Hey Colossus

Cuckoo Live Life Like Cuckoo

Hey Colossus haven’t just been a band for a decade, they’ve been a consistently good one. But with the release of Cuckoo Live Life Like Cuckoo – their eighth album since their 2003 formation – they’ve suddenly arrived at a place where they’re not just a good, but an excellent band. Something in their sound has clicked, but it’s no subtle flicking of a switch; this feels like a dislocated shoulder being forced back in to place.

Like Pissed Jeans’ with their recent Honeys, Hey Colossus show that wearing your influences on your sleeve needn’t be a barrier to displaying individuality. I’d say Hey Colossus like The Melvins, I’d say they like The Jesus Lizard. I’d wager they like heavy metal too, but there’s a joy to this that’s unique to them, and that’s something the genre rarely counts as its forte. Though it’s not as epic in scale as say, Swans, the end goal seems a similarly ecstatic one, they operate under the idea that bashing on your instruments with all your might can help you transcend the mire rather than drag you further in to it.

Excellent opener ‘Hot Grave’ is a case in point. Though its lines could disturb when read on paper, they’re delivered in a rampant scream that suggests they’ve got exclamation marks at their ends (“I’m spinning in my HOT GRAVE!”), whilst guitars that sound like they’re crumbling out of existence hammer huge, merrily weighty riffs in their wake. Though it’s certainly aggressive, it sounds more manic than angry, which you come to realise is Hey Colossus’s trump card – their skill at being so engagingly unhinged keeps the record gripping you tight even in its most proggy, exploratory moments, such as ‘Octave Dokktor’ or the closing dirge of ‘Pit and Hope’ (which is far more pit than it is hope).

Sardonic gits though they certainly are, their little flashes of humour play a significant role. ‘How To Tell Time With Jesus’ simmers along menacingly without ever giving you the release of the big riff it keeps threatening – it’d be pretty frightening if you weren’t constantly kept smiling by picturing the face that’s singing these lyrics, which are all essentially variations on lines from The Sound of Music‘s ‘My Favourite Things’. Letting such chinks of light in only serves to make the darker corners all the more imposing, a trick employed to great effect in ‘Leather Lake’, where ambient electronic bleeping sits atop the rock and roll like a lid with holes poked in it, letting in air for a captured insect.

Despite the fact the only fast song here is the tremendous ‘English Flesh’, which arguably shares more in common with Krautrock than it does anything punk, it still feels most fitting to call it a punk album as opposed to anything else. It’s just that bloody malicious. Not that you need call it anything, of course – the difficulty one now has in defining Hey Colossus is very much part of their curious but addictive charm.

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