Coliseum - "Blind in One Eye" (House With a Curse)
It’s highly likely that too much is made of bands “reinventing” themselves. But even taking that into account, Louisville trio Coliseum have changed more than just labels in jumping from Relapse to Temporary Residence. With the first notes of the elegiac strings that open this disc, almost as if they’ve been infected by labelmates Mono, you know they’ve made a decisive move away from the D-beat commitments of their previous records and moved closer to some slightly unsettled hybrid of post-Kyuss riffing and a carefully concealed remnant of hardcore roots.
In some sense the change is healthy, as I never found the band to be top-shelf in their previous incarnation. Indeed, the band sound emphatic and passionately committed to the basic rock stomp and anthemic choruses littered throughout House with a Curse. But while they seem like they’re having a wonderful time sorting through a new batch of influences – and clearly happy to have friends like J. Robbins (who also produced the record), Peter Searcy, Jason Noble, and Bonnie “Prince Billy” on board – I found that things didn’t cohere often enough to make any of the tracks particularly memorable.
For example, while vocal delivery and let’s-all-shout chorus of “Everything to Everyone” sort of fuses Burnt by the Sun with old har(dc)ore, it’s infectious only until the song ends, at which point you can’t remember a bit of it. I found the same kind of empty calories effect on the mid-tempo stomp “Cloaked in Red” (which grinds forward weirdly like late Black Flag), the vibrato slathered “Perimeter Man” (like a riff reduced to carbonized core), or “Isela Vega” (which does that desert stoner thing, like a slightly agitated Goatsnake). Things are polished to a bright shine, and each pared down riff leads inexorably to a Big Chorus, as on the Torche-y “Statuary.”
But again, while the energy and muscle of the delivery get them close, there was just never any arrival. And when I heard the slide guitar on “Skeleton Smile,” thinking instantly of Duane Denison, I was tempted to say simply that House with a Curse stands in relationship to heavy music’s vitality as Tomahawk stands to Jesus Lizard. It’s all just a bit ho-hum, which is the last thing you want from a band with these inclinations and ambitions.