Album Reviews

HEALTH – Get Color

(City Slang) UK release date: 14 September 2009

HEALTH - Get Color Human voices sound faintly through the walls of an all-night rave. Intonations can be heard, but meaning cannot be made out. It’s noisy over there, but the voices aren’t screaming. They’re crooning.

It’s LA’s HEALTH, performing their brand of artful noise rock combined with soft, repetitive, cult-like chants. A hypnotic swirl of chaos and order that entices, engages, and then expunges listeners. Expect the unexpected and HEALTH’s Get Color will deliver nicely.

Following the runaway success of their 2007 single Crimewave and last year’s collection of remixes (a recent popular trend, though usually done after more than one original album release), HEALTH is back with a concentrated blast of an album that runs just over half an hour but certainly demands repeat listenings.

There’s a punk ethos present right from the start with the intense pulse of In Heat, a track full of shimmering noises panned from side to side, impatient guitars, and a rhythm section that switches from completely steady to absurdly unhinged at the drop of a hat.

The whole album hits as a deadly one-two punch, with the first half representing the first quick jab out of nowhere and the second half delivering the knockout blow.

Die Slow ambles along with a clumsy limp – a slow disco beat combined with fast electronics and reverb-drenched, ethereal voices. Nice Girls presents a barrage of drums and sounds that might be described as being “industrial,” like the sound of blow torches on steel beams. But before long, the awkward squawks of Death+ kick in, sounding like a rejected chiptune song.

The first five songs of Get Color average out to around three minutes apiece and go by so quickly and with such curious sounds that it’s difficult to decide whether to go on or rewind. But the album flows so well, it’s impossible to resist the opening sounds of Severin, which introduce a Fuck Buttons/Wolf Eyes sort of noise rock that carries over into the following song, Eat Flesh. There are calmer moments later during closing track In Violet (which features videogame-like sound effects), but by then the damage is done.

HEALTH is a band of few words, or at least few intelligible words. It seems they like it that way. Mix in the element of vocal androgyny, and at times it sounds rather like Morrissey is doing his best Enya impression over a My Bloody Valentine track.

This approach provides the undeniable presence of human voices without the pesky limitations of set words and meanings. It allows the listeners to fill in their own interpretations of the songs: Is the singer happy or sad here? (But don’t stretch it too far – how many possible interpretations can there be for a song entitled Eat Flesh?)

HEALTH combines the already eccentric qualities of noise rock, electronica and chiptune into a digestible format. It’d be a bit of a stretch to say they are doing something completely new, but the song arrangements and the album flow create enough energy to keep Get Color well above tediousness, which is a real risk for some eccentric bands that try too hard. HEALTH’s musical talent can be heard during every song on this album, but there is also some room to grow – another good sign of a promising new band.

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HEALTH – Get Color