Release Date: Sep 8, 2009
Record label: Lovepump United
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Electronic
If their first album was an exercise in repetition and abrasiveness, HEALTH took it up a notch for their sophomore album, Get Color. Instead of using a computer interface to record, as they did with their predominantly digital self-titled album, the quartet produced straight onto 2" tape, in hopes of boosting the levels to the red without the interference of digital clipping. Like steroids, this technique of pushing analog to the extreme beefed up their art rock skronk to a hulking mass.
Remember that rave scene from The Matrix Reloaded? Yeah, the one that didn’t really make any sense and the first of many WTF moments that those dismal sequels had in store? Well Die Slow, the noisy, rave-up of a lead single off of Health’s fantastic Get Color would have fit perfectly with that scene. And while those movies and that scene were horrendous and about as hard to get through as the average Muse album (that is to say they are fun in a campy “I’m watching only to make fun of it” kind of way), Get Color goes by fast and leaves the listener satisfied but begging for more wonderful, eardrum punishing noise. On their 2007 debut, Health took ingredients from everything they could get their hands on to add to their tasty noise rock stew.
In 2006, Liars released Drum’s Not Dead, which was notable because it managed to sound at the same time more expansive and more pared down than anything Liars had done before. They kept the most effective aspects of their sound, magnified and refined them, and ended up with a record that, at its best, feels like a sort of musical manifest destiny: of course that was the record they were going to make. All the signs pointed to it! This is an apt reference point for HEALTH’s Get Color, not only because of the inevitable comparisons between the two bands’ sounds, but because HEALTH have managed to pull off a similar feat.
Health’s most effective songs are barely contained bursts of aural aggression, which is why it feels weird that the restrained “Die Slow” is their best song to date. Health’s three-minute masterpiece has a booming, economical industrial throb surrounded by a nearly pop chorus, providing a strange middle-road between Liars and Nine Inch Nails that no one really knew existed. It’s the sound of Health doing what they always do, yet somehow ending up with a club-ready single.
Weakly smiling at a man in a ‘YOU WILL LOVE EACH OTHER’ T-shirt, the latest in a series of men in ‘YOU WILL LOVE EACH OTHER’ T-shirts, all of whom had greeted me as a brother of sorts on grounds of my own ‘YOU WILL LOVE EACH OTHER’ T-shirt... I begin to feel vaguely despondent. It is ATP Vs Pitchfork, and we all seemed to be the same: uncool twentysomething males attempting to look vaguely edgy by sporting a garment that combines a budget price tag, allegiance to an up and coming noise band and a half-arsed stab at leaping aboard the fluoro bandwagon.
On their self-titled 2007 debut, L.A. Smell alumni HEALTH were a band going for broke, throwing everything-- noise, aggression, tribalist tendencies, spastic energy-- at the wall and barely waiting around long enough to watch it splatter. It was a nihilistic sound-- post-apocalyptic, even-- and even though you could hear distinct traces of noise-rock forbears Liars and Boredoms in their approach, the sheer energy of the thing seemed to suggest the potential for the band to carve out its own style.
I think everyone I know who liked Health’s self-titled album from 2007 had high hopes for its follow-up. The band borrowed heavily from other notable noise rock groups and added just a pinch of late ’90s post-hardcore freakout, and light touches of shoegaze and dream pop to craft a highly enjoyable, if somewhat derivative debut. Get Color doesn’t do nearly enough to distance itself from that formula.