Discussions surrounding the Dodos’ new record, No Color, will surely involve the band’s marquee guest star Neko Case, who they met after spending last June and July opening for the New Pornographers. Case delivers additional vocals on about half of the album’s tracks and while the contributions that her impossibly resonant voice make to the songs can’t be overlooked — as anyone who hears the way she elevates the album’s standout track “Don’t Try and Hide It” will attest — Case’s involvement with the recording process isn’t something that Dodos singer/guitarist Meric Long finds all that interesting to discuss. “She was free during the time when we were recording,” he explains. “So I asked her if she would sing. Pretty boring.”
Those expecting that Case’s contributions mean that the band is doubling-down on the folkiness of 2009’s Time to Die, though, are likely to be surprised. In fact, this time ‘round, the boys are fully plugged in and taking their cues from an even less likely source — the vivacious Billy Corgan, circa early ‘90s. “I had kind of forgotten how much I had learned to play guitar during the early ‘90s, listening to Siamese Dream, and Alice in Chains and Metallica records,” Long says. “So when I strapped on the electric, this ‘90s riffage came out. That was the best point of the day — putting down these Billy Corgan riffs.”
No Color doesn’t really sound like an alt-rock record, for the most part. Late-album cut “Hunting Season” features some prominent, Corgan-esque riffage — if you can call it that — and Long cites another song, “Good,” as having “a Rage Against the Machine-style riff.” But the album otherwise fits more comfortably in the hyper-folk landscape of bands like Dirty Projectors or Maps and Atlases than alongside Smashing Pumpkins and Soundgarden albums. What it does have in common with those bands, though, is a relentless energy that Long insists was the top priority for the band as they were recording. And that much is clear from moment one, on opening track (and first single) “Black Night.”
“It was intentional,” he says, “That song was going to be the statement of the record from the beginning. I wanted the listener to know right off the bat that this was going to be an energetic record.”
The Dodos have a reputation for carrying a lot of energy into their live performances — which is probably part of what helped them land that coveted opening gig for the New Pornographers — and in fact, the album doesn’t hit a lull until the album’s penultimate track “Companions,” which finds Long singing alone, albeit with his voice bathed in a Neko Case-like amount of reverb. While he says that intended to keep every song “boom-boom-boom” on this album, there are quieter moments — Gish-style alt-ballads filtered through a Dodos lense. “It’s not a very well-rounded record,” Long says. “It’s like the opposite of a mixtape. I wanted this record to fit in a certain place and if you like that place, good. If you don’t like sitting in that place, you probably won’t like this record at all.”
No Color is out now on Frenchkiss Records.