Proving that his talents reach far beyond spectacular drumming abilities, Comets on Fire mainstay Utrillo Kushner unleashes his finely honed piano skills on Charlemagne’s Big Thaw, the sophomore effort of his other band, Colossal Yes. With the help of Eli Eckert on bass and guitar, Tim Tsuda on bass and Garrett Goddard on drums, as well as occasional contributions from several other accomplished musicians, Colossal Yes present a ten-track gem of an album, highly appropriate for the pending Summer season.
Having already made an appearance at this year’s Coachella, Colossal Yes is destined to be a summer festival mainstay. From start to finish, Charlemagne’s Big Thaw is chock full of songs that are destined to be performed in front of a Birkenstock wearing, free-loving audience. Bonnaroo just might come to mind. The vocals are simple, and at times non-existent, as is the case with “Permafrost Drip.” The rhythm gives the track a Van Morrison feel. Kushner keeps time with the ivory keys, while the guitar takes a hold of the melody that he vocally neglects. It’s a beautiful composition, worthy of a mid-summer night’s jam session.
Categorizing Charlemagne’s Big Thaw as light piano rock would barely do it justice. What it lacks in memorable choruses standard in that genre, it makes up for by transcending into a bevy of other musical fields. “Outskirts of Radiant” is a jazz infused ditty, apt to be heard in a smoky speak easy or New Orleans cabaret.
While so many modern rock albums are overproduced and vocally centric, Colossal Yes bucks the trend, focusing instead on the purity of its instrumental contributions. Kushner’s piano overpowers his vocal performance, taking a hold of the melody. Instead of questioning whether or no the band’s live performance would match up to their album’s offering, Charlemagne’s Big Thaw leaves you pining for an instantaneous live version of the mellow rock-offerings of Colossal Yes. Kushner and company have managed to take elements of ’70s rock and modernize them. This is the perfect summer chill-out album that only leaves you wanting more.