The debut LP of original music from Australia’s The Red Paintings, The Revolution Is Never Coming, is a deep, dynamic force of an album that’s at once familiar and alien. On it, you hear both a band and an orchestra. Strings, electronics, and pianos accompany rock’n’roll electric guitars and heavy drums. Lead singer Trash McSweeney’s voice is also oddly contradictory: it has the power and screaming ability of a 90s grunge rocker and the implied vulnerability of each and every twee indie pop singer in the world. It’s this striking combination of sounds that leads you gently into the album just to shake you up midway through.
The record is strongest when the 90s grunge drumming and guitar complement the orchestra’s magnificent sounds, rather than compete with them. Exhibit A: the nine-minute long fifth track, The Fall of Rome. It starts slowly, acoustically, and then 30 seconds in gets bigger. But you’re not overwhelmed. You get to hear the traditional sounds you’d expect from a band that’s regularly compared to Nine Inch Nails before McSweeney’s vocals take a back seat to the musical compilation. Strings are brought forward; the guitar is played forcefully, almost angrily; Andy Davis effectively goes crazy on his drums. And then it’s briefly silent (or at least compared to the previous musical onslaught). There is no decrescendo, no transition back into solely classical instruments. It just sort of happens but doesn’t feel disconnected or unintentional. This song is a remarkable example of how good The Red Paintings are at making an orchestra seem right at home in what should maybe (at least sometimes) be described as experimental hard rock.
Other outstanding tracks on this album include Vampires Are Chasing me as its opener. This is the track that introduces you to how plainly pretty The Red Paintings can be. On the other hand, Streets Fell into My Window has the most complete feel to it, never straying too far into either musical extreme. (You should really consider watching the video for it here.) And lastly, is the teasing Hong Kong which ends at least five times before you stop being surprised when it picks back up again.
There’s also the slightly odd integration of retro-and-popular culture references that are infused into quite a few of the album’s 13 songs: I caught quotes from AI, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and Signs. There’s a mention of the yellow brick road that’s unmissable as well. Please note the out-of-this-world connection that all four of those have in common. And maybe that’s this album’s full intention: to provide us, as listeners, with something that requires we stretch our mind out a bit to make room for something new.
While I can’t yet say that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing The Red Paintings live, I think I’d be doing you a disservice by not mentioning their concert style. Each of the band’s members is outfitted in outrageous costume. There are backup dancers (performers may be a better word). Ellie Hutchinson of the Perth Music Online Spaceship News writes of their live set in phrases like this: “On paper, a spectacle; in person, something akin to a religious experience. With frantic riffing, haunting strings, and a primal energy that can’t be faked, TRP are not just another pretentious art-rock band.” As the band plays, painters paint behind them. But not just on canvasses, on people. Sometimes, on willing audience members.
According to their website, TRP will be performing at Garfield Artworks on October 27. I’ll be attending for the spectacle, or maybe for the slight possibility that The Red Paintings will, in fact, transport me out of my world and into theirs. It’s undoubtedly more fun there, and infinitely less predictable.
– Meredith Whitney (@MereWhitney)