Noise rock has always been one of the trickiest genres to review. One must keep in mind that although it can often be grating, abrasive, and downright incoherent, it can also be fun, danceable, and catchy as hell. And while HEALTH’s long awaited follow-up to their 2007 self-titled debut doesn’t actually make you want to jump for joy, it captures a certain atmosphere somewhere between Pangia and Cybtertron that’s always ethereal and always interesting.
Their second proper album finds them getting a little tighter with their sound. Health was noise rock through and through but chock full of influences, causing it to sound a little scattershot at times. Get Color hones in on what makes the band unique: the tribal, rusted oil can stomp of the drums, the tinny, treble soaked reverb of the machine gun guitars, their indiscernible, lonely robotic vocals, and the sudden shift in key signatures.
The most successful tracks are the ones that use this formula to mix up the song structure. The constant shifting of tone is most effective in the mid-album glider “Severin”, interrupting the calmly apocalyptic momentum with a burst of sped up, heightened distortion akin to an eruption of static on television. The first two tracks, “In Heat” and “Die Slow” are also captivating in their constant switching of moods.
However, things start to drag toward the middle of the album. With the exception of “Severin”, a sizable chunk of the music grows weary on the ears after a while. Granted, most people aren’t going to sit down and listen to these songs individually, but the sonic assault of “Death+” and “Before Tigers” reminds the listener of how numbing noise rock can be when listened to over extended periods of time. As great as it is to see HEALTH musically finding their footing, the album’s middle portion could use some of that diversity found on their first album.
But things kick back into gear with their best cut, the closing track, “In Violet”. Here we see HEALTH at their quietest, opening with a softly vibrating synthesizer that gradually gets layered with the rest of their trademark devices without ever exploding. Think “The Ghost Of You Lingers” by Spoon run through the engine of a Light Cycle from Tron and you have an approximation of what the song is like. It’s damn amazing to see these grimy noisemakers from Los Angeles restrain their animalistic instincts to create something that’s as close to beautiful as they’ll ever get.