The Technicolors: Take Your Sweet Time to Listen Up To Listener, Again!

Editor’s Note: Having found myself left at the end of the year with four albums I wanted to review, I decided to let the bands, fans, friends and readers decide who received the final full album review of 2012 in JAVA Magazine.  After a week-long poll was conducted through soundsaroundtown.net, The Technicolors took the election by storm which has led to the article that follows. The January 2013 issue will feature the runner up, who fought long and hard and was winning early in the race, be sure to read about The Oxford Coma next month.

For me, there is something simply magical about The Technicolors. This is not simply because they are one of the best pure rock’n’roll outfits in the Arizona scene these days, but also because they are gratuitously adorned in all of the influences I favor most. It seems like The Technicolors would, quite literally sit around and listen to the exact same records I listen to, when I’m taking a break from local music and trying to get my head straight. When Listener was originally released this past July, I was almost a bit saddened by the fact that my articles in this magazine had been booked solid to November. Needless, to say, I was thrilled when I heard they were re-launching and expanding Listener for a Deluxe Edition that would be released November 13th.  It was getting a second chance on something I had missed out on earlier in the year and with the  pace that this towns musical community is growing,  those kind of chances are fewer and far between. Listener is, without a doubt, one of the finest records that Arizona has produced this year, in the sound, vision and sheer velocity with which it is delivered. The Technicolors sound like some of my favorite influences of all time, in many spots on Listener they sound far better and beyond those influences. That’s a rock’n’roll band taking a formula and improving it and that’s what rock’n’roll bands should do, but this may be why they finds themselves playing with the likes of Mergence and KONGOS at their hometown shows.

Listener is an immaculate collection of BritPop soaked mod-rock, accented by a searing American vision of reimagined psychedelic magnificence, and it is well worth both your time and your money. The Technicolors are, with this release, now officially a band consisting of Brennan Smiley (lead singer/guitar), Mike “Nico” Nicolette (bass), Mikey Fanizza (guitar) and Kevin Prociw (drums). Though Listener is the second album under the bands moniker, as the first album Who Are You was recorded and produced solely by Smiley, before he had assembled the band.  Since forming, The Technicolors have been tirelessly touring and recording, so much so that now nearly a year after recording Listener, their live show is an incendiary set that damn near ignites the crowd into hysterics, as anyone that was witness to last month’s show at the Crescent Ballroom would quickly testify. The songs from Listener in their live renditions have become a whole other brilliant beast, burgeoning at their own seams.

“Again” for all of its power and glory is the obvious lead off track on the album and the effect of that is akin to starting a record off with a truckful of flint and gunpowder.  This song is 3 minutes and 33 seconds (the exact length of The Beach Boys “Good Vibrations”) of absolute brilliance that displays the pure astonishing summation of what The Technicolors have to offer, from the near histrionic range of Brennan Smiley’s vocals and searing guitar work in line with Mikey Fanizza, all complimented by the massively thunderous rhythm section of drummer Kevin Prociw and bassist Nico, to the pure fascination with sounds from the UK across four decades. “Again” becomes an assault on the senses and  they soak it up for all it is worth, it is the opening  salvo to the entire affair and after thirty or so listens, I must admit that The Technicolors knew what they were doing when they picked this  as the opener.  The shimmering guitar chiming from the beginning to the buzzsaw that joins it in moments before Smiley’s vocals kick in is an ecstatic charge unlike nearly any other. This is a three minute triumph.

The one-two punch of “Again” followed by “Sweet Time” is indefatigable, restless, arresting, pressing and immediate. The masterful strokes of psychedelic pastiche in the background only serve to strengthen their sound as an ever expansive atmosphere that eventually threatens to consume you in pure manic aural ecstasy. On “Sweet Time”, the first single from the album, The Technicolors approach the closest to Oasis they get and its pretty close, but unlike so many thinly veiled cover songs by the Gallagher brothers—this comes off as brilliantly original, while simply paying steep homage. It will also not escape your brain for weeks should you allow it into your heart.

 

Photo by MrAnathema Photography

The great thing about The Technicolors is as soon as they suspect you have figured them out, they will dash your assumptions to the wind. “Fake A Smile” is the first of these curve balls thrown into your aural universe, which begins with a different feel that is nevertheless a rocking tune, but two minutes in it departs for territory akin to Radiohead or mid-period Suede, with a touch of Mansun—these boys may know more about BritRock history than probably 99% of their fans. The song then ends on an all out guitar assault that is one of  the finest crafted of its sort found on the album that takes the already twisted architecture of the tune and  turns your soul inside out with it.

“Alive Ever After” is yet another incredible rocker that pays homage to so many mid-1990s sensations, but sounds like none of them. Here they approach lyrical psychedelia with pumping mod impressionism, displaying once more their keen sense of precision in creating, recreating, re-envisioning, the very music they love. Far more than a retro revival, this band emerges from the ashes of a movement as a brilliant Phoenix, reinvigorating sound with pure fire. “Come on down, bring your feathers and war to the magnificent storm of our lives, Look inside watch the light of the sky disappear right before your very eyes, Wait for the sun, and we’ll wake up to the things that don’t matter.” Bloody brilliant.

