Coming from the same scene that birthed No Age, Abe Vigoda, and The Mae Shi, Los Angeles’ HEALTH crashed onto the scene with their cacophonous brand of noise rock garnering favorable reviews with their 2007 self-titled debut, the ensuing remix collection DISCO, and spastic live shows. On their newest offering, Get Color, HEALTH attempts to produce a more easily accessible album while retaining their trademarked aural destruction, which they do, but to a fault.
What made their debut so great was that it felt dangerous; it made you uncomfortable while listening to it, but in such a good way. The giant drum sound and the shrillness of the vocal manipulation just seemed right. I remember the first time hearing “Crimewave”, just be being blown away and wanting more. On Get Color, HEALTH switched from recording digitally to recording directly to 2” tape. In an interview with Drowned in Sound, bassist John Famiglietti, discussed this decision: “On tape, you can be as loud and abrasive as you want, and the more brutal it gets it just feels good to hear. On a computer that abrasive sound registers as a brittle spike, and even though it’s the sound you want, it’s terribly annoying when it comes out of the stereo” This is true, Get Color is easier to listen to, but it just comes off as flat noise with a beat, sterile as a cadaver on an examiners table. When you embrace the term “noise” as an identifier of your bands sound you shouldn’t be afraid of the “brittle spike” in the recording. I don’t yearn for a smoother sounding Lightning Bolt record, and HEALTH shouldn’t strive to make their noise easier on my ears. Just plug in your fifty guitar pedals and tear shit up!
The biggest mistake HEALTH made on Get Color was wrangling in their greatest asset, drummer Benjamin Jared Miller. On their debut Miller was a force to reckoned with but here, while being completely competent behind the kit, he is regulated to generic flourishes and strategically placed blast beats. The songs on Get Color feel overly planned out, to the point of coming off as a dead behind the eyes Hollywood starlet; pretty to look at and listen to, but offering nothing of value to our world. I struggle to discuss individual tracks, because they all, essentially, sound the same.
I originally wanted to give this release a half of a star, but I hold on to hope that seeing the band live at Fun Fun Fun Fest this year will redeem this collection of songs. After all I hated At the Drive-In’s In/Casino/Out until I saw them live. So, HEALTH, the ball is in your court, bring it in November.
Download: HEALTH – Nice Girls [MP3]