Listening to Collideoscope, the first album of new material from Living Colour in ten years, it's a little surprising that much time has lapsed between this new offering and Stain. Living Colour broke up in one of those moves that left fans hanging - more "huh?" comments were heard than "it's about time." So it didn't come as much of a surprise in 2000 when I heard that the band was back together to do some live shows. Three years later, we've been offered Collideoscope, the result of banging out ideas live.
The album opens with "Song Without Sin," a track that easily could have been on Stain, which features a middle-eastern motif and lyrics that appear to be pointed straight at the Bush administration's action in that region. "A ? Of When" begins with the kind of collage found prominently on Time's Up and addresses the paranoia and confusion of the post-Sept. 11 world. The Iraq war and the terrorist attacks play a big part in the subject matter of Collideoscope, in fact.
The first five tracks address one subject or the other, and the general tone of the album is that of paranoia. It's one big, angry mass, with an almost claustrophobic production that may seem distracting at first but proves to be a really fascinating listen on headphones. Each song carves out its own unique space, and it may seem a little confusing at first. Repeated listens reveal that the placement of instruments and effects is purposely different for each song.
For instance, "Operation Mind Control," a tune whose lyrics present the thoughts of a paranoid conspiracy-theorist, is deep and heavy, nearly oppressively monotone, and "Flying," which follows it, has a bright, intimate vibrance that makes it sound as if the band is the room with you.
"Flying" is, no doubt, the emotional center of the album. Following three tracks of anger and paranoia, the song presents what seems at first to be an odd, but beautiful ballad. As the song plays on it becomes obvious that the subject matter is darker than expected. The theme of "flying" is presented in several ways - the first reaction is that it's a humorous anecdote about being in love, the second is that it's about suicide by falling from a great height, and the third - the real meaning of the song - is the last moments of people in the World Trade Center buildings, Sept. 11, 2001. An intriguing parallel is drawn with the chorus - "such a lovely day to go flying" is chilling way to describe the morning of the events for the passengers on the hijacked airplanes and for the unfortunate victims in the buildings who would eventually choose to jump to their deaths.