Color Theory / The Majesty of Our Broken Past
Color Theory has landed in the synthwave world and I’m here to say, “Thank You!” As the genre has grown in both popularity and population, synthwave has struggled to find an identity of its own. You’ve got old-timers, artists who have been toiling away for ages, a lot of which are reluctant to give any credence to newcomers. On the flip-side, you have new artists who know it all already and don’t really make it easy for those who have been around for a while to like them in the first place. When a synthpop icon like Color Theory arrives on the scene you get the best of both worlds. The man has been a stalwart champion of synth based music for decades…to hear his take on its latest iteration seems like a natural progression for the genre. It also comes as a serious breath of fresh air. Why? Because The Majesty of Our Broken Past is really, really good.
My introduction to Color Theory was a very long time ago with 1999’s album, Sketches in Grey. I worked at a mom and pop record store in a military town (two Army bases with miles of each other!) so we had to cater to a very wide variety of musical tastes. I used this to my advantage and scoured for synthpop albums to bring into the shop (to spend my entire paycheck on, of course). One of the bulk orders I made had Color Theory in it, and just like that, I was hooked. There’s no denying Brian Hazard’s voice…it’s instantly familiar, like an old sweater that fits perfectly every single time you put it on. But it’s more than that. His hooks are so finely crafted that they are able to maintain nostalgia without being heavy handed or tiresome. You never hear a Color Theory song and think, “Oh, I’ve heard that before.” Well, unless you’re listening to one of his Depeche Mode covers, that is!
As I mentioned earlier, The Majesty of Our Broken Past flows in perfect harmony with the rest of the Color Theory discography. As far as I’m concerned, the fact that Color Theory has crafted a synthwave album is a giant stamp of validity on the genre as a whole. We’re talking about a man who has carried the synth flag through decades when the genre as a whole was an afterthought…a joke. Look who’s laughing now. His perseverance has paid off as you hear synths everywhere…from movie soundtracks, to commercials, to cultural phenomenons as the theme songs to television shows on Netflix.
The second you hit play on this record, it’s too late. The hooks are in…and they’re in deep. I had it playing through my headphones as a shopped for groceries this weekend and I actually prolonged my trip through the aisles so that I could hear just one more song. Before I knew it I was already through most of the album! Hazard’s fusion of the familiar and modern nostalgia is unparalleled. That’s the trick…like musical CGI…taking the listener back in time even though they know good and well that they’re in the here and now. It’s a deft sleight of hand that very few do well, and even fewer have mastered. With The Majesty of Our Broken Past we are surely in the hands of a master.
It goes without saying that this record should be in your collection, and I mean yesterday. There’s not a single track that warrants a skip. The only thing I can find as a negative is that it’s so hard to stop once you’ve started. It lingers with you while you’re not listening, just like all great albums do.