The Red Paintings
Walls


5.0
classic

Review

by Jom STAFF
September 24th, 2006 | 35 replies


Release Date: 2005 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A phenomenal EP that defines The Red Paintings' stellar musicianship and the genius of Trash McSweeny.

For a band that does not have an official LP and depends on the success of their EPs and word-of-mouth to gain notoriety outside of their native Australia, The Red Paintings sure play some pretty phenomenal music to complement their extravagant live shows. At their shows, anything and everything - human or paper - has the potential of being a canvas on stage.

But what makes The Red Paintings' music so sublime?

To begin, it all starts with the band's composition. Comprised of a lead vocalist and guitarist, a bassist, a violinst, a cellist, and a percussionist, The Red Paintings have a dynamic and intriguing line-up. The Walls EP is undeniably The Red Paintings at their best. The atmospheric, lush strings wrap around frontman Trash McSweeney's swirling vocals and intricate guitar lines, which makes the music all the more impressive. The Walls EP is like any other EP in that it's short and only features a small handful of tracks; however, it is essential listening and is arguably the most remarkable EP of 2005.

There are two versions of lead single "Walls" on this EP. The album opener begins with a beautiful orchestral passage, shortly followed by Trash's guitar and vocals. The opening verse is a combination of somber and mellow, but builds to a captivating crescendo. Lyrically, Trash appears to be at a crossroads on the track: he spins his tale through a metaphor of feeling enclosed by walls in a failing or already-dead relationship. For instance, as he sings about how he's "been misunderstood / In a world of negatives, you find happiness", the heart-wrenching despair is immediately identifiable and can hit close to home for anyone. Trash's tale appropriately hits its apex in the chorus, where he sings, "I don't know if you're holding on to what you've got / I'm so tired / I'll be holding on to this sweet love." The passion that the violin and cello add make "Walls" a fantastic listening experience, and the energy exhibited from the percussion during the song's heavier passages give it a thoroughly complete feel. The second version of "Walls", astutely titled "Walls (Alternative Ending)", is about a minute longer than the album opener, with a blustery, distorted guitar and percussion passage.

Two additional highlights to the "Walls" duo include "The Streets Fell Into My Window" and "Mad World". The former track is one of the longer tracks on the album, beginning and ending with readings from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. After a brief cello opening, Wayne Jennings becomes more and more deranged in his narration a la The Mad Hatter, and the instruments follow suit. Pounding, tom-heavy percussion builds the song into another brief crescendo, but the song halts and quiets down for the verses, and the transitions are seamless.

The Red Paintings' literary references do not stop with Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, however. He also includes allusions to the Maus books by Art Spiegelman, which are graphic novels describing the trauma of the Holocaust. In his books, Spiegelman draws the Jews as mice, the Nazis as cats, the French as frogs, the Americans as dogs, and so on down the line. So what does this allusion have to do with The Red Paintings? In the second verse, Trash croons, "Little mouse-y, what did you see? / Hitler's body was a raincheck given to you / Now you sit and wait with nothing to do". The choruses are again the heavier aspects of the track, but the most moving is the bridge, where there is a cello solo to accompany Trash's repeated mantra of "Now I see it, it's a doorway [...] to my love." Shortly after, the song again erupts into a feverish energy that The Red Paintings have nailed to perfection.

"Mad World" is a cover song, more akin to the Gary Jules version at the end of Donnie Darko than the original composers Tears For Fears. The Red Paintings' take on this track is significantly slower than the Tears For Fears cut, with Trash alternating between a small number of chords on an acoustic guitar. Where "Mad World" absolutely shines is in the violin and cello: right from the beginning, there is a distinct solo that adds a breathtaking dimension to the song. Where Tears For Fears had a lot of energy, Gary Jules transformed to be more elegiac, and The Red Paintings applied that to their quintet with the strings and acoustic guitar. Trash's vocals are hauntingly brilliant towards the track's conclusion, where he sings the familiar "Went to school and no one knew me, no one knew me-e-e... / Hello, teacher, tell me: what's my lesson? / Look right through me / Look right through you and me."

The album's conclusion, entitled "Signals From the Frontier", is a very obscure track that features no music, but serves as a utility to wind the album down. Reminiscent of an outerspace-themed "Touch-And-Play" game, the robotic voice spurts off facts about the solar system, and the hypothetical player guesses correctly each time. The music that supports the game's transmission sounds like glockenspiels or the music played from a baby's mobile that hangs above its crib.

In short, The Red Paintings are an engaging Australian quintet who, if they continue to release Extended Plays all the time instead of full-length albums, will enjoy insurmountable success if they continue to write songs at the level they portrayed on the Walls EP. The majesty and brilliance of the violin and cello on this EP cannot possibly be overstated. The orchestral duo of Ellen Stancombe and Wayne Jennings is absolutely incredible, adding a surreal and beautiful dimension to The Red Paintings' music. From the finger-picked violin on the wondrous "Dead Adults" to the gorgeous cello solos on "Mad World", Stancombe and Jennings have arranged sweeping, delicate orchestral passages to complement Trash's vocals and guitar. On a couple tracks on the album, such as "Mad World" and "Portrait of a Dead Soul", there is an obvious lack of bass and percussion on the album, but it plays to the strengths, not weaknesses, of The Red Paintings. Additionally, Trash can astutely juxtapose light and darkness into his vocals and lyrics; for instance, "Walls" has a palpable love-and-relationships flair to it, whereas "Portrait of a Dead Soul" sounds like his explanation as to why there is no pain or suffering after death.

