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Brilliant Colors

Introducing

(Slumberland; US: 3 Nov 2009; UK: 9 Nov 2009)

Short and Sweet

I once had a co-worker who swore by short albums. His rationale was that, on a truncated album, bands usually brought their very best songs to the table. Citing Pearl Jam’s recent Backspacer as an example – the album only runs about 36 minutes – he also felt that short albums meant that the artist in question didn’t have to resort to adding extra verses or bridges just to pad out a record’s running time. Needless to say, he liked his records to be lean and mean.


Well, this co-worker of mine would have probably loved Brilliant Colors’ debut album, naturally called Introducing. The 10 songs whiz by in a 24-minute clip, which is probably about only two or three minutes longer than the Vivian Girls debut album of last year. And the Vivian Girls comparisons don’t end there. Like the Vivians, Brilliant Colors is a girl-group trio, composed of singer/guitarist Jess Scott, Diane Anastasio (drums) and Michelle Hill (bass). Both bands got their start in 2007. Both bands issued seven-inch singles before unleashing their debut albums. Close your eyes and Scott sounds a little bit like Vivian front woman Cassie Ramone at times – at least, in terms of delivery.


Both groups also share a similar punky, edgy sound, with chiming guitars galore, except that Brilliant Colors tend to approach their sound more from the C86 era rather than ‘60s girl groups, as the Vivian Girls are sometimes wont to do, and Brilliant Colors are not quite as thrashy. Perhaps the only thing the two bands truly don’t share in common is locale: the Vivian Girls are a Brooklyn-based band, while Brilliant Colors hail from San Francisco. (Even then, though, one might be able to make a case for Brilliant Colors having East Coast roots as at least two of the three band members hail from there.)


Another comparison can be made, too, to The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, which is probably only natural as Brilliant Colors share the same record label. But Brilliant Colors are an abbreviated version of said group with those super short songs that barely give one enough time to go to the fridge and pick up a beer before they’re done. In line with such brevity, virtually all of the songs have only a stanza for lyrics, and the lyrics usually get repeated for a “second” or even a “third” verse before petering out without a chorus, as on “Absolutely Anything” which just stops dead after repeating itself. (On a non-related note, the song has a striking resemblance to the verses of Nena’s “99 Luftballons”, until the chorus kicks in at least.) Such repetition is virtually unnoticeable, though, as Scott’s vocals sometimes feel as though a dreamy gauze covers them. You’d only have to be paying attention to the lyric sheet to note the repetition.


Though Brilliant Colors shares similar girl group lyrical concerns about boys, there might be slightly on a bit more of a feminist bent than their peers. Scott coos on “Motherland”, “I go back to the mother.” On “Should I Tell You”, she tells her would-be boyfriend, “You can’t talk here / You’re in a crowded van / You can’t talk here / There’s girls everywhere”, as though she doesn’t want to share intimate thoughts in such a packed space, or doesn’t want to share him, period. And Scott has no problem letting her inner woman roar like a lion on songs like “Yell In The Air,” which is simply about turning her back on her beau, as she lies awake in bed. At only five lines long lyrically, Scott bottles her rage into a concise but bereft package.


One thing that can be said about Brilliant Colors is that it is a very musically tight band, which might be unusual considering they’ve only been around for two years. The production of the album is polished to a buzzing sheen. Anastasio hits the skins at a horse’s gallop, deftly moving things along at a mid-tempo clip for much of the record. And the guitars jangle at times, as on the album closer, “Should I Tell You”, as though the band is resurrecting early R.E.M. Even though the songs pretty much bleed into each other, there are tiny variations that are pleasant surprises, such as “You Say You Want,” which churns its way into a slightly morose offering with Scott growling like she’s been possessed by the spirit of Peter Murphy.


Introducing might make a case for Brilliant Colors being a knock-off group, a carbon copy of the Vivian Girls with subtle differences. But Brilliant Colors are a good carbon copy. The music has a peppy vitality, and a slightly cleaner sound than the Vivians, and is engagingly endearing on its own merits. Maybe, at 24 minutes long, Brilliant Colors didn’t necessary bring their best songs to the table – perhaps they are the only songs that they simply had. But, for the most part, the song writing is stellar, even if the songs all sort of sound like minute variations of each other, and there’s hardly a truly duff track to be heard. In short, Introducing never wears out its welcome simply because its almost over before it gets started. I guess my former co-worker was right: there is definitely a place for the short album. I only wish that I still worked with him so he could hear this one.

Rating:

Zachary Houle is a writer living in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. He has been a Pushcart Prize nominee for his short fiction, and the recipient of a writing arts grant from the City of Ottawa. He has had journalism published in SPIN magazine, The National Post (Canada), Canadian Business, OttawaShowbox.com and more. He also reviews books for bookwookie.ca.


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