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Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Down Colourful Hill

In another music related post, I've been listening to the Red House Painters this morning - named after Eastwood's plan in the fantastic High Plains Drifter, or so rumour has it. I only have the two Painters' albums in Down Colourful Hill and Songs For A Blue Guitar, it's the former that I'll be jabbering on about for the next few minutes.

Red House Painters (I wont refer to them as RHP to avoid any horrific Red Hot Chilli Peppers mix-ups) play melancholic, enchanting, lumbering music with just the slightest touch of bittersweet happiness (you don't want too much joy, oh no). Muso's will call them an archetypal slowcore or sadcore band (think American Music Club, Low and Lambchop). They are fronted by singer and songwriter Mark Kozelek, a man with a reflective and introspective writing style; often featuring the topics of childhood and growing up. He has a voice to die for, his smooth tone and world-weary sound are testament to his tumultuous youth - addicted to heroin aged ten, allegedly and moved from home to home without love or stability.

Down Colourful Hill was the debut album from the band and came out in 1992. Only six tracks but a running time of 43 minutes.

The following lyrics are from the third track and probably my favourite - Medicine Bottle, the song tells the story of an introvertive, borderline agoraphobic man who meets a girl and tries to let her in to his life. It's written from the perspective of the man and narrated as though Kozelek is indeed him, he probably was/is anyway.

It starts:
"Giving into love and sharing my time,
letting someone into my misery"

and ends:
"From my world in my bedroom,
It's all in his head, she read,
In a girlfriend's self-help book,
It's all 'cause he's making a war with himself,
Like two sides with a wall,
That separates two countries,
He shuts out the world he once knew,
To love you."

I think it's a fantastically well written song and Kozelek's voice is at it's heartbreaking best throughout the (almost) 10 minute duration. Be warned though, The Painters are certainly not to everyone's tastes and you may well find them depressing, boring and/or 'mopey'. But that would make you a heathen...


I neglected to mention anything about Sun Kil Moon, the latest venture undertaken by Kozelek, alongside Tim Mooney of American Music Club, Geoff Stanfield and Anthony Koutsos. Their one major release - Ghosts of the Great Highway came out in 2003 and was largely thought to be Kozelek's masterpiece, slightly more upbeat than his Red House Painters work, though hardly to Good Vibrations proportions (surely the most uplifting song of all time?). Sun Kil Moon take their name from a Korean boxer and the band play a number of tracks named after pugilists - Salvador Sanchez and Pancho Villa, their songs also contain references to the sport. The opening track from the album, Glenn Tipton (yes, after the Judas Priest guitarist) begins: "Cassius Clay got hit more than Sonny Liston, some like KK Downing some prefer Glenn Tipton". The album's standout track though, and the one that first introduced me to Kozelek (via an Uncut compilation) is Carry Me Ohio, for me, one of the best songs ever written. Don't take my word for it though. Download it here.

Red House Painters are the best band in history.

Mark Kozelek is a genius.

ps - are you a Tory??

I hope not (as I find it hard to imagine right wing RHP fans - bizarre as that sounds)

Also, buy the Red House Painters album called Rollercoaster.

I don't know about best band in history but they'd certainly be up there somewhere and yes, Kozelek is a genius!

I wouldn't call myself a Tory though I do have centre right leanings when it comes to the economy. I'd class myself as a socially liberal, freedom of the individual, civil liberty retaining, free market kind of guy.

I too find it hard to imagine a Tory in the traditional sense being a fan of sadcore and RHP in particular! I'm sure Kozelek would be suitably offended as well....

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