I’m curious if the musician behind the Trash McSweeney alias dissociates from reality whenever he morphs into his idiosyncratic performer’s role.
Or, from a different point of view, whether or not the McSweeney persona is actually a commune of fragmented, detached personalities it has encountered over its lifespan and subsequently absorbed into some scattered, diffused on-stage character.
An argument could be made that the man behind the Trash figure has a roaring case of dissociative identity disorder to complement his synesthesia. When looking back at all the characters, elaborate stage settings, artistic canvases (human and non-human), and theatrical thematic material The Red Paintings have cultivated and performed with over the years, Trash might just very well be The Hatter from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (or some other vile character from the deepest, darkest recesses of Dr. Seuss’s mind). Oscillating to-and-fro from the aquatic to the extraterrestrial to a Japanese flair with the geisha costumes, and then incorporating elements of all three paradigms on the band’s current tour with Mindless Self Indulgence (later slated to be The Pineapple Thief when they arrive in the UK), there is a palpable bit of madness exhibited here. Look no further than the hundreds (okay, maybe “tens”) of separate Facebook pages the man’s currently operating devoted solely to this record (examples here, here, here, and here — in order, the band’s Facebook page, his personal artist page, the The Revolution is Never Coming balloon launch page*, and the TRP artist/human canvases page).
*The balloon launch is sending USB sticks/cameras into the sky in major cities around the world for their worldwide tour (Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, Reyjavik, London, Paris, Berlin, Egypt, New Dehli, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Sydney, and/or Brisbane, Auckland, Fiji). When someone tracks down the balloon, he/she can load the USB contents onto a PC, which will direct him/her to a new The Red Paintings website and be chock full of contents like new album artwork, a personal vlog with Trash himself, and, of course, the album itself.
And that’s not to mention the years and years of waiting for the band’s debut of The Revolution is Never Coming, their first studio LP in The Red Paintings’ fabled history that includes several EPs (note: I’m excluding Your Tears are Warning Signs as a studio LP, as it doesn’t feature the full band and is a more stripped-down, “Unplugged”-esque sort of record). The record was recorded and mixed in more studios than there are continents, leading Trash’s collective of bandmates (who had performed live and on record with him on those aforementioned EPs) to leave The Red Paintings.
Their fiscal responsibility may have saved their sanity, which brings us back to Trash: whatever the cost (even if it meant his sanity some nights and sacrificing however many personal and professional relationships he had cultivated throughout the years), he continued to pursue this vision – his vision – for what the record should sound like. Trying to project what was going on in his head – what colors he was hearing, what sounds he was seeing, and how these senses could be put to record – proved to be daunting when studio engineers hadn’t the slightest clue as to what was actually going on in Trash’s noggin. Their vision didn’t parallel his own; thus, it was his proverbial cross to bear until The Revolution is Never Coming’s completion.
Now, after much turmoil, consternation, anxiety, and apprehension, a sense of composure and repose has taken hold: “The Album That Was Never Coming” is now “A Record That’s Finally Arriving”.
So far this year, The Red Paintings have signed with a new label (The End Records, home of current tourmates Mindless Self Indulgence, but also avant-garde artists like Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and Winds, as well as more familiar faces like Anathema, Cradle of Filth, and ex-Nightwish frontwoman Tarja Turunen), recently released the You’re Not One of Them EP (featuring six songs of familiar material) with The End, currently touring the States and getting ready to invade the UK, and this chaotic whirlwind of events will finally culminate with a record that was assisted in part by word-of-mouth fan donations.
That is, unless the Hatter takes over Trash completely and he destroys all the master studio recordings in a fit of hysteria.
(Only kidding, of course.)
1. With The Red Paintings’ revolving-door status, there’s been some confusion as to who’s actually performing on tour right now.
The Red Paintings current touring line-up is as follows (links to their personal or professional sites are available in a new window when clicked):
- Trash McSweeney: vocals, guitars, sequencing
- Sarah (“Sadie”) Anderson (The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble, Chrome Hoof, among others): violin
- Ameena Khawaja (Gift Horse Project, Paper Cranes, Glee musician): cello
- Julie Slick (Adrian Belew Power Trio, Crimson ProjeKct, DRGN King, among others): bass
- Andy Davis: drums and percussion (The Red Paintings’ longtime drummer, comparatively speaking!)
2. Trash was his customary charismatic and self-deprecating self (“Hi, hello. How’re we doing? You all having a good time? We’re from Australia, so when people don’t like us, they’d throw potatoes and vegetables and other shit at us, so…”) and sounded exceptional vocally, as if on record. He had some minor guitar snafus (no fault of his own) and had the magnetism and charm to laugh them off and keep playing, which I think is one of the more difficult things performers have to do when put on the spot like that in front of such a big crowd and so early on the tour.
The geishas (i.e., Sarah, Ameena, and Julie) were absolutely stunning as performers. The Fillmore is a beautiful theatre, but it is notorious for having tricky and oftentimes frustrating sound issues. This was rarely the case here. The bass rumbled with impressive punch in the mix, and every note from the violin and cello rang out beautifully. One of the most memorable highlights of the night was when Ameena nailed the cello intro in “Mad World”, which drew a positive reaction from the crowd upon recognizing where they’ve heard that song before.