Ultimately, the Walls EP is absolutely critical and vital listening to all comers: it should be a crime if the beautiful orchestral accompaniments and instrumentation go unheard.

A+

Jom recommends:

Walls (both versions)
The Streets Fell Into My Window
Mad World
Portrait of a Dead Soul



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user ratings (91)
Chart.
4.1
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other reviews of this album
dUSK (4.5)
...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Jom
Staff Reviewer
September 24th 2006


2676 Comments


Okay, so I want to make a comment right off the bat to address a couple things.

1. I owe G_Mac a ton for introducing me to The Red Paintings without any strings attached whatsoever. He's fully responsible for all of The Red Paintings material on Sputnikmusic, from adding songs to the listening party to doing reviews. Speaking of his reviews, they are always very well done, but I wanted to give my take on this particular EP because The Red Paintings are soon going to be featured in the site-wide listening party soon, so I wanted to get this out there before that happens. However, if you are interested in The Red Paintings, you should read G_Mac's other reviews... they've even been featured on The Red Paintings' official site. I think that's pretty cool.

2. It's true how The Red Paintings only seem to release EPs and how they don't really have an official LP. Plus, they are currently touring in the Americas for the first time, supporting the Dresden Dolls. Hopefully, they gain a lot of notoriety while on tour with them, because they deserve it.

3. Aside from what you can hear in the listening party, you check check out The Red Paintings' music at their mySpace at http://www.myspace.com/theredpaintings

Currently, they have three songs from this EP (ironically, they're my three recommended tracks), and then one song from their newest EP, Destroy the Robots EP.

So, there you have it =)This Message Edited On 09.24.06

711
September 24th 2006


1341 Comments


You jerk, you made me want to get a new album.
Great work on the review :thumb: I listened to Mad World and was mesmerized. It is such a great song.

Kage
September 24th 2006


1172 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great review, as usual. After reading this review, I had to put on this Ep. It really is great. I think the Streets Fell...is the best song here.

And it's good you give Gmac some credit. He got me into these guys too.

711
September 24th 2006


1341 Comments


Is that Marilyn Manson on the cover?

Jom
Staff Reviewer
September 24th 2006


2676 Comments


Haha, no, it's just the artwork.

Thanks, though, guys.This Message Edited On 09.24.06

Kingofdudes
September 24th 2006


294 Comments


Great review Jom. There is some wonderful stuff on this EP. I really wish I could see them on this upcoming tour, but they are completely skipping my neck of the country :-/

La Revolucion
September 24th 2006


1060 Comments


I prefer Gary Jules' version of Mad World, but Walls is pretty awesome. Great review.

dUSK
September 26th 2006


94 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

What an awesome review Jom. Very well done.

The mention of me is quite a kind gesture, but a little unnecessary. Thanks though.
It actually jogged my memory to fix up my YTAWS review, as it's far too fanboyish.

As for the review, I'm pretty sure it's Wayne reading at the beginning of The Streets Fell Into My Window. Other than that you are spot on. :thumb:


Phil
September 26th 2006


1473 Comments


I saw them a while ago and the cello player did the start of 'the streets fell into my window'. They have a live LP, which Your tears are warning signs. Its a very cool EP. Its one of my favourite albums/ep ever.

plane
Staff Reviewer
August 1st 2007


6094 Comments


Awesome EP.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
August 1st 2007


15737 Comments


Mad World is the best cover of all time.

Digging: Ricky Eat Acid - Three Love Songs

KritikalMotion
September 17th 2007


2261 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah i believe its the best version of Mad World...

I need to get this...

Digging: Death From Above 1979 - The Physical World

lunchforthesky
September 17th 2007


1039 Comments


Great view.

I'm glad I checked this out.

Reminds me of Okkervil River although these guys predated them.

KritikalMotion
September 17th 2007


2261 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The Streets Fell Into my Window is amazing......

I think im going to have to purchase this as i cannot find it anywhere online.

unbornchikkenvoices
September 20th 2007


78 Comments


i seriously don't have any money.
damn you all!!!

*adds to the list of great albums i won't ever have time to get*

PeEpHoLe_10
October 21st 2007


31 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Good to see some people on here taking notice of this amazing band...I hope all you motherfuckers are making donations towards their upcoming debut album. They deserve any success they get.

Oh, and Portrait Of A Dead Soul rocks my socks. Im actually considering getting a tattoo of the lyrics 'I love the world but hate the system' from that song.

rasputin
November 7th 2007


14545 Comments


a friend of mine introduced me to these guys and I was really impressed. I listen to this cd a lot.

Cesar
September 14th 2008


2732 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Weren't these guys suppose to release something in mid-2008?

Any news on that?

rasputin
September 14th 2008


14545 Comments


I hadn't heard of it, but if so, hell yeah.

Cesar
September 14th 2008


2732 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i read that in the news article that said they finally raised th 40k back in FEB in think



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