Releasing two albums in one year (so far, at least…) is a good strike rate for any band. But when a group hits such a rich vein of form as the London-via-Somerset-and-Watford troupe of Hey Colossus, it’s only natural that the tunes keep on coming.
Thankfully, fans’ loyalty towards the 12-year-old band is repaid in spades on Radio Static High. And thankfully furthermore, the mercurial group doesn’t just settle for conjuring up the darkened, glimmering sludge rock of February’s In Black and Gold. Instead, the band sound like they are in a remarkably relaxed mood as they channel early Wire or This Heat to rock out in irrepressibly angular and refreshingly direct fashion.
“We have noticed a small wave of incredible goodwill towards us. We want to give as we receive,” lead guitarist Jonathan Richards offers in way of explanation for their quick return to the studio. “Maybe the knowledge of our 12 years together makes us aware of our mortality. Time is limited. A band’s purpose is to create.”
Create they do. And if there was a flaw on the sprawling In Black and Gold it was the apparent lack of destination for its songs. The bulk of the album consisted of deep brooding riffs and rich sonic tapestries that offered a mind-bending, if refracted, take on heavy rock. But here its hellish miasma is replaced by a set of impeccably written and executed three-to-six minute tunes, all complete with taut structures and edgy singing.
This more structured approach to the songs makes it a fascinating bookend to In Black of Gold. Not only does it sound less laboured, but it also is downright fun. The chiming guitar of Richards on "The Mourning Gong" offers a surprisingly pop-orientated – if suitably demented – succinctness over three minutes as the minor chords trickle downwards, the band spritely riffs along. Meanwhile, singer Paul Sykes’ vocals float over the top of the tune as he repeats the lyrics: “Face fall into the light….” with a wry smile. As an ensemble, the track could easily stand as their tightest and most cohesive song of their career.
Earlier in the album, "Hop The Railings" has an almost psychobilly bounce to it as its countrified guitar pickings are matched by the unforced, yet equally distorted, singing of Sykes as it gains momentum and hurtles towards a jaunty motorik Cluster-esque jam. While the punishing stutter-step of guitar riffs which kicks off "Numbed Out" could trace their ancestry to Berlin-era Iggy Pop and David Bowie coolness, complete with some pulverising kit work from Rhys Llewellyn.
Don’t let the relatively straightforward song construction fool you. Repeated listens reveal heaps of intriguing detail that is artfully and sparingly lavished on the songs in the studio. It’s a sign of real maturity and experience from the band which consistently takes care to switch up a song’s attack just as you’ve twigged what they are doing. But for the second time this year, Hey Colossus have succeeded in outsmarting just about everyone.