The phrase "grown up" often feels like a backhanded compliment when applied to a band or its sound. It praises their current efforts by way of dismissing the steps they took to arrive at that destination. In that regard, Coliseum's progression over the course of 12 years and five full-lengths has been less an exercise in growing up and more one of "growing in" to a sound, one that hits its highest point on their newest album Anxiety's Kiss, which sharpens all of their musical developments into their finest point yet. The result is a pop-savvy sound that 2013's Sister Faith only hinted at.
In the relatively short amount of time of the group's existence, Coliseum has made the label rounds, releasing all but two of their records on different labels. This might be a trivial observation for other bands, but it's been a continual point of distinction for the Kentucky-based three-piece, with each album moving in a pointedly different direction than its predecessor while keeping a rock-solid punk-rock ethos at their base. Beneath every shift, vocalist/guitarist and founding member Ryan Patterson barked his lyrics with absolute fervor and passion.
While their punk roots remain wholly intact, the band has grown into a comfortable but still-powerful force. Much of that growth can be attributed to bassist Kayhan Vaziri and drummer Carter Wilson, both relatively recent additions to the band who have proven invaluable in fleshing out the band's sound. Paired with Wilson's straightforward, loosely executed rhythmic style, Vaziri's bass works as much melodic nuance into the songs as Patterson's guitar.
Anxiety's Kiss wastes no time in announcing its intentions with the radio-ready "We Are the Water", a pop-punk anthem owing as much to the Replacements as it does to Fucked Up, complete with gang-vocal refrain. The post-punk-tinged followup "Dark Light of Seduction" chases the immediacy with a slow burning churn, and a subdued layer of electronic noise that the band has folded into their mix over the last two albums. This muted sense of nuance is what gives Coliseum's music an amorphous tendency, and while that's sometimes worked against them in the past, here it allows them to shift weightlessly from near post-rock atmospherics on the outstanding "Dark Light of Seduction" to blistering anthems like "Drums & Amplifiers", all without losing a core sense of focus.
Just shy of 40 minutes, Anxiety's Kiss packs in a surprising amount of singalong hooks, and you can sense their comfort with them. They've always had these proclivities lurking in the background, and this time around they embrace them as the next logical step. For longtime followers of the band, Anxiety's Kiss has the feel of a logical endpoint, the latest natural development in an impressive career of progressions. - Pitchfork