Friday, July 22, 2005

Red House Painters, II

Red House Painters- Ocean Beach

I listened to this one a good bit when I was doing my second tour of duty living in Dover circa: ’99. Four songs that are under the four-minute mark (one of which, ‘Summer Dress,’ belongs in the R.H.P. canon), which makes the record feel less mopey and more poppy than the band’s average affair. It’s all the setup, though, for another canon-worthy gem that closes the album, the nine-minute ‘Drop,’ which forsakes the guitar in favor of piano and drums. As always, Kozelek’s doubled vocals add a chilling, ethereal feeling to the love/hate that the man is singing about. Maybe not the most substantial of the band’s work, but certainly the most palatable place to start for novices.

Red House Painters- Songs For A Blue Guitar

My favorite of the Red House Painters albums. As beautiful as some of the past records have been, they have tended to suffer from a lack of direction and/or editing- the pretty acoustic numbers that stop feeling like songs and begin to sound like collections of sloppy riffs jammed together, f’r instance. At the same time, though, it wouldn’t be a Painters record if there wasn’t at least some self-indulgence from Kozelek. This one manages to get the balance just right.

‘Have You Forgotten’ starts the record off with one the act’s best songs, so simultaneously innocent and worldly that the song was ascribed instant mix tape status. Ditto ‘All Mixed Up’, a song that was used in a couple of indie films. The title track features female backing vocals that add another hue to a palate that occasionally seems a little bit too chiaroscurist (what up, Lee Bronson!). The band gets to the point in under six minutes a majority of the time.

Having said all that, though, the centerpiece of the album is easily ‘Made Like Paper’, song three, a sprawling twelve-minute electric freakout that kicks amounts of ass previously uncharted by the act. Guitars squeal, wail, and sound, well, pretty fuckin’ metal at times as the song winds down (for four minutes). Everything you hate about the band’s excesses, except amped up and turned inside out, a re-evaluation of the form and function of the wanking. If you can dig the electricity, then why talk shit about the subdued frippery of the earlier stuff?

(It was ‘Made Like Paper’ that got the band dropped from the 4AD label when Kozelek refused to edit the song down. The label owners couldn’t dig the electricity. Me, I have spent hours, no shit, walking around Indiana, Amsterdam, Seattle, New York with the song on repeat.)

(Second parenthetical addendum: FUCK! I’ve been living with a Yes fan AND listening to ‘Songs For a Blue Guitar’ for fucking YEARS, right, and I never made the cognitive leap that R.H.P’s ‘Long Distance Runaround’ was a Yes cover until me and BQ were walking around Allston shooting the shit the other night. Said cover sounds NOTHING like the original- in fact, it kinda steals the riff from the aforementioned ‘Made Like Paper.’ Fuckin’ Kozelek.)

MIX TAPE: Have You Forgotten

Red House Painters- Old Ramon

Each of the Red House Painters’ albums contains at least one song that shimmers and transcends description. It’s a matter of a listener having enough patience to wade through the meandering moments of maudlin self-indulgence that each record also contains.

The shimmer comes quick on ‘Old Ramon’- the second song, ‘Byrd Joel,’ contains a laid-back, sugary hook that most songwriters would give teeth to write. This record’s an endurance fest, with a whopping seven of ten songs pushing beyond the six minute mark, but the songwriting and riffs are so good that the length is seldom an issue- the riffs latch onto yr. cerebellum and hypnotize you. ‘Cruiser’ lounges, makes me long wistfully for, well, something. Whatever it is on that day.


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