Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Baroness Turn Up Yellow And Green

If the two-disc set Yellow & Green wasn't put out by Baroness, it would be an indie rock album that would keep most people riveted to their headphones for hours. As it is, Yellow & Green was put out by Baroness, the Savannah, Georgia, quartet better known for metal and punk more than shimmer and sonic rock.

And yet, frontman John Dyer Baizley also knows that he feels at home playing an eclectic set of music with equal parts ferocity and velocity. As the only original member now that Matt Maggioni has taken up bass from Summer Welch, maybe the band will settle down into a sound. I think probably not.

It doesn't really matter as long as the music is great. And there is a lot of good on Yellow & Green.

Yellow & Green is an exploration across rock subs.

Most of the time when metal bands mellow, they fall prey to becoming not much more than shells of themselves. But Yellow & Green isn't so easily tossed in a trash can because Baizley and company only carve out new ground with solid songwriting and brilliant riffs.

The change up in the sound is both expected and unexpected, mostly because metal doesn't belong in the description for this album. But neither does commercial friendly or sellout because it's not throwaway material, which I suppose puts me in the creative leap column under "what people think."

It takes a considerable amount of courage to skip evolution and just do something else. Even the double-disc idea fits well within the risk category too. Eighteen tracks is a huge mix, making the record feel a bit overweight. The live show doesn't seem to have any such problems.

Breaking out with the video Take My Bones Away did make some people feel better. Not only does it focus on one of two songs that give a nod to where they come from, but they always sound better live. The video was shot by Jimmy Hubbard, who followed the band around for a month. It works.

The other song that hints of where they come from is on the Green side, Board Up The House. The sludgy simplicity of it swells. There is plenty to like about Eula too. The surreal acoustic tones before it explodes make it the most memorable track on the album and my personal favorite.

Collapse and The Line Between also create some blurry-eyed imagery. The pace is different, but no less enjoyable in its hazy-making escapism. In thinking about it, these two songs tell me what Baizley said before the album broke was precisely what he meant.

“We felt the restrictions around us cinching in,” said Baizley. "The space we were occupying was about to burst open, and when it did, what happened was this record."

Much about Yellow & Green is like that. Somebody slid every color of paint they could think of into a balloon and squeezed it until it splattered. Some of that landed on the right side of the canvas, like March To The Sea and Little Things. Some of it landed on the side I never expected them to hit.

Specifically, Twinkler, Cocainium, and Back Where I Belong are songs that I never expected from Baroness. I'm still undecided on them. While they are all on the Yellow side, which does have a more cohesive sound than the Green side, too much of something is just too much.

That brings me to something else. Some people are saying they think of the Green side as a collection of B-sides. I agree that the songs sound like they come from different albums. But, I wouldn't give them up either. Well, Psalms Alive, maybe.

Mostly, when I decided to dig into this album, more than any individual track, there was one thing that I was listening for and found — how Baizley, Maggioni, Peter Adams, and Allen Blickle sound. Halfway through the album on the third play through, I started to think they could play anything together. That doesn't mean I would like all of it. Just that they could do it.

Yellow & Green By Baroness Color Up 6.5 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

I get that fans were hoping the band would push more metal. Me too. But they didn't. They made an album unlike their previous outings (which I liked better). On its own terms, without comparison, about the only critical remark that catches with me is there is a certain tonal sameness that they'll have to overcome live.

You can find Yellow & Green on iTunes or order the CD or vinyl from Barnes & Noble. You might want to if you're a fan of Baizley's stunning artwork. Yellow & Green by Baroness, of course, is also on Amazon. You can keep up with the band and find new tour dates on Facebook.
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