Review Summary: Living Colour returns after a decade on hiatus and while they do enough to prove they are not a spent force just yet, this comeback LP is overlong and contains way too much filler on its 2nd half.
Having disbanded in 1995 citing “differences of opinion regarding musical direction”, NYC quartet Living Colour surprised fans by playing an impromptu gig in late 2000. Eventually reforming, they released their 4th full-length album ‘Collideoscope’ in 2003… More than a decade after previous release ‘Stain’! In essence, the new album was an attempt to be a compromise between the heavier & angrier ‘Stain’ and the overlong genre-fusing 2nd release ‘Times Up’. On paper, that seemed a logical approach, however it is not always an easy task to put into action... Especially when 10 years have passed.
Thankfully, early signs are promising for the most part. Lead single ‘Song Without Sin’ opens proceedings with a distinctively thick guitar riff courtesy of guitar maestro Vernon Reid. Meanwhile, the following track ‘A Question Of When’ adds some effective sampled sounds and Corey Glover’s insistently desperate and questioning vocals to the equation.
One thing which time had definitely not restrained was Living Colour’s politically and socially-conscious heavy lyrics as they are still a major component of the band on ‘Collideoscope’. ‘Operation Mind Control’ sees the main tag-line of “It’s operation mind-control, it’s the battle for America’s soul”, while on the electro-dub piece ‘In Your Name’, Glover belts out lines such as “we are hurting you to heal you and we’re doing it in your name”.
However, adding an extra bow to their lyrical arsenal was the September-11 terrorist attacks which occurred while the band was in the early stages of putting this album together. This is best highlighted on standout track ‘Flying’, which is a ballad detailing office workers caught in the World Trade Center buildings at the time of the tragedy. Beginning with “I jumped out of the window to get to the parking lot, I’m writing this little song on my way down”, Glover later adds “I was gathering up my nerve to ask out Carmen… Now we’re holding hands, not just the way I planned”. While very serious, the cut has that same quirky outlook which made ‘Love Rears Its Ugly Head’ so successful previously.
Unfortunately, the final two-thirds of ‘Collideoscope’ suggests that time may have passed Living Colour by a little. There are still some above-average moments; the Caribbean reggae-like vibe of ‘Nightmare City’, the involving narrative of ‘Lost Halo’, and ‘Holy Roller’ where Glover is at his soulful best. Elsewhere however, either shortcuts are taken or the results are mediocre at best.
Familiarity is one technique unsuccessfully used to stem the tide, with covers of AC/DC’s ‘Back In Black’ and The Beatles’ ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’. The former includes nauseating screeching vocals from Glover, while the latter is just plain boring. A solid-re-recording of ‘Sacred Ground’ is also included after being used on a mid-90’s ‘Best Of’ compilation titled ‘Pride’. Arguably the most puzzling track here however is ‘Choices Mash Up, Happy Shopper’ which is an experimental mess where the band quite possibly attempt to include moments of every genre imaginable.
Similarly to ‘Times Up’, there is the additional weakness of Collideoscope being overlong at 60 minutes and containing way too much filler. You could quite easily whittle this LP down to 11 tracks & 45 minutes, which would result in a nice overall package… Especially considering that this is a comeback album. However, as the album approaches its climax, it is quite the chore to listen to and a little sleep-inducing in all honesty. Thankfully, there is sufficient quality during the first half to suggest that Living Colour is not a spent force just yet, and ‘Collideoscope’ is still worth a listen.
Recommended Tracks: Flying, A Question Of When & Holy Roller.