Red House Painters
Red House Painters I


5.0
classic

Review

by Cam EMERITUS
June 5th, 2009 | 328 replies | 23,587 views


Release Date: 1993 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Mark Kozelek's magnum opus.

Despite my steadfast belief that this is a perfect album, even I can’t be blinded by the fact that the Red House Painters’ sophomore effort can almost, at times, be a chore to listen to. Difficulty isn’t a hindrance of Red House Painters I (or (Rollercoaster), whichever is your preference), but this isn’t an easy listen: this album can be cripplingly depressing. However, much like depression, there are alleviating moments of beauty to be found after and within the darkness, and it’s worth delving within RHP I’s considerable mass to find such moments.

Thankfully, RHP I eases into its girth by starting out with its most accessible track. “Grace Cathedral Park” is a relatively optimistic and upbeat folk track, despite lyrics that suggest otherwise: Kozelek yearns mournfully of a past relationship, striking familiar feelings of loss that resonate long after the track’s four minutes. From there, the music starts to parallel Kozelek’s depression: “Down Through” is a barren, straightforward track that features similar themes of yearning and loss that were found in "Grace Cathedral Park" . This time, this feeling is amplified by the music, which consists of nothing more than someone (assumedly Kozelek) absentmindedly strumming an acoustic. A feeling of loneliness and solitude is easily struck within the listener here, from both the subtle emotion of Kozelek’s voice and the starkness of his playing.

RHP I spans multiple genres throughout its 75-minute runtime, and Kozelek’s apparent expertise at each experiment---the dissonant shoegaze of the first version of “Mistress”, the dreamy pop of “Dragonflies”, the gaping crescendos and epic feel of “Mother”---evidences the man’s vast talents, and prevents RHP I from becoming stale and overlong. Despite these song’s tempos never getting any faster than ‘slow’, each song is reasonably different: every piece is rather entertaining and interesting, either musically or lyrically. Each is great in its own right.

However, much of RHP I is rather same-y musically. Compared to the skeletal and draining Down Colorful Hill, RHP I is nearly ornate: mostly every track is preformed with a full band, and each song is fully fleshed out, all possible space occupied by Gorden Mack’s bipolar guitar playing (often switching from despairingly emaciated to abrasively dissonant) and Anthony Koutsos’s full, thick drumming. Sure, some of RHP I’s instrumentation can seem like standard-issue slowcore, but that’s where Kozelek’s relatable lyrics come in, where his often-depressing tales really shine.

I can understand someone being imposed by this album’s relative girth, but I really do stress how much better RHP I works when played as an entire album. The album evokes the ups and downs of depression throughout its own rises and falls; despite never getting overly optimistic, songs like “Dragonflies” and “New Jersey” call to mind some happier times, and Kozelek seems less hesitant to relive such times, as evidenced through his delivery. These songs seem jarring when they’re neighboring songs like “Mistress”, which finds our narrator considering losing himself to suicide. It’s stuff that’s uncomfortable and hard to swallow, and transitioning into such lows after reliving such highs might seem clunky and random at first, but not after you realize that such transitions happen commonly within our own lives, that such transitions are as cumbersome and ungainly when lived and experienced.

A lot of time of is needed to fully experience RHP I, so it should come as no surprise that Kozelek seems so concerned with the passing of his own time here. “Things Mean A Lot” is the most explicit portrayal of this theme, as lyrics such as “scares me how you get older/how you forget about each other” are sung so solemnly, so intimately, that it seems as if Kozelek is eulogizing his own oncoming suicide---that he’s admitting defeat, tired of reliving the glory years. It’s a poignant moment, and while such themes aren’t ever repeated with such clarity, they are repeated: “Rollercoaster” and “Katy Song” also focus on such wistfulness, such hopefulness, such sadness.

RHP I is an extremely humane record, and it’s easy to curl up in its nooks and clearings, to curl up and embrace its tenderness and its forgiving nature. Perhaps such benevolence is what makes every second of this bearable, especially when approached within the right light and in the right mood. Perhaps such munificence makes even the most meandering bits of this manageable. Unlike some similar-minded sadsacks, Kozelek never comes off as if he’s wallowing in his own sorrow or as if he’s an asshole, instead always coming off simply as a nice guy---‘nice’ being that frequently sought-after feeling that we’d all like to have. Kozelek never makes you feel pitiful for him or for yourself, and both are better for it.

