Life In Colour by Bubblegum is a concept album that plays out like a radio play a la Psychoderelict. The band succeeds in doing a lot with a lo-fi sound, incorporating lots of instruments, melodies and feels.
The intro functions as an overture of sorts incorporating the horns and strings along with a fast strummed guitar and nimble drums. There are some Belle and Sebastian-like qualities to the vocals and their inflections. The organ work is bubbly and interesting and makes for a nice instrumental break. Some of the timing between the drums and guitar however is a bit shaky and takes away from some of the groove. After a brief interlude by the actors, a heavy groove comes smashing through the doors with buzzing guitars and huge drums. A busy song is established with lots of things going on in the bass and sliding guitars. The chorus is catchy, but some simplification of the instrumentation might help the melody pop out a bit more. Still, the heavy instrumental near the end has lots of emotion and power.
“Guessing Games” slips through several time signatures with ease making for some clever feels. Combining some fuzzed out guitars with a lighter ska like rhythm and thick drums, the song fuses some interesting elements. The stereo effect on the drums is pretty intense and psychedelic, a little disconcerting at times, but perhaps that’s the effect in which case it’s very effective. The guitar solo near the end is a wonderful noise collage with some great flourishes. “Chalk” has a laid back intro with electric piano and melodic bass before opening up into a disco-ish groove. The transition works well, leading the song into a catchy dance-y feel. The harmonies are smart as are the handclaps. The heart monitor guitar line takes the groove away at times but works to combine a duality of concepts. “Cola” is based around a minor feel with sliding guitars, glockenspiel, clanging pianos and mellotron-like synths. Moving from a carnival of sounds to a heavier moog-ish riff, the song functions well as a soundtrack to an indie movie yet to be made. Once the vocals enter it moves to a Neutral Milk Hotel-esque feel with noise and grit combined with a catchy melody.
“Kid For Country” opens with Bobby McFerrin-ish beat boxing and country fiddle before moving to a horn led pop song. It’s a curious intro and doesn’t quite line up with what follows, but the song that follows is good and the horns add quite a bit.
“Cosmic History” is an instrumental that follows a repetitive contrapuntal guitar and keyboard line that sets up a bass and drum jam. The performances are very well executed, the tone on the snare is a little dry compared to the hi hat, but it definitely sits out in front and leads the band heroically through the jam. Someone moves from drum loop and harmonica to chugging guitars and acoustic drums with a descending bass line that ties the two sections together. The transition is infallible, giving way to a punk-ish feel with some great rhythmic hits.
“Madman” is a chirpy early Bowie-ish song rhyming man with itself over and over again before a more open chorus. The sing/song nature of the verse has some contrasts with the chorus, but there is a telegraphic guitar line that references the melody in a clever way. The harmonica and violin countermelody that builds up to the climax gives an interesting timbre by combining the two sounds perking the ear up. “Today I Feel Like Yesterday, Okay” is built around a nightclub-ish piano. The electric piano chimes on top are a nice layer sonically but are pushed up too high in the mix. The tuba-like sounds of the electric bass are sneaky and intriguing, making for a great countermelody. The female harmony in particular on this song really shines. “Black Label” uses a hi-life-ish riff, falsetto harmonies and chiming glockenspiel to make for an indie pop dance track. The breakdown in the middle works well adding shaker and some melodies on the glockenspiel. The album closes with “Between A House and A Home,” an anthemic close with tremolo violin and glock hits eventually descending into free jazz noise and speaking.
Overall, Life In Colour has some really clever interesting songwriting and a band that knows how to make a lot of interesting sounds out of their instruments. The story is a bit hard to follow sometimes, but as a piece of sonic art, the album holds together well.
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