Orchestral art rock: three words that don’t exactly get the fires of primitive musical lust burning deep in the loins of the average punter wanting temporary escape from the humdrum routine of daily drudgery. In large part a complex form of music, the very suggestion of it evokes images of groups of misguided, over-educated tragics plucking lutes and banging on whale bones while dressed as failed auditionees from the latest Lord Of The Rings movie.
HOWEVER: for every rule an exception, and here it comes in the form of Los Angeles via Brisbane conceptual outfit The Red Paintings.
For all intents and purposes, The Red Paintings consists of one man: singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Trash McSweeney (not an Irish garbage collector), whose sprawling and sometimes twisted visions are the basis for his band’s songs. On tour, the group is a five-piece, expanded to include orchestral, choral, and performance art elements into their act, with musical influences as diverse as Mogwai, Muse, and Japanese art rock group Envy.
The range of musical ideas on The Revolution is Never Coming is quite simply, staggering, and will have your head in a spin if you can stand the pace. From the delicate piano and strings of opener ‘Vampires’, to the crushing metal bawling of second track ‘Dead Children’, and the fairy-folk flitterings of ‘Dead Adult’ (noticing a pattern here?) the scope is mind boggling.
‘Easps’ begins with what sounds like something out of the Richard Burton-narrated version of War of the Worlds, as some sort of alien invasion is described, before a sudden blast of heavy alt-rock is unleashed. ‘The Fall of Rome’ follows in a similar vein; all heavily distorted guitars and strings, as does ‘Street’. Listening to this album through is like descending into some dark dream, spiralling out of control and with no end in sight.
‘Hong Kong’ lulls you into a false sense of low-tempo relaxation before once again unleashing a torrent of devastation, and closer ‘Revolution’ begins with a nightmarishly scratchy violin before the sounds of bloody stabbing death and brutal guitars take over, along with some heavy cussin’ and a tirade against religion.
The Revolution is Never Coming: allow yourself to slide deep into the belly of the beast – it’s quite the ride.