THE CHAIR IN THE DOORWAY: LIVING COLOUR, STILL VIVID
Are Living Colour feeling doubtful about their own identity? The band’s first studio album in six years, The Chair in the Doorway, deals largely with questions of self. “Gonna strip it all away,” vocalist Cory Glover repeats over and over again during album opener “Burned Bridges.” “I am the role I play,” he declares on “The Chair,” before wondering “Who am I today?” On “Out of My Mind,” he talks about “losing myself” and “shedding my skin.”
If Glover and his band mates – guitarist Vernon Reid, bassist Doug Wimbish and drummer Will Calhoun – really are feeling doubtful about themselves, they’re being neurotic for no reason. The Chair in the Doorway cements the band’s identity as one of the best American rock bands of the past two decades.
Although I guess one could hardly blame the band for feeling a little schizophrenic. Living Colour have always come from the Queen school of “We can and will play pretty much any style of music we damn well please,” and Doorway is no different. “Bridges” is all foreboding, the slow gathering of storm clouds; “Mind” and “DecaDance”are midpaced, groovey hard rockers, and two of the band’s heaviest songs since the Stain era. “Method” is a moody, tribal head-bopper, “Bless Those” is a straight-up bit of blues rock, while “Hard Times” mixes Motown-style drums with brooding guitars and a screamed chorus. “That’s What You Taught Me” is the kind of catchy, bittersweet semi-ballad that bands seem to have forgotten how to write these days.
In fact, this whole record is hookey as hell. Living Colour have always managed to write songs that are guaranteed to get stuck in your head without sacrificing great musicianship (this album deserves to be heard through a fantastic pair of headphones). Reid is still trying to push the envelope of what a guitarist can accomplish within the seemingly simple frame of radio-friendly hard rock, a not-simple feat that he makes seem effortless. And Glover deserves special props for the simple fact that his voice never seems to age. I’d be suspicious that production cheats were to thank for his performance if I hadn’t just seen him sing the entire record a few weeks back.
Along with new releases from Alice in Chains and Baroness, The Chair in the Doorway is the first in a trifecta of albums being released within the next month that will remind listeners what actual, honest to God good hard rock sounds like when created by talented musicians who are free of trends or studio chicanery. It’s also only LC’s fifth studio album in twenty-one years. What gives, fellas? You all need to make way more music together.
(four out of five horns)