Chromatics: Closer to Grey (Italians Do It Better) - Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Sunday, December 15th, 2019  

Chromatics

Closer to Grey

Italians Do It Better

Nov 19, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


One problem with Chromatics' latest "surprise" album Closer to Grey, which dropped without much fanfare last month, is the fact that it wasn't quite the album many fans were expecting. Indeed, as a follow up to their breathtaking 17-track opus, 2012's Kill For Love, Closer to Grey, which clocks in at around 45 minutes, feels like something of a consolation prize. This is probably down to the fact that the promised follow up, the now near-mythical Dear Tommy, seems to be no nearer to being released. In the aftermath of a near-death experience back on Christmas Day in 2015, Chromatics' producer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Johnny Jewel decided to destroy all physical copies of the album as he wanted to rework it. And that process has been on going.

Closer to Grey opens with the sound of a ticking clock/metronome as singer Ruth Radelet imbues Simon & Garfunkel's folk classic "The Sound of Silence" with a foreboding sense of glittering darkness that contrives to make the original sound positively upbeat. It's followed by "You're No Good," a hypnotic but ultimately somewhat anodyne slice of synth disco pop, whilst title track "Closer to Grey" certainly benefits from being illuminated by Jewel's coruscating guitar work. "Twist the Knife," with its whirling synth flourishes and throbbing bass lines, is Chromatics at their very best—poignant, cinematic dystopian doom pop you can dance to. In keeping with its title, "Light as a Feather" is gossamer thin Chromatics by numbers and sadly lacks their usual emotional heft. "Touch Red," however, is a brooding immersive widescreen retro-futuristic instrumental, whilst "Whispers in the Hall" recalls what Lush may have sounded like had they collaborated with John Carpenter. 

 

Ironically the album's best moment is another cover, a shimmering reimagining of The Jesus and Mary Chain's "On the Wall," which expands the original five-minute version to a glorious eight-minute plus epic. Jewel also shines a light on the songwriting genius of the Reid brothers and in doing so he brings out the song's dark majesty whilst pushing its possibilities even further and expanding it into a cinematic masterpiece.  

So whilst Closer to Grey may not have been the album many had been anticipating, and despite it feeling like a stop-gap, there is certainly much to admire here. Whatever Jewel turns his hand to, the results are almost always compelling and perhaps it might be wise to regard Closer to Grey as a musical aperitif to a main course that will hopefully arrive in the shape of Dear Tommy in the not too distant future. (www.italiansdoitbetter.com/chromatics)

Author rating: 7.5/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10



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