When Vernon Reid attempted to drum up support for a Black Rock Coalition more than a decade ago, it was easy to dumb down the idea of “black rock”.
Black guys who play rock music.
There weren’t many who did in the ’80s, and out of that scant number, only Fishbone and Living Colour are still around. (Never mind the fact Living Colour itself broke up in 1994 and reunited six years later.)
But as the band’s 1990 album Time’s Up demonstrated, black rock was a lot more than just black guys sligning guitars — it was about integrating, perhaps even re-integrating, black culture into rock ‘n’ roll.
Living Colour pumps up that notion on its newest album in a decade, Collideoscope.
After starting off with three heavy metallic tracks, Living Colour gets Marvin Gaye sexy on “Flying”. “Lost Halo” mixes a good dose of soul with all that distortion, while “Holly Roller” brings the band a few decades closer to the heavy blues influence of 70s rock.
Reggae works its way into the program on “Nightmare City”, while echoes of George Harrison’s dabbling with Indian music refract on “Tomorrow Never Knows”.
There’s still plenty of straight-ahead, heavy riffs to go around — “A ? of When”, “Great Expectation”, “Sacred Ground”.
But they only serve to underscore what rock music has been missing as of late — a sense of deep history.
Heavy metal may be a few generations removed from the very first combination of country and blues nearly four decades ago, but that doesn’t mean the lineage shouldn’t be traced.
Nor should it mean that it can’t be bridged.
Of course, rock music is an outgrowth of black culture in the first place, so if black rock brings black culture back into the music, what we’re really finding on Collideoscope is the completion of a circle.