Hallelujah the Hills, Colonial Drones
review by dave heaton
First impression: it’s exciting how a band can take surrealist, perplexing lyrics, a sense of uncertainty, and an occasional Pink Floyd glaze and turn into such a joyous surge of energy. Colonial Drones has a big sound, upward movement, punchy hooks, singalong choruses and the tightness of a touring band. Touring or not, life on the road in the US is part of the milieu of the album. "Put the Gurus in Charge" references a van running across a state, as part of its fabric (along with false prophets, a secret assassin, and an unmarked cassette tape that's keeping someone alive). The first single “Blank Passports” is a dark anthem for havoc-wreakers in the cultural landscape.
These songs are quite visceral for music that's so much about imagination. Horns, voice singing together, and a rock n' roll punch are nice complements to the fables, puzzles and stories that consider power, conspiracy and diplomacy in ways that mystify us as much as they intrigue, getting our brain cells moving. But it's not just intellectual music. It's emotional, much like surrealism and dada could be emotional, in how they hit us. One of my favorite songs is "Oxus Pagoda", clearly a lament, and a moving one, but not clear, though I gather that it's mostly about a theatrical event that ends in gunfire. Elsewhere there's a sense of triumph or of the vitality of the moment (the vitality of art), even when, or maybe especially when, the lyrics are confounding collections of characters, words and ideas.