Oh the poor Red Paintings.
It’s not like they don’t try, it really isn’t. Their music is spectacularly good, their live sets are show-stoppers, they’ve played with bands like The White Stripes, Sigur Ros and the Beastie Boys in their almost decade long career and yet still, still, McSweeny and co. still have to drag themselves from album to album (or EP to EP in any case), struggling just to get enough cash to make it to the next one. But y’know what? Thank god for that. Their latest, (the 7th in a long lineage of EPs), Feed the Wolf
, is another dip into the musical waters of The Red Paintings, another taste of what could be one of the landmark debuts the in Australian indie scene, The Revolution is Never Coming, due out sometime, sometime
late this year. And if it’s anything to go by, well, the band seems to be heading in the right direction at least. Feed the Wolf
isn’t the moving wonder that was Walls, nor as catchy and exciting as Destroy the Robots
, but it still retains all the elements that make the Red Paintings one of the most exciting bands out there in the Australian landscape today.
Feed the Wolf
, for all the great songs on it, nevertheless plays like a bit of a mess – with two renditions of the same song, two covers and nearly ten minutes of silence and filler in the last track, it definitely doesn’t flow like an album, which, coupled with an approach that ditches one-stop-love-affair songs (Who in their right mind couldn’t swoon in their spot after listening to Walls
and their cover of Mad World
?) for ones that take time to fully appreciate, it certainly isn’t an album made to be a first-time introduction to the Paintings. The music here is a more mature act, with rhythms and melodies that aren’t as straightforward as their previous works, but still in the same vein of the sprawling, haunting musical tapestries that the Paintings create. There’s something beautiful about the way the band blends in a violin and cello together with traditional rock n’ roll instruments, using them to create this wicked layers of quasi-orchestral arrangements of the type of which Yellowcard could only be envious of. It’s not the lush instrumentation that could be expected of a band like the Trail of Dead either, but a more delicate and ultimately more striking sound.
The opener and title track, Feed the Wolf
, hurls just about everything the Red Paintings are at you from the start, with the distant cries of wolves breaking into a beating melody of guitars and violin compliment, a swaying, almost ethereal musical passage as Trash’s desperate and haunting delivery (I can’t emphasize enough just how fitting is voice is for the music) riles against the emptiness of… something - the lyrics as vague as they are interesting. If Feed the Wolf
is a display of the passion of the Paintings, Sing
(A Dresden Dolls Cover) and We Belong in the Sea
are expositions of their beauty, with both songs nearly overwhelming in their emotional intensity – it’s hard not to get caught up and sucked in, but it’s the sort of thing the band does amazingly well, even if neither song really leaves the sort of deep emotional stroke that makes for masterpieces.
All that aside, if a trophy could be given to a band with the most perfect covers ever, it would have to go to the Red Paintings. We saw it on the Walls EP with their cover of Mad World - here; the Dresden Dolls’ Sing
and Nick Cave’s Mercy Seat
are redone to near perfection. The original Mercy Seat
was a seven minute trudge of a repetitive melody, while here the Paintings have turned it into five minutes of an epic trembling wave, building itself from a slow piano introduction and ending in a hail of torrential drumming and blinding fierceness. Sing – one of my personal favorite Dolls songs – makes an appearance here as a tribute of thanks for a six week tour with them, with a well placed lyric change thrown in for good measure too: ‘The Dolls invited you anyway’ sings Trash (original line: We’re inviting you anyway…).
The last song on the album (ignoring the radio edit version of Feed the Wolf
), A Pack Of Wolves In The Year 3013
, is the Red Paintings at their most experimental, sampling off their own Destroy the Robots together with an appearance by ‘Lionel the Opera man’ (Who?? I have no idea, but that’s his name), who sings… well… Italian opera over the top of the song. Weird? Yes. Awesome? Definitely. And so ends Feed the Wolf
– and while I hesitate to call it an experimental album (The Paintings have never been ones to hold back with the music), the band seems to have approached the record from a more unorthodox standpoint then their previous works, pushing themselves in creating ever more varied and speckled music, even if they don’t quite pack the punch they did on their earlier albums. If they can blend what they did here with the magic of their earlier album, ill die a happy man. In the meantime though, another solid record for us. Yay!