Sometimes, by City and Colour
Suggested by Ross Silcock
Side Projects… for or against?
At the heart of it, I’m wary of my favourite musicians temporarily abandoning their band-mates to release solo or tangential material of their own. It smacks of discontent, of possible acrimony, heated argument, fisticuffs and eventual dissolution. If the rhythm guitarist was happy in Apocalyptic Spank-Hammer, I’d reason, why the hell is he off recording Mongolian throat music with Bum-Crack Superthong?
Having said that, a fair few of my favourite bands have spawned some fabulous side projects. Mike Patton’s Mr Bungle fall under this banner, barely, as do Fatomas. For Primus, there’s Les Claypool and the Holy Mackerel, and the inimitable Sausage. From this project, there’s Gorillaz and Grinderman and Run The Jewels and Temple of the Dog. The are everywhere, it seems.
City and Colour is one side project of Dallas Green, guitarist from the Canadian post-hardcore band Alexisonfire. Alexisonfire have perhaps the greatest collection of side projects I’ve ever seen. In no particular order, there’s City and Colour, Black Lungs, Condemning Salem, Dead Tired, Jersey, Lambs Become Lions, Plan 9, WAMCO, Wharf Rats, Doppelgangers. Say Yes, and… C*nter. That’s right. C*nter.
I’ve never heard of Dallas Green, or Alexisonfire, although the band is waiting patiently to be randomised like so many others in this project. City and Colour is a play on the guitarist’s name: City (Dallas) and Colour (Green). This seems needlessly twee, but as it sprang from Green’s unease in using his given name on the record, he gets a muted pass.
Sometimes, Green’s debut album, is a confident and assured collection of acoustic guitar / piano / vocal songs that span a collection of topics. You might expect this to feel very White Man With A Guitar, that weary genre blighted with beigeness and boredom, but the music feels heavier that you’d predict. It’s a weighty strumming sound, immediate and close, and it comes over as Music of Consequence because of it. The piano is similarly deft, and sufficiently large to bolster this conceit.
For the first few tracks, the guitar-centric …Off by Heart and Like Knives, Green’s vocals give me a cause to pause. They’re fine, I guess, but they’re thin, and high, and overly concerned with exactly the sort of breathy falsetto that mires the genre in the Swamp of Mediocrity that’s claimed your Blunts, your Greys, your Sheerans. If I’m honest, it’s a threat that’s present for most of the tracks, but either through acclimatisation or through resignation it soon feels fine. My favourite track, In The Water I Am Beautiful (which is cribbed from a Kurt Vonnegut quote), builds from this tremulous and reedy start into something quite powerful and strong. Other songs of note include the emotional Sometimes (I Wish) and the swinging and upbeat Save Your Scissors.
But overall, even with the more alternative and weighty aspirations, this is still a White Man With A Guitar, and so blighted by all the connotations that such a label suggests. I quite like it, so it gets 7/10, but, as with all things, your mileage may vary.