COLOURSØUND II Review  by Steve Fulton and Jeff Fulton

We will come out and say it right now:  COLOURSØUND II is a dark, challenging and heavy record.  It’s obvious that the band was not satisfied with repeating themselves, but instead pushed the boundaries of what a combination of The Alarm and The Cult might be like.  In some ways, COLOURSØUND I from 1999 answered the question of “What if  Billy Duffy was the guitarist for The Alarm?”, while COLOURSØUND II answers this one:   “What if Mike Peters was the vocalist for The Cult?”.  The albums are flip-sides of one another, mirror-images captured 22 years apart, but at the same time, COLOURSØUND II does not  play it safe in any way.

“Paradise (Free People)” the lead,  stand-out track ((2) COLOURSØUND – PARADISE [FREE PEOPLE] – YouTube), will instantly remind listeners of the COLOURSØUND we knew from the late 90’s:  a refined combination of 80’s rock/new wave  songs on COLOURSØUND I, but superior in many ways. But if you think the whole story of COLOURSØUND II was written with this first track  you’d be sorely mistaken.  While there is some of the same energy on track 7,  “The Other Side”, much of this album is quite a different animal entirely.   Evidenced by “Paradise (Free People)”, COLOURSØUND could have written 10 sugary pop hits and called it a day, but instead that did something more substantial: they made an album that demands listening multiple times, challenging the listener to pick apart lyrics and riffs, then piece them back together to form a whole new perspective on what COLOURSØUND can and should be.

And that perspective comes quickly enough with the 2nd track, “Lightning Strikes.” The song sounds like a lost Guns And Roses track from Appetite for Destruction crossed with late 80’s Cult, with a pinch of Motorhead to drive it forward,  “Rock and roll takes a heavy toll” sings Mike Peters as his voice turns into a growl that fuels most of the rest of the album.  “Lightning Strikes”, it turns out,  is actually more indicative of COLOURSØUND II than “Paradise (free people)”  It rocks in just the right places, and concludes with a glorious, face-melting ending bridged by a Mike Peters’ “scream” that the hits just the right tone without being histrionic.  This is a near perfect rock song.

“Revelation” is up next, a low rumbling  heavy,  grunge rocker with dark lyrical imagery with (to paraphrase) “Dogs that howl at the moon”,  “forces to be reckoned with” , and “debts that cannot  be forgiven”.   The song brightens up in the chorus, but this is a dense rocker and at the same time, probably the best example of what COLOURSØUND has become on their 2nd outing: a heavy rock band with songs that build and build until they explode like a volcano.   “Revelation” itself  is a real, honest to God head-banger that should please even the most steadfast hard-rock fan.

“Addiction”  on the other hand, with its’ poppy, little guitar lead reminds bit of a cross between the Sex Pistols, Slade and KISS with the glam turned-up to medium volume. It grooves into a medium tempo drive that pulls from the Pistols “Submission” to rhyme with “addiction” but adds “Remission” and continues the cadence with Mike Peters and Billy Duffy exchanging lead vocal and lead guitar licks until the end.  As in the best inspiration-heavy Alarm songs, this track strikes a defiant pose, speaking of pushing the way through to the other side of whatever needs to be pushed through,  ( “The only way is all the way. the only way out of your addiction”) while standing strong against those who might try to take you out ( “I did not sign up for this so you could take me down”).  

“Why” is a bluesy rocker based on (possibly?) the heartbreak of a lost relationship.  As with most of the songs on COLOURSØUND II it builds towards a surprisingly rockin’ conclusion (but not all that surprising, I suppose, since several of the songs have similar structures) . It includes cool western style strumming at the beginning, underneath lyrics about the pain of loss, then morphs into a 80’s hair metal ballad by the end.    This song caps side one (of the CD) as a deep and thoughtful first ½ that comes as quite a shock for anyone who thought this album named COLOURSØUND II would essentially be COLOURSØUND 1.2 instead of COLOURSØUND 2.0

Side 2  begins with “Actions”,  a song with a simple lead and drum groove to keep the music at the mid-tempo level, while Mike Peters sings about, of course, “actions” in mostly metaphorical ways.  It later breaks into a little bit of an up-tempo 70’s groove with a sweet Billy Duffy guitar lead  and a little cow-bell to add flavor.   Mike Peters sings “All I’m trying to do is stay alive under pressure … All I’m trying to do is minimize the fallout of my own actions”, which is more forward looking than any song on side 1, and it marks a kind of lyrical turning point for the record.  

