Colossal - Welcome The Problems (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Welcome The Problems (2004)

Asian Man

Every serious music lover needs to own this album, period. Making me proud to be from Chicago, Colossal finally grace us with a full length after their self-titled EP had us all drooling for more. Sure, Mike Kinsella beat them to the punch combining jazz-tone guitars weaving intricate lines with trumpet over top, but now Colossal have perfected the sound and are making it rock harder. American Football's biggest problems were: 1- they were a studio band, and 2- they didn't last long. Colossal is alone with this style these days and is rocking it onstage, and their sound is such a relief from all the over-fuzzed, over-screamed stuff out there now. It's a sound they do oh so well.

Pat Ford is still showing us that a guy with a low voice can lead a loud rock band all while he noodles effortlessly on guitar. Jason Flaks still does it all from his guitar prowess, his occasional higher vocals sounding a bit like the Get Up Kids' Matt Pryor, and his smooth jazzy trumpet licks. Rob Kellenberger (need I remind you he's previously of Slapstick and Tuesday and currently Duvall) is still behind the drumset, playing with finesse and power. Joining him on the album are other drummers Scott Adamson of Abilene (formerly of Joan of Arc and Chisel Drill Hammer), and Neil Hennessy of The Lawrence Arms, but I'll get to that later. And while Jeff Feucht helped write the album, he had to depart the band, never fear for Eli Caterer (previously in a little band called the Smoking Popes and currently in Duvall) is here to lay down the bass.

The overall sound on this album is a bit more upbeat than the EP, and at times even dancy. But there are still plenty of mellow sections spread throughout and most of the songs cover a lot of ground as far as varying tempo and dynamics, one of the band's strong suits. The vocal melodies are perhaps a bit more catchy, and Jason and Pat mix things up even more this time with their contrasting voices, with Jason singing lead on three and Pat taking the rest. The trumpet lines here are better than ever, adding texture as well as great melodies, the guitars continue to boggle my mind, and the drums and bass really bring the groove this time around.

Naming the key tracks is tough on an album stuffed to the brim with developed and amazing songwriting, but hell I'll give you my favs. The opener "The Dusk of Us" begins with a hard-hitting drumbeat based on fills, helped by Scott Adamson, who also recorded the album (it says on their website he played "additional" drums on the track, so I'm not sure exactly what he plays and what Rob plays). Also, the guitars showcase their ability to be independent while still sounding great together, with one picked and one mostly finger picked. "The Serious Kind" is one of the catchiest tunes the band has penned, with the sing-able lines "Stop wasting your time / toeing the line / when you feel compelled. / So hard to define / what's yours and what's mine / Ooo I can't tell. / Did you really think we'd consider / Those of you straddling the line? / Are you the serious kind?" sung in Pat's sweet baritone. The intro also has a smooth trumpet line over nimbly finger picked guitars, and midway through has some lightning fast hihat work. "Work in Prague" covers a huge amount of musical space, starting off with soft ambient guitar and two tracks of trumpet making beautiful dissonance, then pounding drums kick it into high gear with Jason on lead vocals, and it ends with some of the most raucous noise the band has produced. Scott Adamson plays additional drums once again here, but I still can't tell which drummer plays what.

The last two tracks would also be two of the best. "Careless Michael" has a great verse section that seems simple and danceable at first, but upon analysis reveals itself as a guitar part in three with a drum part in two underneath, with a couple dropout beats to recycle the two back together. Then there's the last track "I'll Look at You When the Dying Starts" which begins with the amazing duo of Rob and Lawrence Arms drummer Neil Hennessy, and unlike the ones with Scott Adamson added, here it is clear that one drummer is coming at each of your eardrums full force. The two are mainly in unison but with slight variations, giving it a very powerful and unique start. If you caught them at one of the first shows on their tour, Neil joined them live for the whole set and it was frickin' amazing. So the song transitions back to just Rob, and is a solid song overall with the ending shooting the song to "incredible" status. Neil joins back in on a powerful four-on-the-floor beat with off beat hihat, driving the funk guitars and a killer trumpet solo that is syncopated, jazzy and high. It's quite an end to the album.

So what if I'm a huge fan? You should be too. Colossal brings to the table a great follow up to their debut, improving on their already unique take on indie rock. Go buy this album, go see them live. You'll thank me later.