Color Film - Living Arrangements (Cover Artwork)

Color Film

Living Arrangements (2017)


 I used to be of the belief that new wave would be best suited if it remained a thing of the past. That’s not a knock on the genre itself; I’d consider myself to be a pretty big fan of a lot of new wave and post punk artists such as Talking Heads and New Order. But in recent years, the new wave sound has been adapted to be somewhat of a pop and indie trope. In the early 2010s bands like AFI started drenching their albums in reverb in an attempt to make their music sound darker, but in practice, all this does is water down the original production, and give it a blander sound (with the notable exception being Ceremony). However, my thoughts on the new wave/post punk revival were challenged by Paramore, of all bands, at the beginning of this year, when they dropped an album chock full of intricate, fun, pop bangers (seriously, put your preconceived notions of Paramore aside and give the new record a shot). And with this new Color Film record, I am convinced that a new wave revival has the potential to sustain itself and tread on new artistic grounds which are not nestled in nostalgia.

Color Film is the new project of former Glassjaw frontman, Daryl Palumbo along with Richard Penzone of Men, Women and Children, neither of which I ever got all too invested in, but together these two work wonders. The chemistry between these two musicians is remarkable and I feel like they have a lot of potential to do great things further down the line. They couldn’t couldn’t have opened their debut record any better than “We’d Kill Each Other” does, as it drops listeners into the middle of the action almost immediately, and gives them no opportunity to evaluate what the hell is going on. There is so much happening at once, that the glitzy vocal performances, which would otherwise be read as cheesy or over-the-top, are often pushed from the center of attention. In any other situation, these vocals would come off as completely ridiculous, but the chaos of the mix perfectly balances out the eccentricity of this delivery.

“Small Town”, the last single released from this project takes the concepts presented in its predecessor and runs with them perfectly, albeit at a slower tempo. Honestly, some of the chaos of this track is lost from when I initially heard it, with the added context of the previous track, specifically in terms of speed, but all of the sonic quirks which initially drew me to the track are still there.

Just a few tracks in, the sharp disco-like 16th note embellishments from the guitar start to lose their punch from overexposure and predictability, but, be it a song or two late, the band is able to recognize this and, for the most part, rotates the effect out on “Ambush Bug” and “Bass in 7”. The latter’s ability to seamlessly blend post punk and post hardcore (imagine Jawbox meets New Order) has solidified it, for me, as a strong highlight of the Living Arrangements tracklist.

I love the way that 52 minds opens side b for the first 30 seconds and the band is really able to develop an unsettling, but simultaneously intense atmosphere, but I feel like some of the merit I would have otherwise given to this cut is undermined by the fact that the chorus painfully similar to Modern English’s “I Melt With You”, not to the point where my concern would be the prospect of legal action or anything, but moreso that it distracts from the band’s legitimate strokes of creativity throughout the rest of the song.

But after “Even If It Did Exist”, this album starts to drag on a bit. Part of this is due to the fact that said song just feels like a perfect closer; it has a great, eerie atmosphere and an intense vocal performance which gives it the feel of a finale, and I really wish they had kept it as that. Instead, they tack on two of the album’s weakest singles and “Day After Day”, which is a song that I don’t have too many problems with on its own (except that, much like this album, it drags on a tad longer than necessary), but it was a lost potential to put it as the closer; “Day After Day” just feels so weak in comparison to the vital energy of the first half of this record.

I feel like a lot of people will be turned off by Living Arrangements. I try not to seek out opinions from others before writing a review, but I couldn’t help but notice the overwhelming adverse reactions from fans of the label on social media (though if the latest Descendents album is indicative of anything, it’s that disapproval from Epitaph’s current crop of fans might be the best indicator of something I’m going to like). You could call this album overproduced, overdramatic, obnoxious, or a myriad of other negative adjectives starting with “o”, but you couldn’t call it ordinary. Sure, just because something is unique doesn’t mean it's good, but I feel like I’m able to pick something new out of the intricacies of this record with every relisten, and I can’t help but get caught up in the bouncy energy of the production. Living Arrangements truly is a creative artistic endeavour, even if not everyone is going to see it that way, and I found myself vibing with it more often than not.