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Colossal Yes - Loosen the Lead and Spoil the Dogs

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Artist: Colossal Yes

Album: Loosen the Lead and Spoil the Dogs

Label: Jackpot

Review date: Nov. 21, 2012

Somewhere, there’s a trend piece waiting to be written about the legacy of Comets on Fire. Singer/guitarist Ethan Miller has, of late, been focused on Howlin’ Rain, which preserved Comets on Fire’s guitar heroics but opted for a more sun-drenched, blissed-out context. And listening to the latest from Comets drummer Utrillo Kushner’s band Colossal Yes, there’s a similar approach at hand — a move away from instrumental savagery into something more Apollonian. Admittedly, Ben Chasny of Six Organs of Admittance might be the odd man out here. But hey: let’s leave that one to the thinkpiece’s actual author.

Colossal Yes’s latest sits in sharp contrast to their earlier album, Charlemagne’s Big Thaw, which opted for a more modest approach. While there was still something of a widescreen sonic aesthetic to be heard, the approach still sounded largely pastoral, blended somewhat with certain aspects of mid-’70s guitar rock. Colossal Yes’s approach on Loosen the Lead and Spoil the Dogs is one that favors riffs that could be described as, well, colossal. There’s more than a little Brian May on display here, and just a little pub-rock. “Sterling Drums” returns again and again to a simple, concise chorus; it’s infectious, even as the song itself doesn’t do much to redefine a decades-old style.

“Romeo’s Reinvention” cascades along on a rapid-fire piano part, and in doing so suggests both the obligatory Nilsson nod and for a few brief moments, a certain Long Island-rooted singer-songwriter. This isn’t to say that the album doesn’t have its weirder side. “The Deputy’s Game” opens with some offbeat saxophone/guitar interplay that threatens to turn dissonant, but never really does. (That ends up shifting into the two instruments trading prominence; it’s a less-interesting way of continuing the song, though it does suggest one way to sustain that balance.) The low-key “Backbiter Blues” does a good job of summoning up a hazy, bleary-eyed atmosphere. And the washed-out number that closes the album (“Lacroix’s Return”) gets incredibly haunting through a judicious use of wordless vocals and a minimalist piano part.

There’s a lot to like on Loosen the Lead and Spoil the Dogs, but it can be frustrating, too. This is a low-key work written on a grand scale, and the contradictions embodied in that phrase come through when listening. It’s an enjoyably laid-back album, and one that has plenty of familiar sounds running throughout. Fans of guitar rock or tastefully deployed psychedelia should enjoy it; those waiting for it to transcend its influences may find themselves throwing up their hands.

By Tobias Carroll

Other Reviews of Colossal Yes

Acapulco Roughs

Charlemagne’s Big Thaw

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