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Graffiti6

Colours

(NW Free; US: 24 Jan 2012; UK: 24 Jan 2012)

“Graffiti6” sounds like the name of Prince’s new girl group, but it’s actually the British musical duo of producer TommyD and ridiculously handsome heartthrob Jamie Scott. Together they’ve made Colours, an impressively silly little pop album devoted to happy dance grooves. Like many poor saps saddled with perfect bone structure, Scott is really a folk artist in his heart of hearts—the bio says, “Upon hearing [Joni] Mitchell’s Blue at the age of seven,” blah blah blah—and this gives Graffiti6 a Serious Side that pops up every so often. Sometimes these pop-ups are unfortunate, as when the slow insipid nothing of a song “This Man” derails the album four tracks in. Other times, though, their Serious Side simply adds to the silliness. For instance, “Goodbye Geoffrey Drake” is a deeply unconvincing murder ballad (!!) that peaks when its narrator learns the secret of life and pines for his Mum after the executioner’s poison has rushed through his veins. Scott gets away with such stuff because his voice is a versatile wonder capable of both scratchy shouting and Adam Levine cool.


You want pedigree? TommyD produced the alltime classic “I’m Too Sexy” for Right Said Fred, and a bunch of other stuff; he’s the older, wiser, vaguely mafioso-looking brains of the operation. Scott has led his own heartfelt pop band, the Town, and you no doubt remember his song on the Step Up soundtrack. (OK, I remember it.) He’s everything in Graffiti6 that’s not the brains.


For instance, he is the loins. In the confusing “Lay Me Down”, he alternately picks up a girl, goes to sleep beside her, and utters thoughtfully lascivious come-ons like “Lay with me, and I won’t sleep”. Scott is also Graffiti6’s broken heart. In the single “Free”, he bravely forswears lying beside the girl because she keeps leaving him, maybe because he keeps falling asleep. (I say “girl” because there’s a girl in the “Free” video, but Scott addresses many of his lyrics to some unspecified “baby”, so feel free to project your own homoerotic fantasies.) Most of all, he is whichever body part makes people strong survivors—the soul, if we must. Throughout Colours Scott finds himself repeatedly saved by love, or saved from love, or saved in spite of love. The drumless album closer “Over You” portrays that universal dream we all have of finally getting over someone, then sitting down at the keyboard and pouring out our deepest feelings as a room full of people bursts into tears. “Now I can dance”, Scott whispers.


For accompaniment, he might put on the Graffiti6 album. It’s characterized by Motown-y production numbers—hooks, glockenspiels, personable basslines—that resemble Bruno Mars singing a soul revue at an awards show. Which is to say, TommyD executes the uptempo songs perfectly, but doesn’t include much in the “individuality” department. “Annie You Save Me” is probably the best of the lot; it boasts a mysterious and triumphant hook reminiscent of something by Canadian Italo-disco duo Lime.


Graffiti6 also don’t include much in the way of “memorable lyrics”. As you’d expect from guys who named their album Colours, they’re big on visual metaphors: “Oh baby, I see the light that’s burning bright and we’re the stars”; “Now the colours all melt together”; “I broke the skies that shine above”, etc. Light and colours, it turns out, are really amazing and awesome, and you break them at your peril. Occasionally Scott seems not to understand the concept of metaphor, as when he sings on the title song, “I’m seeing colours, flowing through my mind”. I took an informal survey around the office, and it turns out Scott’s condition—“seeing colours in the mind”—isn’t so unusual. Even the blind guy could relate.


But “Colours” is still a fine song, thanks to Scott’s ethereal vocal glistening above a strutting snare drum, while strings and New Order guitar tones burst forth in vibrant array like the freakin’ Northern Lights or something. At some point in life, everyone recovers from a broken heart and becomes a psychedelic poet. Graffiti6 show that only the most brilliantly plumed among us can turn such terrible poetry into pretty pop tunes.

Rating:

Josh Langhoff is a church musician. He's written about music for The Village Voice, The Singles Jukebox, two EMP Pop Conferences, his church newsletter, his blogs Surfing in Babylon and The Flowtation Device, and the Burnside Writers Collective, where he also serves as music editor.


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Graffiti6 - "Annie You Save Me"
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