Brown and Tracy Chapman.
Living Colour's second album, Time's Up, represents the fulfillment of the band's promise. A year of touring clubs behind Vivid and an additional stint opening for the Rolling Stones in stadiums have paid off big time: The group's songs, which on Vivid had frequently seemed a series of brilliant but loosely connected flashes usually courtesy of guitar wizard Vernon Reid are now tightly constructed and coherent, the passionate work of a unified band. Ever since Living Colour's earliest days, Reid has been the group's central focus and resident genius, and his sublime, angular screech is still present in full effect. But singer Corey Glover's range and expressiveness skyrocketed during the time on the road, and bassist Muzz Skillings and drummer Will Calhoun have become an airtight rhythm section.
Though he produced both albums, Ed Stasium wisely changed strategy for Time's Up, recording the group for the most part live in the studio. It takes only seconds to notice the difference: The leadoff title track, a careening hardcore vision of impending apocalypse, kicks like the band at its furious onstage best. Meanwhile, standing at the album's center is a matched set of paranoid urban visions: "Type," the first single, and "Information Overload." The complicated rhythms match the terrified words "Sometimes I wish I couldn't feel" upping the intensity until it becomes impossible, and irrelevant, to distinguish between the funk, metal, pop and poetic elements.
Despite the group's platinum sales, Living Colour remains an outspoken black band in a white rock & roll world. Skillings's "Someone Like You" is a swaggering blast of inner-city rage, addressed to those who "forgot us and let the drug lord take our street." There's a confidence in Glover's voice and a pop in Calhoun's drum that back up the chorus's threat, "I know what to do with someone like you."
"Someone Like You" is edgily coupled with Reid's "New Jack Theme," the story of an arrogant young drug dealer living large and making no excuses, more than content to exploit his own community. This pairing adds a rounded dimension to each song's portrayal of a neighborhood's oppression. Living Colour still passes off generalizations for insight, but the broader view defined in these songs comes across through sheer conviction.
The album's fin