|Red House Painters I (Rollercoaster)|
Red House Painters I (1993/2015) ♦» Just one year on from their brilliant debut, Red House Painters were back with not one, but two albums. Both eponymously titled and released just months apart in 1993, the first of which was this ambitious double album. With a rollercoaster on the cover to give it it’s unofficial title, it’s now seen as one of Mark’s most realised collections, containing career highlights like ‘Grace Cathedral Park’, ‘Katy Song’ and ‘Mistress’.
♦» Possibly my favourite album of all time. Magnificent and magisterial.
♦» Beautiful, sad, meandering guitar~led songs, fronted by Mark Kozelek’s distinctive rich yet melancholic vocals.Birth name: Mark Edward Kozelek
Born: January 24, 1967 in Massillon, Ohio.
Origin: Atlanta, Georgia ~ San Francisco, California ~ Massillon, Ohio, United States
Album released: 24 May 1993 / August 14, 2015
Record Label: 4AD
01 Grace Cathedral Park 3:51
02 Down Through 2:38
03 Katy Song 8:22
04 Mistress 4:05
05 Things Mean A Lot 3:23
06 Funhouse 9:18
07 Take Me Out 4:48
08 Rollercoaster 4:17
09 New Jersey 3:58
10 Dragonflies 3:58
11 Mistress (Piano Version) 4:32
12 Mother 13:06
13 Strawberry Hill 7:34
14 Brown Eyes 1:47
℗ 1993 / 2015 4AD
• Mark Kozelek 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14
• Mark Kozelek / Robyn Riel~Nail 10 © Red House Painters in 1993. From left to right: Gorden Mack, Jerry Vessel, Mark Kozelek, Anthony Koutsos.
Author: Rob O’Connor
♦» Imagine what it was like for 4AD chief Ivo Watts~Russell the first time he listened to the Red House Painters’ demo tapes. Demos, by nature, are rudimentary things, often suggesting promise but rarely realising it. Most demos are excruciatingly bad ~ the kind of unlistenable things you play for bemused friends so they, too, can wonder why the potential musician ever bothered in the first place. Red House Painters were luckier.
♦» The elusive chemistry was there from the first note. Singer Mark Kozelek wrote songs that defied conventional structure. His lyrics were poetic and plainspoken. He wrote about what he knew. The band played along. Drummer Anthony Koutsos ignored the standard time~keeper temptation to speed things up. He understood the value of playing against such instincts. Bassist Jerry Vessel locked into place, sustaining notes until the setting was nearly ambient. Guitarist Gorden Mack added subtle flourishes, tonal colorings that aided the songs‚ sombre hues.
♦» Anyone who persevered, who accepted the fact that these songs took time, was amply rewarded. Ivo sensed this and after minimal remixing, 4AD released six songs as Down Colorful Hill, the first Red House Painters album in August 1992. Mark Kozelek was a different person back then. In his early twenties, he saw the world in tragic, even melodramatic, terms. He and a girlfriend parted ways and the nine minutes and fifty~one seconds of ‘Medicine Bottle’ followed. The obsessive~compulsive need to work through the details, to relive the experience, to make it seem less dead, made the song an epic. There was no standard verse~chorus~verse~chorus structure that could hold such sentiments. Instead, Kozelek unfolded the songs at their own pace. There’s no denying the power of such emotional catharsis.♦» All Red House Painters songs have the urgency of someone who believes. With the 4AD contract signed and the album released, the band began receiving positive notices in the British music papers. Legitimate comparisons to Nick Drake, Tim Buckley, Leonard Cohen and Van Morrison were made. Ironically, Kozelek had grown up in America’s heartland on mostly classic rock. He liked Cat Stevens’ acoustic lullabies and Neil Young’s mix of ballads and rockers. These cult acts were beyond his scope. Interviews were also uncomfortable. Journalists probed like psychoanalysts and Kozelek answered honestly. He didn’t feel comfortable on stage and didn’t like doing interviews. The few shows the band did pull off were nerve~wracking, with Kozelek often closing his eyes to steady himself through the show.
