The Contrast: Fade Back In

Gary Glauber

The Contrast

Fade Back In

Label: Rainbow Quartz
US Release Date: 2004-05-18
UK Release Date: Available as import

The Contrast have refined their sound some and made it even more their own on their third album, the newly released Fade Back In. As the band grows ever tighter as a playing unit, and prolific lead singer/songwriter David Reid grows more comfortable at the mic, producer Andy Hawkins has chosen to punch up the vocals some while capturing the rocking sonic mix of guitars and harmonies that is the Contrast.

Hailing from the East Midlands (Peterborough, to be more specific), this quartet produces a sound that calls to mind many bands that have gone before (among them the jangly Rickenbackers of the Byrds, the sonic guitar force of Bob Mould in Husker Du or Sugar or as a solo artist, the guitar-swathed vocals of early R.E.M., the poetic moody rock of Television, the swagger of many a raw garage band, the anger of a younger Costello or Jackson or Parker), yet they remain true originals, carving out a sound that is distinctly their own.

Gone are some of the jazz/blues leanings from the latter part of their previous release (Wireless Days), replaced now with some retro psychedelic influences. Overall, Reid has said this is the band's "most focused and direct stuff," and I'm inclined to agree. Fans of the Contrast's sound will be very pleased with this new collection, and it's a great starting point for those eager to hear what Reid and his music are about.

The band plays with familiarity and infectious energy, and that fun translates well to the finished product. Comprised of Rickenbacker maestro Reid, Spencer Hart on harmonies and guitars, Richard Mackman on bass, and James Crossley on drums, the Contrast are the musically brash angry young men we'd all like to be -- honest, punk, pop, and self-deprecating in a witty way.

"Give Me One More Chance" opens aptly enough with ringing guitars that fall into a solid Crossley beat. It's a tale of a guy asking for a second chance, but structured in such a way that his ardor chills from verse to verse. He's less eager it seems by this second verse: "I don't believe you when you tell me you never gave me up / I know you don't have good allegiance and all your ethics suck / I'll be somewhere in the background just watching you screw up / I will call you when I can if you give me one more chance". The middle bridge solo features a fine Byrds-like guitar lead, backed by superb bass work from Mackman.

Many of Reid's songs are beat driven, and the infectious "George Zipp" is no exception, sporting a strong rhythm of equal drums and guitars. This is a tale of post-altercation friendship (or the questioning of it), as one chides another's actions and desires: "On the floor and raving / I'm not sure if you're worth saving / I can't give you the love you're craving / Don't ask me to try".

Reid's confidence with the guitar is apparent on these songs -- he's in control of every note and very in sync with his bandmates. One of the strongest offerings here is "Forget It", another tale of disenchantment and fatal inaction, giving in to giving up on another: "You may as well look the way you do 'cause the wind will never change / You may as well say whatever you like 'cause you know you were always strange / Did you dye your hair -- did you think I care?"

"The Guilty Party" is another infectious number, rife with harmonies and guitar hooks, quiet moments and lyrical censure. I'm not sure of the precise reference here, but it seems like you can't turn on a television without confronting some "ecstatic guilty party" parading before you.

Reid and company go psychedelic retro on "Catch the Spark", complete with fuzz bass. This is a call to action, a warning of impending doom in the face of the current state of things: "The devil's right outside my door / The mist is thick, it's a real downpour / I just threw my TV at the wall / We've got to hit the ignition / Try to catch a spark / We've got to hit the ignition / Before it all goes dark."

The psychedelic vibe continues through to "Your Starring Role", a lyrical bombardment chastising one whose fifteen minutes of fame is underway with paper-thin friends, plenty of senseless personal changes, and empty hopes: "You are a controlled explosion / Firing repressed emotion / Inventing new self-doubt that's closing in."

On his previous album, Reid offered up a "Drop Dead Gorgeous Love Song". Here we get his "Functional Punk Pop Song" -- and it's that and then some, embracing the energy and anger along with the tuneful fun. Kudos to Crossley, who manages to really propel this short tune far beyond functional.

And speaking of drop-dead gorgeous, I can't say enough good things about the chillingly spare ballad "Something Tells Me". Reid's halting voice and sweet guitar take center stage, and you're not likely to find a more emotionally honest reading anywhere. With humor, insight and love, Reid sings of a delicate friendship gone wrong, someone formerly strong who has turned bad and isn't likely coming back. Reid doesn't often slow down and open up like this, but when he does it becomes musical poetry, haunting and memorable: "And the best thing is the worst thing / When you're outside singing dreams in the rain".

The swift, hard-hitting "Flatpacked" condemns one who doesn't seem to get it, and features some nice guitar lead flash and more of what has come to be that recognizable Contrast sound.

Those seeking more punk/pop flavors (and some more fine bass work from Mackman, as well as some organ from Andy Hawkins) will enjoy "Smart". It's all upbeat fun here, savvy harmonies and self-deprecation from one "with the brains" yet not very smart.

"Everything Seems to Get to Me" is another short, catchy gem, the melody and harmony camouflaging the topic matter about a man at his wit's end: These tell-tale signs are flashing / It's dangerous for me to start to think / My head will explode if I don't listen to the static on TV".

There is no drop in quality (or energy) from the first track to the last. The CD closes with "Disconnected", which spotlights the group's knack for nifty harmonies and leaves you wanting more.

David Reid continues to grow as a talented artist, harnessing cultural and musical influences and creating fun, vibrant songs that bathe in a multi-layered jangle of guitars. As stated above, I'm additionally pleased by two other developments: that he's letting his vocals come through more and that the band is tighter than ever.

Fade Back In builds on the promise of the previous two albums from the Contrast, and delivers more of that consistent sonic sound that has become uniquely their own. Arguably their best yet, this solid new collection should become a fast favorite of many for the summer months ahead.

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.