Of all the 4AD bands from the class of 1982, Colourbox may have been the most accessible and eclectic. Like all 4AD acts, Colourbox had a stylistic soundscape that was visual oriented and even without haven seen any of its music videos, a strong visual is etched in the mind.
Colourbox was different from their label peers by virtue of their funky mix of influences: reggae, soul and lashings of pop culture in the form of obscure film dialogue (even NASA clips). Formed originally by two brothers, the band would have two lead vocalists with Lorita Grahame being the most recognizable. It’s her vocal style that gives the band a slight alt-soul sound, but not quite like Alison Moyet.
Her delivery is what bridges the albums multiple (and potentially conflicting) styles together. Strangely, Grahame’s voice could sound like the Japanese vocalist from Hiroshima, an jazz-adult contemporary band who on occasion experimented with more pop like compositions.
The Colourbox’s only real full length album, the self titled LP contained everything from industrial dance to ’50s styled retro pop. Like a lot of new wave music, there is a strong connection to musical styles of the past, but in Colourbox fashion, these influences are laced with smart dance rhythms and interesting melodies. Other surprises like the beautiful piano track “Sleepwalker” was closer to the melancholy of This Mortal Coil. Either way producer Martyn Young made certain that this would be a difficult album to peg.
A covers of the ’60s era Supremes song “You Keep Me Hanging On” fits in nicely against the more modern dance oriented “Manic” (which features a young William Orbit).
Tracks like “Inside Informer”, with it’s subtle funk was a college radio hit or a sort, but beyond that Colourbox went un noticed by all but hard core 4ADphiles. That’s a shame because it’s easily one of the most daring, ambitious and fun debuts of the decade.
I’m not sure what happened to Ms. Grahame and Colourbox. They stayed out of the limelight, even when it was their moment to shine. The band’s founders Martyn and Steven Young went off to short term fame as MARRS with the smash hit ‘Pump Up The Volume’ in 1987.
There are multiple variants of this album on CD. My original battered LP contains a slightly different track listing than the punch out CD I found (which was a late ’90s issue). Since that time 4AD has released a remastered version with an expanded track listing. If you are fortunate enough to find this CD or LP in your local record store’s cut-out bin, it would we well worth the small investment.