, making it a defining album for the band and a landmark transition album for music as a whole.
Right from the get go, the band wastes no time establishing their new direction with “Happiness Is Easy”. Beginning with nothing but a repeating drum track, the track is immediately more bare-boned than anything in their back catalogue, but the slow and careful addition of layers to it's skeletal structure indicates a far more mature approach to their song-writing. The song slowly builds into a track somewhat more familiar to fans; Hollis' signature croon is still here, as are the addictive grooves and a memorable chorus, but there's something different. The expressive strings that ease in a little over a minute into the song, the extended instrumental sections, a far wider instrumental palate, all of these show a band striving to take an idea and push it to its limit. The singles of the album (#16 hit “Life's What You Make It” and #48 single “Living In Another World) also adhere to this pattern, bearing a loose similarity to past singles but containing more experimentation, more creativity and as such are a more satisfying experience overall. They are no less addictive when compared to past singles, but there is a whole new level of depth given to these new songs. However these tracks are the reason that, despite how far Talk Talk expanded their sound here, one foot was grounded firmly in the past.
The real meat of the album lies in between these more fan-friendly cuts. “April 5th” marks the most haunting ballad of the band's career, expanding on the morose sound played with in the second track and multiplying it tenfold. Throwing in a wider range of instruments (including a saxophone, a variophon, a dobro and an organ), a more creative song structure and some of Mark Hollis' most emotive vocals makes this the most unique track thus far in the bands career. This is their first big step in the direction of their future sound, and an important statement from the band. This statement is furthered by the 7th track, “Chameleon Day”. Easily the most experimental song on the album, this piece wouldn't be out of place on either of their following albums, consisting of nothing but an extremely sparse jazz atmosphere and Hollis' evocative croons. The final track is the real highlight though, standing as a perfect snapshot for the entire album and the perfect marriage of old and new styles. “Time It's Time” is a monumental epic that epitomises everything the band has accomplished thus far. With more creative ideas and even more unique sounds (harmonicas, melodicas and tribal chants are a focal point of the track), the band essentially hits all of the targets they were aiming for throughout the album. The track covers several different sounds and feelings, with lyrics like “Time it's time to live through the pain, now that it's over” that perfectly reflect the atmosphere. Even though the track can become pompous and overbearing with its exuberance, it was a necessary piece to the puzzle and the perfect close to the album. While one foot is still grounded in the past, this is the foot that was planted in the future, the foot that would pioneer a new genre and affect music as we know it today.
For a band with a legacy as important as Talk Talk's, it is difficult to appraise a past album without comparing it to their revered classics. These is no doubt that the albums succeeding this one were far more important to music today, but that should not diminish the success of this release, as well as its importance to the band itself. This was a masterful album in it's own right, the culmination of everything the band had built until this point, and the perfect transition into the sound they would become known for. It was the bands first successful experimentation and gave them the confidence needed to release albums as challenging as The Spirit of Eden
and Laughing Stock
in the future. The Colour of Spring
stands as an integral part of Talk Talk's history, the most pivotal moment in their career and a brilliant album that is truly worth your time.