Combining their love of the blues with garage-punk stalwarts like the Stooges has served the Brooklyn trio of Awesome Color well for their two previous albums. There is no denying that they do bluesy garage-rock a great justice, but with the release of their third album, Mass Hypnos, it seems that they aren’t too inclined to try something different and step outside their well-worn musical realm. That fact makes one wonder if Awesome Color will ever be able to evolve beyond their genre.
As soon as the crunchy blues riffs on “Transparent” open the album, it’s clear that Awesome Color haven’t abandoned their love of Detroit garage rock in the slightest. The swagger and ‘70s-sounding squealing guitar solo of “Oaxaca” only help to further underscore this point. It’s a lot of fun, and Awesome Color certainly sound like they had fun when they wrote this album, but fun can only take you so far.
The other point of interest surrounding Awesome Color is their relationship to Sonic Youth, seeing as they record for Thurston Moore’s label, Ecstatic Peace. While Awesome Color have been described as a “grimier version of Sonic Youth” by Rolling Stone, they share no direct musical comparisons to them, save for blink-and-you’ll-miss-it interweaving guitars on “Flying”. Instead of heading to the arty side of the punk spectrum, like Sonic Youth often do, Awesome Color flock to the noisier, more traditional side, as evidenced by the two-minute guitar frenzy on “White Cloud”.
Borrowing some very Iggy Pop-reminiscent vocals again for “Zombie”, Awesome Color again recycles their ideas about garage-rock on a song about another tired subject: zombies. Except in this case, the zombie is just “thirsty for blood / hungry for love.” Still, it’s hard to take Awesome Color seriously when they’ve barely attempting to bring anything new to the table. Only on the closing track, “IOU”, do they start to switch things up a beat. The jangly tambourine, echoed vocals, and hard-hitting drums sound more like Led Zeppelin here than they do the Stooges, which makes sense, because Awesome Color, like Led Zeppelin, are really just a blues band when it comes down to it.
Perhaps the new direction they hint at on “IOU” should serve as a message to the band: stop pandering to the genre of garage-rock and go for a more straight-forward blues sound. There’s nothing wrong with trying to incorporate more punk rock into your sound, but when you’re on your third album, like Awesome Color is, perhaps it’s time to try something new for a change.
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