The Colour, despite the spelling, is an American band. You could even say, an American Band—the capitalization, along with the spelling of their name, an adequate enough hint as to the band’s natural leanings. Put another way, this LA band likes—rather, loves—dramatics. In this they’re not alone: somehow it seems Southern California spawns theatricality. The best of the recent crop, of course, is Cold War Kids, a constant comparator for the Colour and a constant reminder of where this band could be if it were just a bit better.
One of the problems with Between Earth and Sky is that it’s too static. The texture hardly changes; these songs are built off the same building-blocks and because Wyatt Hull’s voice is distinctive and confined to a narrowish range, it is difficult for them to establish individuality. Verse-chorus-solo-verse-chorus, repeat. Hull’s deep baritone voice has echoes of Morrissey and echoes of Nick Cave, but he’s not as lugubrious, not as cool as either. Combine that with a really straight-ahead rock sound, like that of New York band Radio 4, and you can’t blame us for failing to get really excited about the Colour. And yes, there’s pomposity here, as on “Can’t You Hear It Call”, and it’s well-embraced, which can be thrilling in the case of Muse, but lacks some punch here. Between Earth and Sky comes to sound just like a bunch of kids playing derivative, blues-based rock n roll. They’ve been weaned on Classic Rock, all those American songs Americans all know, those Doors and Stones songs, and “Everybody’s Talking”, which they quote in the chorus of “Just a Taste”. Trouble is, the chord progression they choose to ape there is from a more recent, already mentioned band—Cold War Kids, on “We Used to Vacation”. OK, so the conflation of internet time is problematic here, but the familiarity for us discovering the band’s sound now can’t be undone.
There are some moments that clearly demonstrate a band with a command of rock music’s power to thrill. The closest the band comes to Cold War Kids is on the single “Devil’s Got a Holda Me”, on which the shouted refrain is about 40% as thrilling as “Saint John”. The soaring chorus in “Kill the Lights” does its job, too—but any respect has got to be grudging, because this is all so tired, this sound and these fresh-faced teens sounding just so old, just so faux-wise. But “Black Summer” stomps forward with a dark, covered abandon. Despite the pessimism of looking forward and seeing only desperation, the singer has arrived at a place of acceptance, and it’s certainly effective.
If the band could lighten up a little—one can imagine an entirely different, more uplifting “You’re a Treasure”—and escape a mix that condenses the guitar noises into a single muddy register, the Colour might find room to carve out a solid, if not entirely exciting, niche for themselves. Between Earth and Sky doesn’t do it, yet; and the band has the unfortunate timing of following in the footsteps of another, more competent and similar contemporary. But there’s still hope.
// Notes from the Road
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