RHP I can seem imposing in its lack of any real optimism---until the last track, as “Brown Eyes” ends the album on such a tender note that, despite the brutal emotion portrayed throughout much of the album, you feel instantly better as its two minutes effortlessly pass. It’s the sunrise after the dark, brutal night. And there’s no better way to spend your nights, and your sunrises, than with this album.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
joshuatree
Emeritus
June 5th 2009



3743 Comments


submitting reviews at 2:30 very timely

best album ever

pixiesfanyo
June 5th 2009



1223 Comments


yeah this album is the best. Kozelek's finest moment.

gaslightanthem
June 5th 2009



5209 Comments


hang on no i thought rain dogs was the best album ever all these contradictions are mind blowing

Phil
June 5th 2009



1473 Comments


Sounds awesome. I will look into this. Very good review.

Minus The Flair
Emeritus
June 5th 2009



862 Comments


Only have a few tracks from this, which are great, review convinced me to get the whole thing. I love Kozelek but it's so difficult to sit through entire albums of his.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
June 5th 2009



15693 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

yeah this is my favorite kozelek release

Digging: Nmesh - Dream Sequins [AMDISCS]

Tits McGee
June 5th 2009



1876 Comments


yeah this is one of the greatest albums ever. sooooooooooooooooooooo good

iranscam
June 5th 2009



469 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

about damn time dawg. good review

favourite album ever

kitsch
June 5th 2009



5105 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i second/third/whatever the notion of this being the best kozelek release.

rhp>skm

Doppelganger
June 5th 2009



3124 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

This is the best release Kozelek has done, but SKM has better consistency than RHP. Every RHP release after this is kind of meh

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
June 5th 2009



17912 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i've only listened to this once i think, and it was a long time ago, i should whip this shit out again

NortherlyNanook
June 5th 2009



1285 Comments


well, you should, since it's ridiculously good

Mendigo
June 5th 2009



2299 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

yeah this is my favorite kozelek release


gaslightanthem
June 5th 2009



5209 Comments


mendigo wtf you dont post anymore

thebhoy
Emeritus
June 6th 2009



4459 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I don't know why I don't have this...

ClearTheLane
June 8th 2009



990 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Brilliant review. I'm not sure if I should say this, but I will anyway: This is how you review a true classic, Chan (and all the other staff members)

“Things Mean A Lot” is the most explicit portrayal of this theme, as lyrics such as “scares me how you get older/how you forget about each other”

That's one of my favorite lines on the albums. My #1 fave atm would be "I keep your picture tidy and safe in a shrine/And hope that in time, in time, in time/We'll have a house on the shore that showers my soul/Washes away the violence that runs in my blood/Drains the pain that i caused you, down through."
Just one thing, maybe you should have said more of Katy Song, as it's widely regarded as the best song Kozelek ever wrote I believe.
Also, like you said in the last paragraph, you gotta love the way the album ends to that tiny beautiful song Brown Eyes.

ClearTheLane
June 8th 2009



990 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

....and the intro of Strawberry Hill is one of the most haunting sounds ever made. If I ever get to make my own film, I'll include it on the soundtrack.

joshuatree
Emeritus
June 8th 2009



3743 Comments


um, thanks, best to chill with the chan-bashing though man

and yeah, the reason i didn't really say a lot about katy song is because, while i love that song, i don't love it as much as i'm supposed to. meaning, there's a bunch of songs here i'd rather listen to

ClearTheLane
June 9th 2009



990 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

best to chill with the chan-bashing though man

True, true.. just found it hard to believe a staff member reviewed the new tbs album a 5 after hearing it myself.

I think Katy Song is perfect. I mean, out of the million trillion songs that have been written due to a broken relationship, it must be the greatest. It's up there anyway..

gaslightanthem
June 9th 2009



5209 Comments


come on man ppl have different opinions when it comes to music



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