Thursday, July 21, 2005

Red House Painters, I

Red House Painters- Down Colorful Hill

I know I’ve told this story a bunch of times before, but it bears repeating.

A rain just above freezing filled the gutters of Allston as I walked around, looking for someone to spend my birthday with. I hadn’t told anybody, presuming that everyone would just remember, even though I’m fucking awful with birthdays myself. Both of my roommates were at work. Me, I had taken the day off to celebrate and had forgotten to invite anybody.

I bumped into this girl who worked at the same burrito place as one of my roommates. We had lunch at The Grease Is Churning, went to her place for a little while before her shift started. I was looking through a stack of her CD’s, largely of the crust punk variety, when I found ‘Down Colorful Hill.’

“What’s this?”

“Oh, the Red House Painters. Do you like them?”

I had bought and summarily sold back one of their discs a few summers before, deeming it ‘not punk enough’ or some shit. Very pretty and acoustic, but meandering, occasionally too long and/or precious.

“They’re okay.”

“You can have it. It’s your birthday! I think you’ll like it.”

So I took the CD home and put it on.

The first song was titled ‘Twenty-Four,’ a screed about the lofty, unfulfilled hopes the narrator had set for himself. His failure. There I was, sitting damp and alone in my room on my own twenty-fourth birthday, without a rudder.

Later on the record was the song ‘Michael,’ imploring a lost friend to come back, to find himself.

The synchronicity of the day, the doleful ache of the honesty keeps me coming back, album after album.

Red House Painters- s/t

The untitled Red House Painters album that features a gorgeous, sepia-toned photo of a bridge.

Mark Kozelek has this knack for spilling lyrics that are so intensely personal that they first make a listener cringe, then feel for the guy. This might be the record on which he lays it out the most. He’s trying to get it all across in the most honest way possible, even if said honesty is so real that it’s occasionally embarrassing to listen to. Makes my problems, real or imagined, feel a little bit smaller, even as the music allows me to continue to wallow in misery if I like.

Most of the spare, pretty acoustic songs drag along at the pace of a snail, so by the time that ‘Blindfold’ rolls around, the by-all-other-standards-average tempo comes across as jarring. The song ends with as large of a freakout as Kozelek and co. had recorded up to that point (though ‘Made Like Paper’ on ‘Songs For A Blue Guitar’ wins. More on that in a few reviews).

Red House Painters- s/t

The untitled Red House Painters album that features a gorgeous, sepia-toned photo of a rollercoaster.

I have six Red House Painters albums, plus a greatest hits collection. Not anywhere near as crazy of a listening experience as plowing through twenty-seven Jandek records, but still a marathon (especially when you stop to consider that the Painters’ stuff comes at a time where I have blocks of Radio 4, Radiohead, and Rachel’s to review).

I understand that you, the reader, must feel like some of this stuff is a marathon of ingestion. To thank you, dear friend, for your patience and support throughout my brave/idiotic attempt to listen to and review all my records is alphabetical order, I have arranged a special treat.

My vast and worldly connections have hooked me up with an amazing psychic. The standard question about the year when the Sox win the series is, of course, null and void at this point, so I thought I’d instead use the psychic to get a guest reviewer for the album.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome, back from the dead, one time only, WESLEY WILLIS!

(Cue Casio)

“This band played in front of five hundred people!
The people were all very sad!
The band was also very sad!

RED HOUSE PAINTERS!
RED HOUSE PAINTERS!
RED HOUSE PAINTERS!
RED HOUSE PAINTERS!

The singer was all bummed out!
I wish he’d cheer up!
Hey buddy, I will whip you like a camel’s ass!

RED HOUSE PAINTERS!
RED HOUSE PAINTERS!
RED HOUSE PAINTERS!
RED HOUSE PAINTERS!

(instrumental break, sixteen bars)

I thought they were okay!
I just wish he could be happy!
Maybe somebody could buy him a happy meal!

RED HOUSE PAINTERS!
RED HOUSE PAINTERS!
RED HOUSE PAINTERS!
RED HOUSE PAINTERS!

Rock over London! Rock on, Chicago!
Fagen’s! When nothing but the best will do!”

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