[NEW CLASSIC ROCK] Utrillo Kushner is at his best when he’s hung-over. Loosen the Lead and Spoil the Dogs, the Comets on Fire drummer’s third more-or-less solo album under the name Colossal Yes, starts out good and drunk, with bent guitars, wailing saxophone and wobbly rhythms that feel just a quarter-step out of time. But the record reaches its highest points at its lowest moments, when Kushner seemingly stumbles into the early morning daylight and lurches through a series of groggy ballads.
Assisted by fellow members of the long-on-hiatus Comets, as well as Ben Chasny of Six Organs of Admittance, Loosen the Lead is the blooziest Colossal Yes album yet (it’s also the Bay Area outfit’s first release for Portland’s Jackpot Records). But all of Kushner’s projects are infatuated with the sounds of the ’70s. Where Comets on Fire dealt in mind-scrambling, hot-house garage-psych, and his first two solo efforts leaned toward the cosmically pastoral, this record is a dive-bar rendering of the Band’s rootsy traditionalism.
The blustery rave-ups that begin the album—the up-tempo tumble of “Sterling Drums,” the inebriated instrumental “The Deputy’s Game”—are energetic, but a tad too indebted to the past to really resonate. It isn’t until Loosen the Lead gives way to its more languid second half, with Kushner’s voice pinching into a slight drawl, that the LP finds its identity. “Crowing Over Scraps,” a regretful, countryish slow-burner, is a particular highlight. You’ll get a headache out of sheer sympathy.
SEE IT: Colossal Yes plays Doug Fir Lounge, 830 E. Burnside St., with Six Organs of Admittance and Low Hums, on Thursday, Oct. 4. 9 pm. $12. 21+.