Living Colour

Epic Records, 1993

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


For some strange reason, people considered Living Colour's third album, Stain, to be a "comeback" release. I don't know exactly why. Corey Glover and crew had maintained a solid presence on their first two albums with songs like "Cult Of Personality," "Glamour Boys," "Pride" and (even though I don't like the song) "Elvis Is Dead".

But it was almost as if they were still considered a novelty - and not because they were an all-black hard rock band. It almost was as if people expected a lot from these four guys, and they always seemed to come in just under the bar for many people. Or, maybe it was that some people had been disillusioned by the EP Biscuits.

Whatever the case, Living Colour definitely was in a regrouping phase on Stain. Original bassist Muzz Skillings was gone, and in stepped veteran Doug Wimbish. And while there are some great moments on this album, there also is its share of weaknesses that are results of growing pains.

If all you listened to on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Stain was the first side, you'd never know that a change would be in the works for the band. Vernon Reid's guitar work, while maybe not as lighting fast as before, was still as powerful as it had ever been, and just as jazzy. William Calhoun's trap work still stood out, as did Glover's vocals. Wimbish's bass lines seemed to add a touch more funk to the band, with their more muffled thumps through the rest of the band's sound.

But the songs on the first part of Stain are incredible. The opener "Go Away" is a fun number to listen to, while "Leave It Alone" continues a solid streak of great songs from Living Colour. "Mind Your Own Business" challenges the listener with the changes in speed and time signature, while "Bi" is another slightly irreverent song that dares to approach the subject of bisexuality. The final cut on side one, "Ausländer," is a more industrial sounding song for the band, and begins the changes for Living Colour.

It is the second half of the album where things go awry. Two shorter songs, "WTFF" and "Hemp" are throwaways that seem to serve no purpose to the album, while the album's closer "Wall" features the most changes for Living Colour, even featuring one part that sounds like Glover's vocal was sampled. It is a shake-up that was hardly necessary for Living Colour. Two other songs, "Postman" and "This Little Pig," just don't live up to the level of quality that the first side featured.

This isn't to say that the whole second side of Stain is terrible. "Never Satisfied" is a decent enough track, while "Nothingness" is possibly the prettiest song Living Colour has ever done. This being said, "Nothingness" is still a different style for Living Colour, featuring almost no guitar solo and what sounds like strings, even though I see no credit for strings in the liner notes. (Possibly a guitar synthesizer?)

Stain is a confusing album, even for the long-time Living Colour fans like myself. It has some moments of sheer brilliance, but it also starts screwing with a formula that didn't need altering. Unfortunately, not long after this album came out, Living Colour called it a day, so we'll never know if these experiments were just a phase, or if they were planning on moving in this direction. (It's also a shame because I would have liked to hear more of Wimbish's bass work with the band.)

Apparently Stain is now out-of-print, but even for all the warts on this one, it is worth experiencing a few times. Just approach it with caution.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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