From the first feedback-heavy riff on Awesome Color’s sophomore album, Electric Aborigines, the band aim to bludgeon, slash, and overpower their way to rock glory. Ignoring the fact that the riffs sound lifted from Raw Power or Kick Out the Jams, the album isn’t horrendous; it’s just full of tracks that build and shred, but never go beyond just aimless posturing.
The band, from Brooklyn by way of Detroit, got their big break two years ago when Thurston Moore handpicked them for distribution on his Ecstatic Peace label. Moore even stepped in to produce the band’s self-titled debut, creating a scattershot album that was more concerned with destroying ears than getting listeners to connect with any of the songs.
There’s nothing wrong with a band spending most of their time blowing your head off with heavy riffs, but there’s much to be said about something beyond the riffs to latch onto. Awesome Color’s heroes had frontmen with screws loose (The Stooges), self-indulgent politics (MC5), and an inherent sexiness (Sonic Youth). Awesome Color has none of that, leaving Electric Aborigines feeling like not much more than a directionless sonic exercise.
The band is able to make their massive riffing work occasionally, especially on the vaguely Lynyrd Skynyrd-esque “Taste It,” the whiplash inducing “Already Down,” and the ambling “Step Up.”
But more often than not, the songs exist for no other purpose than to showcase how raucous the band can get. Opener “Eyes of Light” maybe one of the most feedback-heavy songs out this year, but it never goes anywhere of any function to the listener, and neither do “Do it Right,” “The Moon,” or “Come and Dance.”
Perhaps realizing that they’re making records for a crowd that already owns the best in ear-shredding rock (including their label boss’s music), Awesome Color turn their amps on stun, and they’re better for it. Album highlight “Outside Tonight,” with its Stax-worthy bass, finds the band sounding like more than just the latest in a long line of Detroit bands ready to make you bleed aurally. They show more songcrafting ability on this one track than they have on any other track on this album (or its predecessor).
Electric Aborigines is great in concept: a traditional power trio batters its way around ten tracks of feedback-heavy skuzz. But in practice, the album sounds aimless and clichéd and pays homage to a sound that was played-out more than thirty years ago.