Colonial Drones is a grower. Well, sort of. Each of the 13 songs is actually pretty immediate, and no two take on the Hallelujah the Hills's power-pop sound in the same way. The towering balladry of "Put the Gurus in Charge" is as big and infectious as anything on the band's previous album. "Black Passports" is a thumping rock song complete with an arena-size chorus. And "Oxus Pagoda" glides along on a bed of horns.
But as catchy as each song can be, what grew on me is how they all mesh into a cohesive whole. Colonial Drones deals mostly with people fighting to come together. A lot of the record sounds like it's being sung by an army of voices galvanizing to, as they say at one point, "topple all the thrones." But even in an era that we're told is full of change, this album shows how one crucial thing -- namely failed communication -- can make even the best plans unravel.
The album vacillates between clarity and confusion, between full sounds and statements that get cut-off. The sped-up waltz of "The Might Come Back Club" gets snipped off quickly at the end, while "Allied Lions" stretches out and crumbles into shrieking fuzz. Some of the songs sound like clear, full-throated demands, whille others sound like scrambled transmissions. Even lyrically, the album sways between fantastic imagery ("Electric cobwebs sawed off your antlers") and straightforward statements ("The first thing to know is you can never go back there").
But through all the confusion, the successes and the failures of speech and sound, the band sounds insistent, always fighting through the tension to find some relief. In that way, Colonial Drones succeeds where it's predecessor, Collective Psychosis Begone, fell short. The band still lives in the fuzz, but each song here is its own bracing statement within that white noise. And it's much easier to sift through the grainy effects -- and to wade through all that confusion along with the band -- when there are melodies this striking to be found in there.