The”Other Side” is the aforementioned second song that sounds like something off of COLOURSØUND I.   It combines a really dynamite guitar lead to drive this rocker with lyrics like   “Here comes the 4 minute warning” and “Hello hello hello from the other side”.  Somewhat reminiscent of  “This Life” from COLOURSØUND I,  “the Other Side” has more metal-tinged power chords and could be a third single after “Lightning Strikes”.   It feels like the album, at this point has pushed through to another side quite literally both musically and lyrically.

“Start A Fire” is next and it sounds a lot like what a late era Alarm song (i.e. the Raw album) might sound like on this record, but built around a Billy Duffy riff.  Filled with introspection, this is a de-tempoed, slow burning groover that adds a lot of bass and minor chord progressions.  The song is filled with “fire” metaphors about a band / relationship breaking up (“burn down with the fire”)  and then like the best Alarm tracks begs  for things to be “re-built up again.”

The penultimate track, “Eye For An Eye” has a late-80’s Motley Crew thing going on, or at the very least, a hair metal feel, but lyrically this is no  “butt rock”*.  Instead, it’s a classic ode to Motorhead and Judas Priest,  at least at the  beginning, then builds up in the verses just to where you think it will explode, but instead it mellows until Billy Duffy comes in with another mind-bending solo.

The album ends with the epic “Mourning Call” which brings back thoughts of both “Howling Wind” and “Armageddon In The Morning” by The Alarm with a dash of U2 and a tiny bit of The Sweet.   This one goes to unexpected places in all the right ways.  A 5:23 Masterpiece of psychedelic metal / pop that closes out the album in the best way possible.   It starts out slow tempo sounding like an Icicle Works deep-cut from a “Whisper To A Scream Album” (actually titled “The Icicle Works”) before morphing to The Who and back again, adding layers and layers of sounds to great effect.  Mike Peters sings  “I heard the sound of Mourning Light” which is a classic, unwritten (until now) Alarm-style lyric.   

If you thought “COLOURSØUND I” was “Billy Duffy does new wave”, then you will probably think “COLOURSØUND II” is “Mike Peters does hard-rock.”  While that’s not a completely accurate assessment, it does act as an elevator pitch for this record.   The stripes of 70’s and 80’s rock jump out from COLOURSØUND II, but in ways you might not expect.  The parts of The Cult and The Alarm, with nods to The Sweet, Motorhead and The Sex Pistols were expected, but who was anticipating at the same time,  equal measures of KISS, Def Leppard, Motley Crue and Guns and Roses?

COLOURSØUND II is a record you put on the turntable and listen to with headphones in your darkened high school bedroom, but also one that demands you to open your windows to blast your neighbors.      Every song is a complex set of parts with multiple tempo changes and laid over heavy and sometimes head-banging  song structures.   Not much is simple on COLOURSØUND II, with every track demanding multiple listens. And you should know this before you put on the headphones and turn the volume-knob  from Min to Max:  your anticipated favorite songs going in, might not be your favorite songs coming out.     

  • Note “butt rock” refers to late 80 and early 90s’ radios stations across the USA that played “NOTHING BUTT ROCK”- An anecdote recounted in the Houston Press says listeners initially coined the term “butt rock” after a radio station advertised its programming as being “Rock, Nothing But Rock.” Listeners removed the first half of the phrase to say “Nothing Butt Rock” and birthed a new rock ‘n’ roll idiom.

Read More: Why Is It Called Butt Rock? |

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