A simple test: try naming rock duos from the last 10 years – maybe you got; The White Stripes, Death From Above 1979, The Kills, The Black Keys (I’m not counting bloody Tenacious D), after that it starts getting tricky. It’s understandable if not too many screamed ‘The Dodos!’ at first instance, as they’re not exactly the best known band on the planet (they’re also maybe too folk to be classed as ‘rock’ as well). Yet moreover, you would never have guessed after listening to No Color that they consist of just two people. This is in essence what makes all the other duos so formidable, the fact that just as a twosome they all create the sounds you’d expect from a four or fivesome, and The Dodos really are no exception.
This is the fourth album from the Californian duo (try thinking of them as Local Natives’ cousins) and it finds them stepping up a gear from a somewhat second-rate third album which sometimes tried to gloss over the slightly rough, yet just as beautiful, patches of imperfections which glistened in their previous records. This time around they’ve picked up New Pornographer Neko Case to aid in the vocal division and she sounds right at home, complimenting Meric Long’s relaxed voice and drummer Logan Kroeber’s background yelping spotlessly.
The album runs seamlessly with each track floating into the next with notable confidence, pounding opener ‘Black Night’ transitioning to the wonderfully glum yet equally thumping ‘Going Under’ showing this from the off. A promising sign that the duo are maturing is the lyrical improvements audible, ‘Sleep’ being a particular pick with its unrelenting finger-picking hook dashing through the whole song and a restless repetition of a chorus ‘I cannot sleep/I cannot think/I cannot dream’ to match. The album begins to get comfortable with itself near the end and faintly tails off for the final track or two, yet not disappointingly so, more so that it seems to lose stamina slightly and just winds down after more energetic tracks.
No Color may not reach the dizzying highs of tracks such as ‘Fools’ or ‘Joe’s Waltz’ from sophomore effort Visitor, yet it is a very compact, complete album (which is what one would hope for from only nine tracks really). It’s powerfully technical guitar hooks, borderline perfect drum rattling and Meric Long’s polished vocals make for a very satisfying, even if not boundary breaking, fourth album. Extinct, you say? Not likely.
From Rich Flanagan.