Friday, April 23, 2010

Album Review: Red House Painters – Down Colorful Hill

We’ll skip past the appalling American spelling of “colorful” to bring you a review of the album that foisted Mark Kozelek on the world. The lovely 4AD artwork gives way to an album of only 6 lengthy ponderous songs. But what songs. 24 opens with a barely there plucked guitar before Kozelek’s voice enters. We instantly know what territory we are in as he sings “so it’s not loaded stadiums or ballparks”, navel-gazing, brooding self-analysis. It’s like Neil Young’s Old Man updated for the 90s.

Medicine Bottle follows, and it’s ten minutes of dissection of a failed relationship in painstaking detail over dark, echoey guitars. It’s one of the few long songs that doesn’t feel that long. There is great imagery in the lyrics – “no more breath in my hair, or ladies’ underwear tossed up over the alarm clock.” It's obsessiveness of the highest order, unsparingly capturing every last detail and "setting it all out step by step".

After 2 stunningly good songs, the next 3 songs are a little ordinary, with the title track itself being a little dull. The album concludes with Michael, a wonderful lament for a departed friend over some staggeringly beautiful strummed guitars. Largely acoustic, there are some lovely lyrical nods to misplaced youth here: “me with my ridiculous looking pierced nose, I remember your warm smile in the sun.”

One could be critical and accuse this album of being fairly samey. Is it self indulgent wallowing? Absolutely. Since when is that a bad thing?!