It’s amazing to think just how long it’s been since the last full Collide release. Some Kind of Strange was released way back in April 2003, and the extensive remix album Vortex a year later in April 2004. That’s nearly five and a half years since the last actual new material, and while The Secret Meeting album last year was an appetiser, it wasn’t quite the real thing.
So the patient wait for new material continued, until August when pretty much out of the blue a release date in September was confirmed at last for Two Headed Monster. And as Tongue Tied & Twisted fades in, it couldn’t be anyone else other than Collide – suggesting that, on first glance anyway, that the band are picking up where they left off all those years ago.
Surprisingly, this isn’t quite the case. While this is still unmistakeably the work of Karin and Statik, when the savage power chords tear across the opening track like slashes of a knife to herald the chorus, it becomes clear other influences have been allowed in. If nothing else, the whole sound doesn’t just centre around Karin’s vocals like they used to – there is a lot going on here, and repeated listens are required to pick up the subtle things going on.
This cracking opening track is simply blown away by the racing thrills of Chaotic, a hitherto rare uptempo track that works very well indeed, the fast-paced drumming by Danny Carey from Tool underpinning a track that strikes me as a symbolic shift – teeming with energy and drive, it’s a world away from the languid sound you so expect from the band. A Little Too Much‘s slinky pop thrills – back to the usual pace, really, but all seems to be in technicolour, rather than the usual darker colours.
Pure Bliss takes us back to more familiar Collide territory, a long, spacey track that is exquisite as the title suggests. Spaces In Between surprises by bringing quasi-breakbeats to the mix (that’ll be Danny Carey again), and another high octane chorus driven by torrents of multi-tracked guitars…and then we reach the first track where I’m still not sure about it. Silently Creeping sends me back to some older Collide songs, but not in a good way – it’s smokey, bluesy feel seems to jar a little as all the parts don’t really appear to belong together, not to mention that the track as a whole sounds like a track they’ve done before that I can’t quite place (and it’s going to bug me, this).
Head Spin also takes ideas from previous Collide songs, but makes (in my view) a much better fist of it. Considerably less…dense than much of the rest of the album, the sparse beats and electronics push Karin back to the fore and brings attention back to the lyrics – which are as obtuse as ever, but have the suggestion of being about something sexual. Another poppy track, this, that works brilliantly.
The title track is another Collide-by-numbers, really. Dreamy, spaced-out and languid that while is nothing bad, isn’t much to write home about, and to a point, Shifting‘s orchestral shimmer brings out the same opinion in me – after the big leaps forward earlier in the CD, these tracks feel like something of a disappointment. Thankfully, the album doesn’t finish in this vein, closer Utopia being a glorious ballad that seems to open up the night sky and send the stars shining though just for you – really, it’s that good.
So, yeah, this was worth all the wait. Collide deliver what we perhaps expected, and then some, showing such a confidence with their established sound that they have been able to stretch and shift it into new arenas, and hopefully along the way gain some more fans, too – they’ve been a “well kept secret” for far too long.