Monday, July 30, 2012

Overwhelming Colorfast After 20 Years

Anyone who has been to as many concerts over the years as I have knows that it takes something special to make it memorable. Any Ramones concert qualifies as phenomenal, but there was one Ramones concert that eclipses all the rest that I've seen. The bill featured the Ramones, Social Distortion, and an opening act I had never heard of, Overwhelming Colorfast.

An unknown band opening for the Ramones and Social Distortion carried a certain risk in 1992. If it wasn't a cut above good in Providence, it would get the wrath of the crowd.

Overwhelming Colorfast was better than good. They were, well, overwhelming.

Overwhelming Colorfast had a fan in Joey Ramone.

It has been 20 years since their self-titled album was released and added to my collection for heavy rotation (and still earns play to this day). Two decades might seem like a long time ago, but the band's hard and crunchy pop punk still stands the test of time.

The original lineup included Bob Reed, lead vocals and guitar; Torg Hallin, guitar; Steve “Bean” Espaniola, bass and backing vocals; and Bob’s brother Dan Reed, drums and backing vocals. The band comes out of Antioch, California, a suburb of San Francisco. And with their layered guitars and melodies, it’s pretty clear their primary influence is Bob Mould and Husker Du.

The band released a
 7” single of a killer song called It’s Tomorrow on a small indie label and then caught the eye of Relativity Records, which signed them in 1991.

By late summer/early fall, they had recruited noted producer Butch Vig to produce their first full-length album, which was recorded over a few months at Smart Studios in Vig's home base of Madison, Wisconsin. Vig not only lent some of his percussion work, but also his penchant for heavy guitars as he would subsequently do with Smashing Pumpkins on Siamese Dream. (Today you might recognize him for his work behind the drum kit with Garbage.)

The album that Overwhelming Colorfast made with Butch Vig.

The 13 tracks that make up the self-titled Overwhelming Colorfast album in 1992 are classic pop punk/rock. It's a powerful start with It’s Tomorrow, a welcome reappearance with relentless driving work by Espaniola and Dan Reed. It was also the early days of the grunge curve, which their goofy video for the song nicely reflects.

The super melodic Arrows and cheeky Totally Gorgeous Foreign Chick feature Bob Reed’s big voice along with some chunky, fuzzy guitars. But oddly, one of the strongest cuts on the album is the band’s cover of the Beatles’ She Said, She Said. They gave the song a completely different, somewhat grungy feel while showcasing Bob Reed’s strong pipes.

If you’re going to cover the Beatles, you’d better do it right. Reed and company did that and more, making it sound original even though it was a 30-year-old cover.

Overwhelming Colorfast would go on to release a few more albums after their self-titled release. None of them ever equalled the unabashed excitement of their first. The reason was likely tied to the lineup.

Hallin was the first to leave, followed by Espaniola. When Dan Reed left (later to return for different incarnations down the road), frontman Bob Reed became the only common denominator.

In recent years there have been a few Overwhelming Colorfast reunions. Most of them include Bob and Dan Reed, and one of the latest took place at the 2012 Noise Pop Reunion. Although they may be a little out of practice, they still sound surprisingly good.Bob Reed's voice is as commanding as ever.

Overwhelming Colorfast’s Debut Is Back With 7.5 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

I'm not sure what has become of the original lineup over the years, but I hope they're still making music. Never mind that some people don't know them today, these guys enjoyed a brief moment being on the forefront of grunge without succumbing to the hype and commercialism that came along with it.

The debut album Overwhelming Colorfast, circa 1992, is available on iTunes. You can also find the album on Amazon from time to time. It's a must-have for anyone who appreciates the purity of pop punk as it was originally cast. And the music will still play strong in another 20 years plus.

I'd welcome any of the original lineup to contact me through the editor of Liquid [Hip]. Just drop an email to the editor. I want your autographs....seriously.
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