ALBUM REVIEW: Hey Colossus – Four Bibles | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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It should go without saying that Hey Colossus have been one of the best bands in the country for nearly two decades now, and what’s remarkable is that each new album and incarnation marks a reinvention of sorts (stasis is anathema to the band, as bassist Joe Thompson explains in his excellent, essential new book for Pomona). Perhaps it’s the way the line-ups shift: whilst the bass, drums, vocals and one of the guitarists have been largely consistent for a long time now, the other two guitarists have differed, often at a slightly dizzying rate. Right now, they have Chris Summerlin – who’s also on new albums by Kogumaza, Haress and an imminent third Grey Hairs album, and thus probably warrants an end of year chart of his very own – and Bristolian Will Pearce (Pohl), and like Jon Richards or Tim Farthing or any of the other HC alumni before them, this injection of fresh blood gives the band room to evolve (look at the way things shifted with Jon Richards, who brought an often gorgeous sense of melody to the fray).

At first, much of Four Bibles feels familiar – that ecstatic HC lurch and grind, the three guitars colliding and then spinning off, the unusual time signatures and unexpected shifts. But then you notice that vocalist Paul Sykes is higher in the mix and less effects-drenched, and that the production has a new sense of space and dynamics. Memory Gore is classic HC done right, and Confession Bay reminds me of Hop The Railings with its sinuous, almost motorik sense of motion. And then there’s It’s A Low, which takes any notion of what a Hey Colossus song should sound like and crushes it. It starts with intricate, interlocked guitars before turning into what might be the first ‘noise rock’ daytime radio banger. Everything about It’s A Low plays to HC’s strengths but goes further out than they ever have before. It’s direct, it’s soaring, it’s virtually fucking anthemic. And that’s before you get to the coda, where viola and piano (the latter courtesy of Grumbling Fur’s Daniel O’Sullivan) come to the fore and make my fucking heart swell. I doubt I’ll hear a better song this year.

Whilst nothing else on Four Bibles is quite as radical as It’s A Low, there are still plenty of treasures and surprises, from the full tilt rumble of Palm Hex: Arndale Chins to the vaguely Shellac lurch of Babes Of The Plague, the languid, sticky Golden Bough to the closing title track that collapses into a frazzled, buzzing drone that brings us full circle to the taut opener.

To come from their Fudgetunnel-channelling inception to something this alive and expansive – and for it to somehow still make sense – is pretty unique. But then Hey Colossus are a pretty fucking unique band.

 

 

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