It might be shocking to a lot of you, but we are now at a point in time, when 90s alternative is old enough to be dubbed “Classic Rock.” Seriously, turn on any classic rock radio station in any part of the world, and there is a big chance that you will now hear Nirvana instead of old-fart dad rock like KISS. Let’s be honest, this is probably all for the better. Losing Streak finds Montreal’s own Colour Wheel happily hopping on the 90s revival bandwagon. Unlike every adult who refuses to accept that the 90s have long passed us by, the band makes strong arguments that this is an era worth revisiting and planting your roots in.
The second that “Change Your Mind” blasts out of your headphones (or your cassette player depending on how you purchased this album), you will be blissfully transported back to a much simpler time, when loud guitars, pop hooks, whiny vocals, and heart on your sleeve lyrics could guarantee you a spot on the Billboard Top 100. If this had been released way back when, you would probably find at least one of these songs on Big Shiny Tunes 3, which as fate would have it is one of the band’s biggest influences!
Okay, I clearly have a bit of a hard-on for this kind of stuff. What can I say? I owned Big Shiny Tunes 3, and I wore the shit out of it. I will most probably wear the shit out of this too, because I might just love it as much, in the long run. It takes a hell of a lot of talent and spark to recreate the whole “feel” of a genre in a particular decade of popular music and not make it sound old fashioned or generic. Colour Wheel have created an album that successfully straddles the line between joyfully nostalgic and excitingly new. Sure, they have songs that will instantly remind you of Weezer (from before they descended into years of mediocrity), and sure, you will hear traces of Liam Gallagher when their singer Charlie Neufeld opens his mouth, but rest assured Colour Wheel is not your average, slightly delusional retro band.
Colour Wheel are also not the only band who have recently taken notes from your childhood CD collection. Rockers like Speedy Ortiz made outstanding albums last year, which explored similar territory, but made sure to mark it with their own scent. Colour Wheel have made tremendous steps towards that same direction of song writing. It helps that their lyrics are deliciously quirky and modern. Something like “She’s My Man” is superbly sweet, but is topical with its beautifully feminist take on dating. Like the entire album, it breeds familiarity, but manages to open a few new doors of its own.
If there is any criticism I have of this awesome debut is that I would like to see them diversify even more on future releases. “If Only You” draws from the shoegaze production techniques of bands like The Jesus and Mary Chain, and the guitar work on “Come On Come On” belongs in a stadium full of U2 fans, but they mostly stick to their chosen genre. I can’t blame them though, since they are fucking fantastic at what they do, but if they don’t continue to grow, they will be left and forgotten in the 90s with Pogs and Deep Blue Something. Instead, I like to think that if they play their cards right, they could be a staple of Classic Rock Radio themselves, in the not-so-distant future. That’s right, move over Nirvana!
Written by Shawn Thicke
*edited by Kate Erickson