The Red Paintings are a peculiar beast. Originally formed in the faraway lands of Australia, but since relocated to the similarly faraway land of Los Angeles, the band is, for all intents and purposes, an endeavour in indulging the perfectionist whims of singer/guitarist/sampler Trash McSweeney. Legend and Wikipedia would have it that ‘The Revolution is Never Coming’, their extremely long-awaited debut album, is the culmination of years of extensive touring around the globe, a succession of singles, EPs, interesting music videos, the gradual development of grandiose stage antics that all started with this man having a seizure. The result is messy, weird, entirely self-indulgent, often over-ambitious, but amidst the commotion do flourish a handful of genuinely spectacular, enthralling and emotional moments.
It’s important to return to the notion of McSweeney’s perfectionism, as there are in my eyes two very different forms of it. The first is a synthesizing skill, an ability to take one’s ideas and reduce them to a distinctive and potent sound capsule resulting in an economy of music. McSweeney stands firmly on the opposite side of the spectrum. He’s perfectionist in the sense that he seems determined to accommodate every single one of his vagrant sonic desires, however incoherent they might be. The album is oft-choked by the this painter’s overwhelming, and sometimes overwhelming, palette of colours. The album’s issues become clearer still when the persistent theatricality is taken into consideration. Indeed, it reveals the true nature of The Red Paintings’ music: a dynamic instrumental background orchestrated to support and elevate the dramatic musings of one unrestrained creative mind.
Dealing mostly in mastodonic sizes, the band unleash choirs, huge string orchestras, harps, spoken word samples, morbid samples, megaphones in all shapes and sizes by way of a variety of moods and genres. On the most daunting journeys that is a full album listen, you’ll encounter beautiful and ethereal atmospheres (‘Vampires Are Chasing Me’), a suspiciously NIN-sounding industrial rock track (‘Wasps’), incredibly creepy renditions of Alice In Wonderland’s opening (‘Streets Fell Into My Window’), and engrossing rock-operas (‘The Revolution Is Never Coming’). The one thing you’re guaranteed to be provided in excessive portions is DRAMA, everywhere, everytime, pervading every measure of the album. McSweeney isn’t interested in an authenticity of emotion, but rather the brand of declarative over-emphasizing typical of theater tragedies.
On occasion though, the band do reach some impressive heights, as is the case on the above-mentioned ‘The Revolution Is Never Coming’. Spread over a huge 8 minutes and 36 seconds, it lurches, pauses, re-builds, simmers, crashes down, as it delivers an incredibly dynamic range of moods without resorting to over-extended and sparse instrumental sections (i’m looking at you ‘The Fall Of Rome’). McSweeney is never timid, conducting his comrades to fit his angry indictment with the greatest gusto and ending the track with a finale that seems the logical conslusion of everything this band is about: in noisy chaos. Unfortunately, the previous example is perhaps the only track on the album that doesn’t appear aimless or formless. Ideas are one thing, weaving them into something great is another, and adding them up together clearly isn’t the way up for The Red Paintings.
‘The Revolution Is Never Coming’ by The Red Paintings is released on the 30th September on Graphite Records.
Words by James Berclaz-Lewis (@swissbearclaw)