Chicago’s psychedelic busybodies Secret Colours, have been grafting hard lately and the release of two new EPs have ensured that our ears don’t get a break either. Now it’s available as a full album for your ears.
Positive Distractions 1+2 (PD1 + PD2), are the products of a band experimenting with change, not only in their sound but to members of their line up as well. This once sextuple strong band had been reduced to just a pair of original members, vocalist/guitarist Tommy Evans and drummer Justin Frederick, before newcomers Eric Hehr(bass) and Mike Novak(guitar) turned up to morph the unit into a classic four-piece music gang.
This kind of shakedown has been known to drastically impact many bands but luckily for Secret Colours the changes in personnel have managed to yield some pretty positive results.
PD1 opens with ‘City Slicker’, a dreamboat of a tune with a guitar tone and bass groove so freakin’ cool it gives me the urge to slick back my hair for three minutes using original Brylcreem. It’s the sort of track that allows you to feel totally comfortable wearing headphones while strolling around a town centre in a wife-beater and with a hairdo moulded on a jet ski. You don’t have to hear the song when doing this but it’ll help your confidence when the backlash starts.
Like ‘City Slicker’, ‘It Can’t Be Simple’ is another outrageously self assured number. It’s slower and sparser than its predecessor and makes grand use of the old ‘entrance and exit’ technique. As one instrument leaves the bass/synth spine another picks up some free space. Although the vocal isn’t as persistent on this one its melody is still strong, warm and refined.
In fact the majority of good work produced over the EPs are encapsulated by this pair, albeit the most complete track overall is ‘Heavy and Steady’. They all feature substantial bass grooves, suave guitars and many of the vocals are an invitation to sing along without resorting to Black Lace’s Butlins dance floor classic, ‘Superman’.
Other highlights include the beautifully executed ‘Take It Slow’, and the comical ‘Into You’, PD2’s amorous opener complete with the use of a Vibraslap, and the lyrics “You are into me / I am into you / Being into me / Being into you”. It’s all really just some harmless courting and nothing to be concerned about.
Over the course of the two EPs there are many plus points but it’s still disappointing when a bit of chaff does appear in an otherwise largely successful wheat/chaff separating procedure.
PD1 can be accused of having a few songs that lose the ear and peter out, ‘Monster’ and ‘Rotten Summer’ being particularly culpable, while PD2 contains a couple of unfortunate whincers. ‘Quite Like You’ offers some vaguely whimsical, shanty town bollocks that could easily wind up being the soundtrack to a high budget, low esteemed insurance advert, and ‘Mrs Bell’ is a cheery yet dreary Beatles parody. Such is the nuisance of the piano track I doubt there would be much shock if it was revealed the song was composed using a set of Garageband loops and a vocal overdub to mask the cut and paste job.
Fortunately these bad eggs have failed to contaminate the whole basket and overall Positive Distractions 1+2 are to be greeted with positive reactions.
As a bit of leniency towards any negativity I’ve expressed I don’t usually think it’s cool to judge LPs and EPs as one in the same. An EP is the perfect chance to experiment and can be used as stepping stones between albums, sometimes exposing drastic changes in music or possibly in this case, to account for a change in personnel. On the flip side the result of an album should be a fully developed piece of work that has all the previous experimentation ironed out, noted, understood and improved upon. That being said, bollocks is still bollocks and someone needs to control the quality.
A sizeable chunk of these tracks could make the cut on a very good record but until then Secret Colours have done a solid job of writing, recording and releasing a bunch of songs while they work out how the new gang will start on something bigger and better.
Words: Loic Tuckey