Back in the mid-’90s, Mr McGee, one who was not averse to teensy bit of hyperbole, proclaimed that 3 Colours Red were the second-best band in Britain (after Oasis). He went on to add that: “Our aim is to sell 100,000 records now, but by the second or third record we’ll sell five million. I’m serious.”
Well, here we are with 3CR’s third album. Is it going to sell five million? Er, is the Pope Greek Orthodox? That’ll be a no then.
You see, a few things happened in the years between Mcgee’s mindless exaggeration and today’s harsh reality. Creation got swallowed and shut down by the corporate behemoth that is Sony and 3CR may have scored two UK Top 20 albums and eight Top 40 singles but the musically unadventurous British public was never going to get their collective pants too wet over what was, essentially, a punk band.
Which is a shame. Because if 3CR had been allowed to develop naturally instead of having the pressure of how to be The Next Big Thing, then maybe they wouldn’t have split up back in 1999 and then reformed a few years later with many of their fans gone and most of the momentum lost.
So what of The Union Of Souls? Given that it’s 3CR’s first album in years one might have expected them to crash through the sonic landscape, all guns blazing, with a loud statement of intent to the effect of: “We’re back!” Instead, they choose to whisper their reappearance with the opening number, and title track, which features gentle guitar picking, distant strings and sounds not dissimilar to Simple Minds circa Belfast Child. And yes, I know they’ll hate me for saying that.
Following track, Repeat To Fade, is more like it, however. Boasting some storming heavy metal riffage, on a par with those heard on Paralyse years ago, the lads show that they haven’t lost their ability to rock or to pen a pop hook, judging by the amply-sized chorus.
The rest of the album follows the slightly inconsistent theme of the first two songs. 3CR appear to be at their best when cheesed off and channelling their frustrations accordingly. Counterfeit Jesus is all punked-up with Pete Vuckovic sounding for all the world like Johnny Rotten as he sneers, “You’re just so vacuous.” Made In Indonesia is also catchy, crunchy pop-punk, while Land Of Debris has big guitars, big drums, a big chorus, and yes, big anger too.
On the flip-side, Desensitise veers to close to indie schmindie-ness; the slowie Ceasefire washes over rather than being particularly engaging; FCKU’s chant of “FCKU!” shouted playground style is juvenile in the extreme; and closing track Lullaby, while far from being bad, is more of a slow fizz of a way to finish than a bubbling effervescence.
All in all, The Union Of Souls is a sometimes superb, but more often average comeback from what was once one of the UK’s leading rock bands. 3CR could clearly still teach today’s upstarts a thing or two but their fire seems to be flickering stubbornly rather than burning brightly.