’d stand up straight and face the judge’s fury.” So sings Rob Taylor of art-pop duo Coloma. This album doesn’t quite inspire fury, but it’s certainly irritating. Alongside music maestro Alex Paulick, Taylor makes some of the most pretentious lyrical pronouncements this reviewer has ever heard. Eschewing the minimal electronic elements of their previous albums, Silverware and Finery, Coloma have gone all pop—albeit viewed through an extremely arch art-school telescope.
A prevailing trend with electronic artists is to believe that the electronics aren’t enough. That to somehow validate themselves as “real” artists, they need to incorporate “real” musicians, which is just what Coloma have done here. The album opens deceptively well, with “The Price of a Perfect Smile,” a seductive swirl of sonorous vibraphone, dusty drums and warm horn blasts. Could it be a successful example of that most difficult trick: the live instruments/electronica interface? But then the most prominent instrument arrives—Taylor’s voice. A saccharine burr that delivers lines like “You’re more a drunk librarian / Than a poet on the skids,” it becomes difficult to stomach. What exactly does “You’re a still life imitating art” mean? It seems that Coloma are floundering in their own metaphorical cesspool.
How important are lyrics? It really depends on how central they are to the music in question, and that often simply comes down to where the vocals fall in the mix. Coloma put so much emphasis on them that you’re forced to surmise that it’s the most important aspect, and with such absurd lyrics it becomes difficult to take seriously.
There are a couple of surprising musical moments, like the fluid funk bass and psychedelic, metallic ascending keys of “No Moving Parts,” but they’re unfortunately exceptions to the rule. Despite the occasional shock, like the excoriating noise splurge on “Motorway Stray,” the music here is inoffensive—a pretty, melodic patchwork of electric piano, organ, and some cursory bleepery—and not enough to distract us from the vocals and lyrics. On previous albums Coloma’s music drew attention away from this and, at times, even worked well. This isn’t the case here.
Dovetail is a strange musical divergence for the normally brilliant Klein Records, who are clearly trying to broaden their roster and move away from the electro-dub and down-tempo beats they’re famous for. It’s a worthy sentiment, but with both label and group moving away from their strengths, Dovetail is an unfortunate result.
Reviewed by: Ben Murphy
Reviewed on: 2006-03-09