Brilliant Colors - "How Much Younger" (Again and Again)
Two years ago, Brilliant Colors’ Introducing twitched and careened and yelped behind a veil of fuzz. “Absolutely Anything,” the knock-out from this Bay Area band’s debut, threatened to dissolve around the edges, but there was no mistaking the firestorm of energy at its fractious center. “English Cities” was a mess of clangor, guitar-frantic dissonances breaking up in feedback, shouted “oh-hos” sticking like bayonets out of murmur-y verses. Here was a band, you might have been excused for thinking, that only needed a bit of tidying up to really score.
With Again and Again, Brilliant Colors gets that scrub job, and holy crap, are the results ever disappointing. This second full-length is like looking at fog through a clean window. There’s nothing there, and boy can you ever hear that nothing clearly. Specifically, producer Alex Yusimov has refocused the Bay Area band’s sound around its pop elements, bringing up Jess Scott’s soft, uncertain melodies and downplaying the ragged energy of her guitar playing. A rhythm section — Diane Anastasio on drums and Michelle Hill on bass — might be playing in another room, possibly in another building. “Hey Dan,” the album’s opener, turns positively jangly, Scott crooning over an uncertain mesh of guitar and ride cymbal. Put her singing in the spotlight, slow it down and remove the spit and snarl, and you realize how indifferently she carries the tune. Moreover, there’s not much tune to carry. Try and remember the hook, even seconds after the song has finished. It’s not in your head, because it’s not really on the record.
The album continues in this soft-focus, mush-mouthed fashion for the next four songs, through dull “How Much Younger,” muddy “Value Lines” and toothless “Round Your Way.” And, unlike the songs on Introducing, these are not one- and two-minute episodes, over before you’ve had time to get bored. “Round Your Way” drags on for nearly four minutes, long enough to exhaust any remnants of its hey-that-sounds-like-my-girlfriend-singing-in-the-shower charm.
The one song that really works on Again and Again is “Back to the Tricks,” not coincidentally because it builds its sound around a killer guitar riff, an urgent bass line and the most clattery, chaotic drumming on the album. The vocals here are secondary, a dreamy layer of cool in an otherwise heated amalgamation of rock energies. There’s no pulling back, no crippling attempt at cute-ness, and, as a result, it’s by far the best track on the disc. It’s too bad that the rest of the album plunges back into dreamy indistinctness afterwards, each song less memorable than the last.