Adorning yourself with kimono costumes, capes from sci-fi movies, and recognizable Nazi propaganda is certainly one way to distinguish a stage presence. Though The Red Paintings are active participants in such methods, they hardly have a need for such superficial props. Their powerful sound does them more than enough justice. After waddling around for several years in trying to get the word out on their unique band, a break finally came last year for The Red Paintings when the punk-cabaret duo, The Dresden Dolls, became so impressed with the five-piece’s initial output that they offered them a spot on their prestigious tour. That was merely the beginning for The Red Paintings, as they went on to play with the likes of Mogwai, record three EPs, and are now set to release their debut album, The Revolution Is Never Coming, later this year. It would be quite appropriate to say that The Dresden Dolls gig was inspiring in more ways than one.
Their name derives from the band’s odd obsession with painters. Considering they seem to have an odd infatuation with geisha and Nazis, it almost seems conventional in The Red Painters’ perspective. According to the band, in their willingness to hand out painting supplies during shows, they have witnessed some awe-inspiring paintings by “the most gorgeous souls” at their shows, giving perhaps some idea of The Red Paintings’ vivid portrayal of songwriting. The Red Paintings’ unique ability to express their presence hardly stops there. When they were promoting one of their EPs, Destroy The Robots, the band marched around each city they toured with self-built robots. When the next tour came around and The Red Paintings painted crosses and crucifixes on the same robots, I could imagine that the local pastors for the touring towns were not nearly as thrilled as the masses of fans were. Though they look like some deranged cast members from a Tim Burton movie, The Red Paintings’ musical prowess is definable by one of the only aspects in life that The Red Paintings seem to not visibly mock on: the power of art.
The Red Paintings’ third and most recent EP, Feed The Wolf, is also undoubtedly the most accomplished. The self-titled track signifies what The Red Paintings are all about. Like a Frans Hals painting, the result is epic and highly interpretable, revealing human emotions to the most authentic of perceptions contained in turbulent themes of religion, morality, and romanticism. However, instead of masterfully depicting realistic facial expressions like the brilliant Hals, the five-piece from Australia accomplishes such measures through sweeping instrumentation and trembling lyrical foreplay. Apart from the repetitious patterns of guitar and rhythmic progressions, the most flagrant display of innovation is found in the strings layered . Prominent and lively, they cry out in anguish and pain, similar to the lyrical torment presented when the vocals actually kick in at nearly the two-minute mark. Though the vocals are lower in pitch and more lacking in variation, there remains a comparable distinction to Placebo’s Brian Molko. Perhaps it is the instrumentation that is the most similar, but The Red Paintings offer the same theatrical delivery that causes even the most ample moments to seem like the eye of a gripping storm. Though the radio edit for “Feed The Wolf” is the most well-known, I have served up the full, unedited platter below.
Just like the greatest moments of early Interpol, The Red Paintings could have fared exceedingly well in being solely an instrumental band. Their post-rock influences are highly recognizable, often shrouded in moments of intense instrumentaton surrounding boisterous guitars and melancholic strings. The oddly touching “Mercy Seat” details the commonplace fear of death, being one of the most accurate depictions of a song that uses a build-up approach to express the most vulnerable of emotional boundaries. Beginning as nothing more than a simply executed piano track with the aid of powerfully emotive vocals, it slowly but steadily transforms into an impetuous ballad accompanied by strings, guitars, and percussion. “The mercy seat is waiting and I think my head is burning,” an impassioned voice sings, occasionally debating the validity of Christianity before he finally concludes wholeheartedly, “and I’m not afraid to die.” The enjoyable “Sing” builds its strength up in a similar pattern, this time initially starting out with an acoustic guitar. The continuous doubt of authentic empathy is also a repeating factor, resonated effectively through vocals that are impressively soaring. Though The Red Paintings may appear to be too controversial for significant commercial growth, their songs remain gripping, thought-provoking, and genuinely fascinating.