The Dodos - No Color

I've been waiting for this album for a long time.  A very long time.  Naturally, you can imagine it's going to be a biased review.  After all, when one has gone on and on about how awesome the Dodos are, such as I have, you cannot really expect an honest and objective review, can you?  Really, as someone who has previously stated an absolute love of the band, anything I say about this album is going to be magnified. 

If I say I loved it, it will be taken as a given.  And if I say it had even a slight fault, it could be translated as "this album was so shitty, even Dave - the diehard fan - didn't like it. 

Here's the short review - it's not their best album.  But it's not their worst, either. 

So, an outline.  This is the Dodo's fourth studio album.  Their first album, Beware The Maniacs, had a very Led Zeppelin III vibe.  Their second album, the absolutely amazing Visiter, was a bit more modern and "indie" in vibe.  And then they released Time to Die, which was probably over-produced and is considered their "worst" album, even though it's actually pretty good.

No Color goes in a different direction.  It hearkens back to the days of Visiter, being primarily a rock album.  Don't let the acoustic guitars and tambourines fool you - the Dodos are a rock band.  Their drummer, Logan Kroeber, was formerly in a metal band, and he plays the drums like he never left.  And Meric Long on stage is a whirlwind of energy, more a Pete Townshend than a Neil Young. 

No Color is an extension of this, and even the slower songs are primarily rock songs that incorporate some folk-style techniques, rather than folk songs that dabble in rock.  "Going Under" has hard choruses backed up by electric guitars, while "Good" consists of frenetic guitar lines accompanied by pounding drums and anthemic shouts.  "Sleep" has some of that old-school Zeppelin influence - if John Bonham was alive today, you can bet he'd be listening to this album.  And much of the album carries on in the same vein.

However, it is not just a return to the good ol' days of 2008's Visiter.  This album takes some new strides forward - it is the first album that features prominent use of an electric guitar, for starters.  And the electric guitar is played not as just a second guitar, but as an almost percussive instrument to add some weight to many of the songs.

The feature most fans will talk about, though, is the presence of Neko Case, well known for her work with the New Pornographers.    Her appearance on the album was proclaimed all over teh internetz, and everyone was excited to hear her voice.  Well... it turns out, she's not really on the album that much - she sings backing vocals that are low in the mix, and only on "Don't Try and Hide It" do we hear anything even remotely approaching a classical "Neko Case" sound.  To be honest, I'm kind of disappointed at the whole deal - you don't put a person like Neko Case on much of your album, and then bury her in the mix.

Ultimately, this album doesn't have the range and originality present in Visiter, although its edgier songs are definitely in the same ballpark.  At only nine tracks long, it lacks the breadth of Visiter, which remains the Quintessential Dodos album.  I would happily rank No Color as the Dodos' "Second Best Album", however, and definitely one worth picking up. 

I have one more complaint about this album, although it's not really about the album per se.  I preordered this album around six weeks before release.  The band rather nicely included a free high-quality lossless download of the album along with all CD and Vinyl preorders, so I got to listen to the band on the day of the international release.  However, the vinyl itself, which was what I paid for, after all, is still on the way - more than six days after the album's release.  And yet, if I hadn't of preordered it, I could walk into my record store today and buy it.

I hate stuff like that.  If I preorder something, I should get it roughly day of release.  Otherwise, what's the point of preordering?  Music snobs live for things like this, and to watch people buying vinyls of my band almost a week after the album's release is eating me inside.  Eating me, I say.

Final Verdict: this album has been on my playlist for the last week or so, and I can see it staying in rotation for some time now.  It shows that the band has new things they're willing to try out.  I can't wait to see what the next album has in store.

Edit:  I got the album on Tuesday, March 22nd, exactly a week after release.  However, it came with a hand-written apology from the record label, and the album (CD format) Manners, from Passion Pit.  Since I really doubt they read this blog (and were able to send the vinyl all the way from SF a day after my post, in any case), I think they made a small oversight and corrected it in a very classy way.  Granted, it doesn't seem like my music so far, but it's the thought that counts!

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