The ethereal strings lure you into feelings of moving gracefully across undisturbed dustings of swirling snowflakes. The dilcid, harmonic voices lure you closer like sirens upon the weathered shores of a far off land. UFO’s pulsate light in time with chimes while hanging effortlessly in the sky except for the chugging belches of exhaust, as if placed with great care at dusk to live as silhouettes against the fiery, emblazoned sky. You crest a hill to lay eyes upon a haphazardly constructed house in the distance. A maze of floors, rooms, all shapes of windows conjuring thoughts of Escher and Burton. As you step in slow motion across the snow-kissed plain to the funhouse estate ahead, the ground gives way and you land hard in a chugging funhouse of freaks of singing strained chords, costumed as aliens and sea creatures who laugh through snarls ducking in and out of the shadows cast by a singular light above you. In the shadows you glimpse human canvases being painted ravenously while a full orchestra plays dissonantly over the whole, surreal scene.
This is the first two tracks of The Red Paintings’ new album ‘The Revolution is Never Coming.’
Performer Trash McSweeney has helmed The Red Paintings since “the dawn of the new millennium.” After suffering a near-fatal seizure, he created this performance group of rotating cast members and has since been creating, producing, and performing some of the most elaborate music and stage shows ever.
I will admit that upon a first listen to TRP’s first LP since 2004, I wasn’t quite sure what I was listening to. I grabbed on to tracks like “Vampires Are Chasing Us”, “Wasps”, and the album’s title track, but it didn’t sink in until a second focused listen that I realized I was listening to something not just written, performed, and produced, but something meticulously and deliberately designed and orchestrated.
With most groups you get a sense of continuity. There is an area in which the band plays, a range of orchestration. This is not the case with TRP. Five years in the making, the LP includes performances from a 35-piece orchestra, a 22-piece choir, harp players, French horn players, some theremin accompaniment, and the usual drums, guitar, bass, etc. This is an album funded almost entirely from fan donations, too. Boy, do they just love their Trash.
The album is a jarring and uncertain listen. If taken track by track sequentially, the weird drop I described earlier is the dramatic shift from “Vampires Are Chasing Us” to “Dead Children”, tracks one and two, is jolting and unnerving as much of the album is. The listener is lulled in to a realm of safety, security, and soothed by the beautifully orchestrated strings and voices before being shoved in to a mad cacophony of a musical circus in the second track. This album feels like a journey between innocuous moments of enjoyable music only to be interrupted by the high tension terror of exploring what that noise was in any slasher flick. You never know when it’s safe to come out.
The Red Paintings and Trash McSweeney are not just musicians. The kind of care that goes in to such a powerful album punctuated by masterfully composed orchestral accomaniment balanced by NIN/30 Seconds to Mars rock moments is not limited to the auditory. The live shows of The Red Paintings are legendary. Human canvases being painted during the show by local artists? Studio-quality elaborate costuming? Video accompaniment for every show? Yes. As you can see, the creative and powerful vision that goes in to Trash’s music is not limited to the auditory.
As I said, this is not usually the type of music I seek out, but it took but two plays of the album and I began to appreciate the wonder of the layered orchestration involved in its creation. Music has always been magic to me. I can’t play anything, so seeing and hearing a musician and producer create something so intricate and so incredibly creative, even if it isn’t necessarily my favorite genre, is awe-inspiring. This is a group creating art at a very high level and if it doesn’t garner your fandom it at the very least deserves a listen and some respect. ‘The Revolution is Never Coming’ is great singers, producers, and musicians at the top of their game, coming together to create something that makes me feel something. I think I’ll let the late Bryan Carlstrom (Alice in Chains, Rob Zombie) who recorded and mixed the album sum it up for me:
“In my entire 30 year career I’ve not mixed such a diverse, colourful and emotionally dynamic album such as this, it’s like a 21st century War of the Worlds.”
That about does it right there, I think.
Like it or not, you have to respect it, and to do so you have to listen to it. ‘The Revolution is Never Coming’ will be released September 30 via The End Records. Check out the single “wasps” below. This is one of the most ornately designed and produced albums of the year, in any genre, and if you appreciate music as we do here, you will know the quality of what you’re hearing even if it isn’t the kind of thing you gravitate to. It is so worth a listen.