In briefly speaking with everybody around me, nobody had a clue as to who The Red Paintings were, so I got to get my nerd on and tell them a little bit about the band in the most non-awkward way possible. It was a bit unusual trying to tell this girl in an Invader Zim hoodie with electric yellow hair why it’ll be a good show, despite me never actually seeing The Red Paintings live up to this point. However, everybody knew Tears for Fears/Gary Jules. It was simultaneously eerie yet sublime when the entire venue gradually began singing along until the band altered the second verse into a heavier number, which is far removed from The Red Paintings’ previously recorded versions (SPOILER: I could pass for a cinematographer for The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, or some other Shaky Cam film, so it’s probably a blessing that I can’t show you the stuff I was able to record since our servers can only handle 15MB uploads and I don’t have any converter programs on my computer at the office here).
However, hat-tip to Youtube user “emily butt” (profile here) for this recording of “Mad World” at the Cleveland House of Blues show, which showcases the new recording, the human canvases, and how intense Andy Davis is behind the kit:
3. The setlist from the Detroit show (album the song is found on in parentheses):
“Wasps” (New song, video from studio teaser here)
“It Is As It Was” (Destroy the Robots)
“I’ll Sell You Suicide” (Destroy the Robots)
“The Fall of Rome” (Your Tears are Warning Signs)
“Cinema Love” (Cinema Love)
“Mad World” (Walls, You’re Not One of Them)
“The Revolution is Never Coming” (Your Tears are Warning Signs)
The Destroy the Robots-era songs were my highlights of the night, with the two closers being close runners-up. “It Is As It Was” and “I’ll Sell You Suicide” had some new wrinkles thrown in during their performances (these tracks were also noticeably heavier than the 2006 recordings), and the forthcoming LP’s title track is, without question, going to be a titanic behemoth on record if the live performance is anything to go by. “Wasps” was an intriguing album opener – mostly because I was unfamiliar with it outside of the 2012 teaser – and its frenetic pace combined with Trash’s vocals set the stage (no pun intended) for a good show.
4. My only major criticism about their performance, excluding silly things like typical tech issues or Trash constantly fiddling with his Yoda backpack, was [predictably] their setlist’s contents. I was disappointed that there was nothing from Walls or You’re Not One of Them other than “Mad World”. No “The Streets Fell into My Window”? That seemed somewhat nefarious after how incredibly captivating the video for it (available below) was, not to mention it being one of The Red Paintings’ best songs to date. If the song “Walls” doesn’t get revisited on the studio debut, I’ll be content because the 2005 version is divine. Nothing from Feed the Wolf or the We Belong in the Sea singles (the latter I understand, as there were no keyboards or piano on stage), either.
Maybe this complaint seems illegitimate, which, in this case, I’d happily eat crow. I may have expected too much for a 45-60 minute set when considering the scope of their current discography.
I’ll withhold my sadness once I see the tracklist for The Revolution is Never Coming, but it just seemed so peculiar to me that they only played one song off the EP they just released on the 16th off their new label. However, the band is hinting at a headlining tour later on in the year, so it gives me something else to look forward to this year.
The only other issue I had proved my Old Man Status, as it has to do with the headliner’s fanbase. The Fillmore (as do all LiveNation venues, I suppose) has a giant projection screen where you can text 404040 and a message to the venue and it’ll pop up on said screen. These kids got a huge joy chanting “BRO-NIES!” over and over while text-arguing over who the best My Little Pony character is. I guess I just don’t understand this sub-culture. However, there were plenty of reddit-esque texts posted on-screen as well, which made me feel connected somewhat to everyone around me…
… but at this point, I had had enough hair dye, fishnet stockings, cigarettes, and teen angst to last me until at least my first prostate exam.
I also understand that it made sense logistically for the label and the fact that The Red Paintings opened for MSI when they were touring Trash’s native Australia. It’s just such a bizarre clash in styles, and I wondered more than once if the songs seemed heavier to cater to the MSI fanbase, or if these heavy passages are permanent fixtures from here on out. The Pineapple Thief seem like a more logical band to join on tour, so you UK lads are lucky!
5. All told, it was a splendid show. I’d encourage you to check them out if they’re dropping in near you (tour dates available at the band’s official site here).
As far as The Revolution is Never Coming is concerned, I cannot wait for it to arrive in my mailbox next month. I guarantee you that I’ll feel like Nintendo 64 kid when it arrives.
Admittedly, I am supremely nervous about how it’ll sound. I cannot imagine the amount of sweat, tears, turmoil, and distress that went into making this record, the number of relationships that were strained because of how much time and energy were invested into it, and whether or not Trash’s vision for this record that he’s had in his head for years is completely, unequivocally present on the master recording…
… but I have no other option than to wait patiently and trust in Trash and his ambitious vision.
After all, he wouldn’t have let this record see the light of day if he wasn’t absolutely satisfied with it, yeah?
“You’re Not One of Them” (new recording, watch in HD for maximum effect):
“The Streets Fell into My Window” (new recording):
“Rain” [re-recorded] (4:10)