The title track of the album follows in its stead, an almost tender walk through the meadows, comparatively speaking and really the first song to show off the sentimentality and beauty available at the hands of this eclectic quartet. “Listener” still rocks, but it is a moment of sweetness that outshines the raw moments found in the previous songs and yet it will be outdone later in the album, but serves as something of a nice centerpiece for the entire work to pivot upon. It’s difficult to tell if it is simply that or with the careful construction of the album Smiley knows exactly what is going on with the audience, “I can feel you now, when the rain comes down. Hot like tears from a candle, that dry upon my brow. I know, I know you’re listening.”

“Tomorrow’s Eyes” is a brilliant rave-up, pop blowout in the spirit of the La’s, The Boo Radleys and other oft-forgotten acts from a British music scene long forgotten by audiences, young and old alike. This should be another song with consideration for single status. Smiley’s vocals must cover three octaves, while the guitar work simply stuns, the handclap track just makes you smile and the rhythm section could propel you into next year.  A shuttling, stunner delivered in four minutes time that when performed live becomes even more aggressively fantastic and frenetic.

With a blistering guitar intro, smashing drum and deep rooted bass, “Divide” is yet another classic and when Smiley hits that unfathomable falsetto one minute in to the song, the brilliance becomes almost unbearable. “In a mind of clouds, you can stay till you see the sun shine out, I dream around the hour of the midnight shots where the train don’t stop till, Your heart and your body ask your mind, did I leave my soul behind, Lost in the northern lights where you and I divide,” pretty weighty thoughts and wisdom for those so young, but this is a band clearly well schooled in rock’n’roll thought and heavy metaphor.

Photo by MrAnathema Photography

 

“Hollywood,” appropriately treads on darker material musically speaking, beginning with a thunderous, ominous intro—Smiley’s vocals are at once Angelic and sinister.  So immersed in hidden meaning or personal  history, that I can’t even make sense of the lyrics, it doesn’t matter as their heaviest song on the album emerges halfway through the second side of the album—evoking for the first time, something outside of their natural idiom, evoking the likes of Wolfmother and other likeminded acts. Here still The Technicolors dominate through sheer character and charismatic dynamism every step of the way. There is darkness here and for all the light and beauty found thus far, the darkness is a damned refreshing release.

Once more The Technicolors will absolutely refuse to take you where you expect to go next. In this case it is the only true original ballad on the album, “Noah,” and it is THE most unexpected turn on the entire album—reducing the thunderous darkness of its predecessor to a very nearly acoustic, sweet psychedelic love song that sounds as though it could have stepped straight out of 1968. The end of which is both loving and apocalyptic, lyrically, “Lie down with me, because something is stirring in the sky tonight.” It is a fascinating, dizzying, anachronistic track that provides something of a bridge of ascending light and sweetness into the next thunderous, shuddering roar.

“Where Will We Go” is a slow building swirling hurricane of a song, “These dreams have a heart that beats all night long so leave the light on, I know there’s something in your eyes that won’t let go of mine, You and I we’re on the run tonight, but where will we go?” It is another potential single and a classic in the sense of The Technicolor’s pure sound that has emerged across this entire album. They are setting up shop in their own songwriting tradition and by the end of the album this is a song they can clearly build their house within. “Don’t let me give the end away, don’t let me give the end away,” repeats in a building crescendo during the bridge and there is no chance of the surprise finale being revealed.

After all the Euro-induction that this album is dripping with, it might seem strange that it ends with a cover of Chris Isaak’s  classic hit “Wicked Game,” but after the beautiful blues barbarism that is “Hollywood”, the late psychedelic balladry of “Noah” and the shining, single sheen of “Where Will We Go,”  it somehow makes sense. More to the point The Technicolors take a song twenty years after its prime, dust it off, breathe new life into it and make it their own. I have quite a fondness for the original and its Roy Orbison-esque delivery, but Smiley converts this song into a lovelorn religion and after only one listen, I have to admit the original means nothing to me anymore. The Technicolors took “Wicked Game” and owned it, pure and simple as that.

 

Photo by Ryan Fanizza

The Deluxe Edition re-release adds two acoustic bonus tracks that are akin to the rest of the album in that they are utterly mindblowing. I have never in my life heard two acoustic tracks (“Sweet Time” and “Listener”) that are so unlike the electric originals, they are nearly unrecognizable until lyrics serve as the touchstone that makes it dawn on you that you’ve heard these songs before, but in a completely different staging and delivery. In a sense they almost serve as a smashing tribute to themselves and testify to their own songwriting prowess.

Listener is simply a pure aural pleasure to behold and the only thing that may be better than the album is catching hold of the cyclonic swirl that is The Technicolors live. It is not only one of the best albums of the year in my estimation; it is one of the best albums out of Arizona in the last five years. Let us all hope this is the only start of a beautiful and enduring career, to which I can only say long live The Technicolors!

To purchase one of the four variations of this precious release visit: http://thetechnicolors.com/

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