Since their arrival in 2012, Pretty City have gained a reputation for offering up an ever-shifting hybrid of rock – ranging between shoegaze, indie, psychedelia and classic rock. The first full length release from the Melbourne outfit remains true to form; Colorize throws up an array of styles and influences.
Pretty City shake up a mean cocktail on Colorize. Stadium appeal, personality and an intimate sound that wears influence on its sleeve while remaining unique.
Comprised of eleven tracks, Colorize feels like a true curation of the band’s varied writing style, and as such, a true album. Consumed in its entirety, the LP may well contain your daily allowance of musical genres. But as the record propels forwards, any earprick moments of familiarity are actually whipped away before they can be pinpointed. And as such, Pretty City make only clever allusions to their influences, and an even more intelligent play on their own sound.
Launching on neither a bang nor a whimper, opening track Melt has pace and purpose without blowing your head off. Shimmering into being and carried by a relentless beat, the hypnotic synths and echoing vocal cries draw your mind into a similar space that is reserved for the trancelike feel of shoegaze or psychedelia. As a band, Pretty City excel as architects of this kind of sound wall; concrete yet constantly shifting.
The following tracks move into harder rock territory, with hefty guitar riffs and licks, with crashing drumming from percussive heavyweight Drew Schapper. Second track Running Around has the feel of a hit single, hitting irresistible pauses before the chorus refrain, and featuring Hugh Matthews’ vocals running with a trademark echo that reaches over wailing electric guitar. In turn, previously released Mary Go Round has the hefty groove of blues and stadium rock together, along with a kind of off-beat swing that holds all the posturing of glam rock.
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Elsewhere, Pretty City pick up on the kind of upbeat pessimism that characterises grunge. Second Hand Clothes progresses from an acoustic foundation to an all out rock track, with classic guitar and vocal lines slipping to a fuzzy, reverbed space that tips the scales back to the psychedelic again. Running with that sound, Part Of Your Crowd has a perfect driving pace underneath rock solid bass and guitar, and an almost dreamy vocal from Matthews.
One aspect of Colorize that is truly convincing of its rock roots, is its interlude. Remember when you still bought CD’s and they kind of took a break halfway through with a lighter instrumental or quirky sample? Five tracks in, and Pretty City take a two minute breather with [Deft], a piano led moment of calm.
It is something like when Axl Rose would sit down at his white grand piano and leave the rock behind for a moment… However Pretty City morph the moment into an electronic transmission of sorts, as the melody devolves into something more cosmic.
Plunging back into rock for the second half of the album, Pretty City get a little more serious with the looming Feel The Colour. With less stadium rock about the chugging riff and a punk-inspired chorus, the band find a harder edge than before. Even the reverb on Matthews’ vocals seems a little tougher, as though pushed through a megaphone, actually hitting a nice rock-style yelp as a solo launches.
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Final track, Ignoring My Friends, follows on from a second interlude. A darkly experimental moment of electronica gives way to this lightly anthemic track. Winding down to a trudging pace, it’s a thoughtful finish from Pretty City. With a sing-along refrain and swaying melodies, Ignoring My Friends is a lighters-in-the-air song and has all the presence once more of a stadium band.
The cynics among us will tell you that everything is a product of everything else by this point. And I have to admit that Pretty City’s first full length record posed something of a philosophical, authorial question. Is it lazy, or simply truthful, to litter a music review with direct comparisons and associations?
I have no idea. But, despite the multitude of inspirations at work in Pretty City’s writing, the end product stands alone as a great debut album. Which is why I have refrained from mentioning any other bands throughout this review… Ok, apart from Axl Rose. But as far as I can tell, that might be another first for Pretty City.
Colorize will be available through iTunes from April 30th.