Friday, 6 November 2009

HEALTH – Get Color [City Slang]

The primal hell beast that is HEALTH have always been a favourite of mine, their t-shirts are brilliant but I’m in it for the music. The first time I saw them live it blew me away with a frantic percussive energy and a strange new vision of sound. The debut album HEALTH is still a favourite of mine but the DISCO version has dated horribly bar a couple of tracks, which was always the way of the blog house explosion that it came out of. Get Color the second album proper from HEALTH is now with us and I come to it with slight trepidation as: a) Die Slow the lead single and introduction to the new material sounds like a horrible combination of Nu-Metal-Electro and Kasabian b) Live the new material sounded more song based and easier to pigeon hole and maybe even lacking the energy of the debut material. Not lacking in power and frantic energy in the playing, they are still shit hot performers, it’s the music that was more sweeping and much more like post-rock than ever before. The stop, start percussive beastliness that brought so much intensity is now hidden under things that almost sound like songs. HEALTH are still really out there still mind they’ve not done a U turn, it just left me a little apprehensive about Get Color.

HEALTH bring vocals to the fore here, its not your regular vocal excursions though. With the first album you got a bit of what they do on Get Color but with a lot of otherworldly screaming like a dinosaur as well. But here they have a sort of reverberating, ringing; beyond this world quality to the voices and it really works well there is a dreamy blessed out angel of death quality to it when it’s juxtaposed against the music.

There are some misses on here like the unfortunate similarities swaggering indie pop stadium anthems on ‘Die Slow’ it just makes me cringe when the riff comes in, there is a powerful cheesy smell about it, even if they didn’t mean it. Then ‘We Are Water’ comes off sounding like a HEALTH//DISCO rehash, which immediately makes it sound dated, it works as the energetic peak of the album though but something doesn’t sit right. ‘Death+’ doesn’t quite do it for me either, the industrial buzz seems to wander and never really reach anywhere. Apart from that though the rest is on point all be it not as higher point as the debut. HEALTH don’t try and take you on such a high and physical journey here by the sounds of it anyway. Still the opener ‘In Heat’ has a lot of primal energy and the fragmented noises have a very nice melancholy vibe about them. The riffs on ‘Nice Girls’ when they finally kick in really kill it. ‘Before Tigers’ has a similarly killer riff as ‘Nice Girls’ and those dreamy, haunting vocals has a tender edge to it, this track rolls along like somewhere between a pre-historic love song and a futuristic Joy Division, its easily a highlight. ‘Severin’ shrieks and screams like previous material and even has an energetic twisting turning lithe quality to it before dropping into some swirling post-rock riffs backed with rolling drums and mournful vocals. ‘Eat Flesh’ also sounds a bit like a HEALTH//DISCO off cut but still kind of works, the drumming saves it. The finale ‘In Violet’ is a ballad-like song with skeletal guitars and a stripped back cold atmosphere, like a ghostly transmission of a long lost Joy Division song picked up on a distant satellite, disintegrating and broken over the airwaves. There is a fragile beauty about it.

One of the main missing links to what I found so intense and enjoyable with HEALTH pre-Get Color is the drumming, its still in your face and primal as hell, like a punch to your full body. But now its been pushed back a little in the mix and in the songs, its not as connected to the songs as it was before. Everything floats above it instead of being stuck to it. This does make for some heavy grooves though so it’s not all bad, grooves aren’t something HEALTH really had before, it brings a powerful liquid funk to the band. Once they twisted and now they roll.

Almost every track on Get Color sounds a bit like the spaced out ballads on HEALTH with plenty more guitar and bass used in a more traditional way, instead of a rhythmic way to make a strange noise, there are riffs a plenty here where they didn’t really exist before. This ends up being one of the strengths of the album when it works mind. It almost feels like this album leaves off where the last finished. HEALTH could have sound tracked a final battle on earth and the start of its descent into another world and Get Colour continues that dreamy feel.

Get Color seems harder to love there are flashes of what I loved about HEALTH the most over the whole album but there’s always something else there too watering it down a little. Is it that they’ve harnessed their powers and placed them into more song like structures, taken their raw free flowing ideas and shaped them a bit more instead of letting them fly. Or my enthusiasm for them has died a little. It’s still a good album and they’re a hell of a band but they’re not close to blowing me away like they did before. Maybe Get Color just isn’t as immediate to me as HEALTH and I need to live with even longer, only time will tell. They’ve spread their wings, flexed their muscles and show they have some serious skill and potential, I’ll keep watching but Get Color doesn’t quite hit the spot.

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