Colour Wheel fell into the trap that I really hoped they avoided. On the Colour Wheel EP, they follow the exact same formula as their previous release to diminishing returns. Last year, Losing Streak was one of my favourite albums that I reviewed, so to be fair I had high expectations, but I really didn’t expect something so, well, bland! What is worse is I have literally played this thing a dozen times, and I cannot for the life of me remember any of the songs. Colour Wheel were always raw, unpolished, and even whiny, but the hooks carried everything through. On this outing, the only thing carrying the load is the nostalgia factor. This sure sounds like the 90s, but now I am stuck wondering if I had been wrong about the 90s all these years.
This is not to say that this EP sucks the big one. It does not, it is just disappointing. For every complaint I have, I will say that the band still have a talent for adopting the 90s aesthetic. On the first few listens, I was still charmed by how much their music reminds me of simpler times. The production is borderline lo-fi, I feel I should be listening to it on my beat up Walkman, and dear lord does the guitar playing of Charlie Neufeld and Jesse Sherritt still pack a punch. I do not know whose taking the lead, but that solo on “Memory Burn” is worthy of Rivers Cuomo’s memorable run on “Buddy Holly.“ Sadly, that solo and the accompanying rhythm guitar riff is the closest you’ll get to an honest to God hook.
Seriously, what the hell happened? I can only assume that they rushed the writing and production process. I, for one, did not expect a new release so soon! It does not help that diversity has never been this band’s strong suit. They would not change their sound overnight, but this is borderline the same track over and over. I suppose The Ramones would be proud, though at least, they made sure to include catchy melodies along with their 4-chords. The biggest offender though is Neufeld’s voice! He sounds like he is just whining over the music. I would not be surprised if there are not any lyrics to these songs since I cannot understand him. Maybe it is the production or something, but the guy is barely there, and what is worse is that sometimes when he is, he is glaringly out of tune.
I know, I know, it’s rock, man. It does not have to be perfect. I am all for that, but this does not sound intentional. I have a pretty high threshold for out of tune singing (I taught kindergarten music classes for God’s sakes). So, if I am cringing than you know something went wrong in the editing room!
Despite these glaring blunders, the magic isn’t completely gone. “Memory Burn” is worthy of Losing Streak, and the band’s guitar sound is still top-notch. On their next release, I hope that they will take their time, focus on the songwriting again, and maybe add a few twists to their throwback vibe. I really love 90s music and I don’t want to question that love ever again.
Written By Shawn Thicke
*edited by Danielle Kenedy