I think everyone I know who liked Health’s self-titled album from 2007 had high hopes for its follow-up. The band borrowed heavily from other notable noise rock groups and added just a pinch of late ’90s post-hardcore freakout, and light touches of shoegaze and dream pop to craft a highly enjoyable, if somewhat derivative debut. Get Color doesn’t do nearly enough to distance itself from that formula. First single, “Die Slow,” hinted at a dance influenced industrial that could have been a great look for the group had it chosen to embrace that style. There are plenty of signposts here that show what could have been. The aforementioned “Die Slow” along with “In Heat” and “We Are Water” are all mostly great. It’s not that the album suffers too much from being stuck in traction that it won’t still be appealing to fans of the first album. It’s just that, in terms of expectations, it isn’t the game changer that many of us were expecting.
Let me address a problem that I have with Get Color that I haven’t seen anyone else tackle yet. To my ears it sounds like there is a severe digital sheen on the album. I think maybe this needs further clarification. We’re not talking about a rock band completely abandoning guitars in a post-Kid A move toward the more electronic end of the musical spectrum. What we get instead is a poor choice in what sounds like highly digitally compressed production. The album wasn’t made by robots but something about it sounds like it could have been. If this album wasn’t made with Pro-Tools it would be the first that wasn’t that definitely seemed like it suffered from the problems of what Stylus writer Nick Southall described in his article “Imperfect Sound Forever”. See link:http://www.stylusmagazine.com/articles/weekly_article/imperfect-sound-forever.htm
The vocals this time out have been thoroughly layered in a manner reminiscent of shoegaze or dream pop. Yet again even this seems to be infected with this problem I just mentioned. It’s as if the vocal melodies all have the same upward inflection at the end, like a computer rounded any off notes up to the next key. I’m sorry if that sounds strange or inaccurate, and if you listen to the record and don’t hear it then good for you.
Other than that, some of the thrashier parts seem like things that Health has outgrown at this point that were just awkwardly tacked on. Take for instance the ending of the otherwise excellent opener “In Heat” where, instead of letting the song end gracefully and naturally, there is this awkwardly fast, stuttering pseudo-grind ending. It’s the kind of thing that was oddly better integrated on the self-titled debut than here. It’s as if the band knows how to break free of these cliches but feels like maybe its audience just isn’t ready to let go of them yet. So instead of dragging them kicking and screaming they shrugged and said okay.
Bottom line, if you liked the first Health album you’ll more than likely find a lot to love about Get Color. I hope that, if anything, it’s the transitional record the band needs to get to that plateau it seems to be heading toward. Not all bands can grow in giant steps but at least they’re trying.