The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Grey Hairs
Colossal Downer Paul Klotschkow , April 17th, 2015 11:27

Originally forming as an excuse to go for a mid-week pint down the local Wetherspoons in their home town of Nottingham, Grey Hairs soon became less of an excuse to get pissed on a Wednesday evening and swiftly transformed in to a unit of some power. Anyone who has seen them live in the three-and-a-half years since forming will attest to the mixture of noise and volume that they harness of their gigs - like being smacked around the head by a freight train powered by Red Stripe.

Grey Hairs is made-up of musicians who have been making music in various guises for over 15 years, as members of Kogumaza, Lords, Fists, Cult Of Dom Keller, Felix, Fonda 500, and not forgetting Corby's short-lived 90s funk-metal outfit, Nervebomb. Since their inception at the back end of 2011, they have released a steady trickle of music: the online only collection of early demos One Hundred Breakfasts, a self-titled Record Store Day 7", and their tribute to the late, great Harry Nilsson Grey Hairs Schmey Hairs that includes a gloriously indulgent take on 'Jump In To The Fire' and a feverish 'Coconut'.

Colossal Downer, released this month through Gringo Records, is the band's debut album. Split over two sides of vinyl, the 12 tracks are a nervy riot of heavily layered fuzzy guitars and speaker shaking bass that that represent Grey Hair's confusion, anger, and withering despair at aspects of the modern world. The band want you to see this record as two EPs welded together. The first side is titled 'Man-Gulps', the excitable first sips of a pint when you get to the pub on a Friday after a week at work, and 'Little Fingers', the act of making sure your glass stays in your hand several pints later by using your digit as a make-shift plinth.

Don't get confused by the references to drinking - Grey Hairs aren't a lairy bunch of oiks only concerned with getting smashed down the pub. Instead, it's what the pub symbolises to them and their music - a form of escape from the drudgery of the nine-to-five existence, that euphoric realisation when you clock off for the week that you don't have to face your colleagues for a couple of days.

They originate from the same city that spawned Sleaford Mods (both bands have shared numerous bills together), but whereas Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn's grot-rock deals with the political, both with a capital and small 'P', Grey Hairs are more concerned with the flip-side of the same coin, the personal. Colossal Downer is the result of dealing with the unfulfillment, and let's face it, disappointments of encroaching middle-age, being in your mid-to-late 30s and realising that you can still be in a band and make music, but trying to find the balance between that and needing to pay the rent and mortgage and bring-up children. Finding yourself in a job that you don't really want to do, but you tell yourself it isn't too bad as it pays okay and leaves you with a bit of time to rehearse in the week and play gigs at the weekends. This existential angst is the world in which Grey Hairs and Colossal Downer exists (see the wailing of “What does it mean?" in 'Anxiety Dream').

From the opener 'Ship' with its dive-bombing riff through to the sludgy terrain of 'Fatberg', musically the album reaches back to the bands the members of Grey Hairs were listening to when they first got in to music - think The Wipers, Tad, Nirvana, The Breeders. It's like taking a peek in to their early 90s teenage record collection. There's even a reference to Soundgarden among the track titles.

The record itself is loud, chaotic and filled with a punky energy that's imbued with the spirit of the US underground of 1993. Every song is bursting at the seams with guitars, while the vocals are carried on a wave of impotent frustration that sound like they are being howled directly in to a wide open abyss. Like their lives shows, the record is gloriously drenched in noise, but this isn't noise for noise sakes though. Colossal Downer contains well-constructed songs that boast big, catchy hooks alongside clever little nuances that reveal themselves upon repeated spins. For instance, the spidery pick scrapes that mimic the vocal melody in 'Creepy', or the wurlitzing feedback that sits at the back of 'Handpisser' adding to the unease and tension within the song, while 'Dave's Van' gleefully writhes around taking pleasure in its huge melody.

Though it is rammed with riffs (a good thing), the record doesn't feel too dense (also a good thing). I don't know how they recorded it (on a budget and in their spare time, at a guess), but whoever hit the 'record' button did a good job of keeping a sense of clarity to everything, you never feel overwhelmed by it all, despite the pile-driving urgency of the record. It may be born out of frustration, but in actual fact Colossal Downer feels like a euphoric punch in the air.

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.