Back in 2003, a CD named Friends Don’t Speak by a gutsy and loud math-rock band named Fletcher came to our attention. We reviewed it even though it stood out in our decidedly dreampop-shoegaze oriented site because the quality of the CD was exceptional. Fletcher impressed us with their equally complex and emotional songs, even though the CD was totally different than the music that is usually spun in our collections. Just as the band showed promise on Friends Don’t Speak, though, they quietly slipped from our radar, since we have not been able to see the band live and have heard of no new recordings.Fast forward to early 2006, and the five-piece band has just released a new EP. However, this time around, the five-piece band has renamed themselves, taking the name Colour Revolt (complete with British-Canadian spelling), signalling a new chapter for the band. The band retains the aggression, complexity, and emotion of Friends Don’t Speak on their self-titled 6 song EP, but the structure of the songs is reworked into something more ethereal, melody-based, and even more compelling than the songs on their previous release. Lead signer Jesse Coppenbarger still screams his lyrics in a frantic hoarse voice, only now he builds to these screaming moments with gruff and unpolished singing. The band’s multiple guitar assault that sees dueling players challenge each other to ever intertwining guitar lines is fascinating, while Colour Revolt’s songwriting, both musically and lyrically, shines on this EP. With a sound that resembles Pedro The Lion meeting Radiohead in a back alley of a southern biker club and lyrics about loss, confusion, death, and depression, Colour Revolt grabs the listener by the neck and doesn’t let go until the last note is squeezed out of Coppenbarger’s throat.
A mournful harmonica opens up the aptly titled “Blood In Your Mouth”. Coppenbarger dryly sings “Wait, until you’re ready”, as the various elements (pounding drums, slinking bass lines, and those duelling guitars) build throughout the slightly atmospheric track. One aspect of Colour Revolt’s new found sound is their ability to combine an atmospheric sound (achieved through clever songwriting and chord structures, as well as delicately played guitars) with a raw aggression, and “Blood In Your Mouth” is no exception to this approach. With haunting background vocals, guitars building and vocals reaching their point of no return “Blood In Your Mouth” explodes into a crude (but dense) rock jam. The dark song ends with those haunting background vocals, only after the band assaults the listener for a full 5 and ¾ minutes. An excellent song and a wonderful way to open up Colour Revolt. “Mattresses Underwater” appropriately begins as a softer, more laid-back jam, featuring watery guitar leads, gentle drumming, and Coppenbarger’s passionate but understated singing. The song builds, comparable to a song from Joe Christmas’ North to the Future, except that where Zach Gresham would have sung his lyrics under the increasing distortion emanating from the guitars, Coppenbarger’s singing morphs into a wail over the instrumentation. “Mattresses Underwater” hurtles itself to an obliteration of feedback-laden guitars and perfectly screamed vocals. “A New Family” combines the Radiohead mood of sullen guitars and keyboards (and even falsetto background vocals) with Colour Revolt’s math-rock tendencies. The track sails along to a subtle climax, and further proves Colour Revolt’s talent for knocking out strong songs with interesting arrangements. Strange found samples herald the beginning of “Our Homes Are Graves”, and the sounds give way to seesawing distorted guitars (almost in the My Bloody Valentine tradition). Through technical drumming and Coppenbarger’s raspy singing, though, the song proves that it’s no shoegazing tribute. Rather, the song teeters between the worlds of almost gentle atmospherics and aggressive screamed rock. The too-short song ends with Coppenbarger screaming “We’ve heard the things that God said, we’ve got the marks on our head, our houses turned into graves, some people better left for dead”. Immediately, the opening strains of harmonica, acoustic and lingering electric guitar open the fantastic “Change Your Face or Change Your Name”. The song begins as a smooth homage to southern-tinged atmospheric rock: a gentle rhythm section provides a groove for Coppenbarger to croon over. The band slowly incorporates unnerving and out of tune chords and strange sounds into the song, subtly but powerfully building towards a spine-tingling climax where the lines, “I don’t know where it is I’m gonna go, is it heaven? If it is, come get now…” are screamed with the utmost conviction. The song gloriously becomes an almost space-rock study in unwieldy rock, tied together by the smooth rhythm section. “Change Your Face or Change Your Name” is the finest moment on an already excellent EP, meaning that this song is exceptional. Finally, the odd “Circus” provides the dénouement for Colour Revolt. Closer to a Fletcher song than a Colour Revolt song, “Circus” finds screamed vocals and uncontrollable guitars sawing at the listener’s ears. The song doesn’t really fit in with the rest of Colour Revolt, but you gotta love a band that isn’t afraid to write and record such a dirty and aggressive song.
In the end, Colour Revolt is more than another interesting release from this band of young musicians. The EP just reeks of the poise and intelligence of hardened music veterans, while retaining that hard-to-find spirit of gutsy, unrefined, rock and roll attitude. Colour Revolt is a fresh kick in the face in this age of stoic-faced shoegazers, cold electronic artists, and indifferent 80’s revival bands, and shows that powerful rock and roll can be played with equal amounts of sophistication and raw power. My only complaint (besides the inclusion of the respectable but out-matched “Circus”) is that the EP was just way too short: a compliment in itself. Excellent work!