Plumbiferous Media

No Color - The Dodos

Mar 20th 2011
One Comment
No Color - The DodosThe Dodos
No Color
Score: 71

San Fran­cis­co indie group The Dodos was formed in 2005 as Dodo Bird. Six years, one name change, and three LPs lat­er (one crit­i­cal­ly acclaimed, one less so, and one too ear­ly to be noticed), the band released its newest album, No Col­or. No Col­or is an evo­lu­tion from Time to Die’s mixed suc­cess into a more care­ful sound for The Dodos. It’s not an entire­ly suc­cess­ful evo­lu­tion, but it is one that leaves us with an often intrigu­ing album.

Mer­ic Long’s voice, which often seems in pos­ses­sion of an almost con­ver­sa­tion­al tone, falls into a very reg­u­lar pat­tern through No Col­or. This makes for a clear sound that cer­tain­ly accents the album’s instru­men­tals, but which at the same time is almost entire­ly pre­dictable. Is that a fair trade­off? Well, that depends on whether it’s bet­ter to have vari­ety or con­cor­dance. In this case, since The Dodos occa­sion­al­ly suf­fer from issues with rep­e­ti­tion, it might have been bet­ter to lean towards vari­ety - but that does­n’t make Long’s approach a fail­ure. Instead, it sim­ply pre­vents it from work­ing as well as it could have, and Neko Case’s con­tri­bu­tions, as well as vocal accents such as “Black Night“ ‘s yelps, go a ways towards keep­ing every­thing interesting.

Lyri­cal depth is not one of The Dodos’ strengths. Instead, they tend to bet­ter at wield­ing imagery and the sound of words than actu­al mean­ing. Lines like “This takes us by sur­prise, I’m sure / Are you the curse? / Are you the cure?” sound inter­est­ing, but don’t real­ly go any­where - although that’s not real­ly the point. To a large extent, they’re there to aug­ment the band’s sound. Espe­cial­ly with the oft-repeat­ed hooks, the point of No Col­or’s lyrics seems to be more to cre­ate a gen­er­al feel­ing about the album then to tell stories.

Gen­er­al the­o­ry for any sort of per­for­mance or pro­duc­tion states that only the first and last bit make any sort of major impres­sion on the observ­er. Whether or not that is true for an album, it is inter­est­ing to note that No Col­or begins with (albeit fair­ly suc­cess­ful) almost excru­ci­at­ing­ly heavy drum­ming, tran­si­tion­ing into a unique and beau­ti­ful­ly com­plex, if harsh, gui­tar line. The track as a whole works shock­ing­ly well - and tran­si­tions quite well into the sub­se­quent track - ful­ly val­i­dat­ing the inter­est­ing choice of percussion.

Sim­i­lar­ly inter­est­ing is the final track of the album. In fact, of the entire album, the last track most close­ly resem­bles the first in musi­cal com­plex­i­ty - at least of the gui­tar line. Through­out the album, The Dodos main­tained a high lev­el of activ­i­ty, depth, and indi­vid­u­al­i­ty, but the begin­ning and end of the album are clear­ly the high points. In some sense, the track should be praised, indi­vid­u­al­ly, for its mer­it, but its sim­i­lar­i­ty to the first track makes it some­how less desirable.

If No Col­or were, as well as a deep album, a heav­i­ly diverse album, it would make a reca­pit­u­la­tion of the open­ing track more than pleas­ant, adding wel­come sym­me­try to the album. But The Dodos nev­er real­ly stray far from their orig­i­nal con­cepts. More than one track has heavy yet appro­pri­ate drum­ming, and the sim­i­lar­i­ties between tracks by no means stops there. Giv­en that, the final track is fair­ly inap­pro­pri­ate, lack­ing much orig­i­nal­i­ty. No Col­or is an inter­est­ing album. While ‘pleas­ant’ may not be the best descrip­tor, it is cer­tain­ly enjoy­able in its own, fair­ly potent way.

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One Response

  1. A. Matheson says:

    Mere­ly “enjoy­able in its own, fair­ly potent way,” and you award­ed it a 71? I come away a bit con­fused as to whether or not you’re rec­om­mend­ing the album! I bought “Time to Die” off a merch table after see­ing them live (open­ing for the New Pornog­ra­phers), and bare­ly rec­og­nized the songs in album form; the band’s stage per­for­mance added a tremen­dous ener­gy that was woe­ful­ly miss­ing from the LP. Nonethe­less, I’ve come to enjoy it as inno­v­a­tive for its gui­tar-as-per­cus­sion aes­thet­ic. Might this album, also, be a grower?

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