♦» Happily, the band retreated into the studio to record. With 4AD footing the bill, they could finally lay down the backlog of songs Kozelek had stored up. The results were so prodigious they had to be released as two separate albums. Identified by their covers as the Rollercoaster‚ and the Bridge‚ albums, they were both self~titled. Rollercoaster was released first in early 1993, with the Bridge album arriving later that same year. The release of so much material so quickly helped keep Kozelek focused. The band had taken to playing an unusual adaptation of the Kiss tune ‘Shock Me’, which was released as the title track of an EP and exposed Kozelek’s classic seventies rock roots beyond doubt. More importantly, the Shock Me EP featured ‘Sundays and Holidays’ and ‘Three~Legged Cat’, quiet acoustic numbers that marked a significant shift in the band’s sound. Any accusations of “indie~rock” stopped here.
♦» For 1995’s Ocean Beach, Kozelek removed much of the reverb from his voice. It signified a new confidence. Once visibly nervous and shaking behind the microphone, he’d become more comfortable on stage. Fans expecting to see an introvert reluctantly exposing his delicate inner soul were greeted by a casual friend who was suddenly telling jokes when not manhandling his back catalogue. Ocean Beach found Kozelek continuing to evolve as a writer. He didn’t need a personal crisis to spur the creative juices. ‘Summer Dress’ was a joyful acoustic number. while ‘San Geronimo’ matched the majesty of vinyl records with the beautiful California landscape surrounding him. Gorden Mack left Red House Painters soon after the album’s completion, unintentionally capping the band’s 4AD period. Red House Painters’ final 4AD release was the double~disc Retrospective compilation in 1999. — Rob O’ConnorReview
By Kevin Krein, 28th August 2015
♦» Well imagine my surprise that I ended up ordering two of the four recently reissued Red House Painters LPs — specifically after my big to~doabout “peak vinyl,” and how much the Stars of The Lid reissues were going to cost, and how I didn’t really need more shit in my home.
♦» As it turns out, the Red House Painters albums — specifically the “Rollercoaster” self~titled effort, and Ocean Beach, were both rather affordable. Surprisingly affordable for what they are, actually. And after I realized that they were records that actually existed, and weren’t pushed back on their release dates because of peak vinyl production delays, I opted to move forward with the order.
♦» These reissues, courtesy of 4AD (the band’s original label) are a nice slice of peak vinyl, however, and a prime example of how Record Store Day really fucks you over. This whole Red House Painters reissue campaign was announced in the spring, with a boxed set of their three full lengths and an EP for the label being packaged as a boxed set, limited to 1,000 copies, available only in the UK for RSD.
♦» Some of the copies were made available online via the 4AD webstore, but sold out before the email blast had even been sent out to the list subscribers.
♦» To curb the fury of the Kozelek fanboys and apologists, a second run of the reissues was announced, sold individually, slated for release in August.
♦» 4AD as a label is pretty notorious for botching vinyl reissue release dates, so I kind of didn’t believe that these were actually going to be a real, tangible thing until I started reading online that people had received their copies.
♦» Of the four available 4AD albums, I chose the first self~titled and Ocean Beach primarily because of their content, as well as the sentimental attachment I have to some of their songs. The second self~titled album, often referred to as the “Bridge” LP, is thought of as a bit of the less popular sibling or weird cousin to its much~preferred counterpart. And the Down Colorful Hill EP? While it was the band’s first release, it’s a bit slow, even by the standards of how slowly the band was playing at this point in its career, and I think I have those songs on the 4AD retrospective collection released well after their relationship with the label folded I the mid 1990s.
♦» I have to admit that after the last year that Mark Kozelek has had, I was very hesitant to give him any more of my money. In fact, the last Kozelek related thing I actually paid cash money for was the 2010 Sun Kil Moon album, Admiral Fell Promises, a record I regretted buying after hearing maybe the third or fourth track.
♦» The truth is that despite what a fucking piece of shit Mark Kozelek has become (and has always been, really) I am desperately trying not to let that ruin my love of the first three Sun Kil Moon albums, and the Red House Painter’s canon — albums that I absolutely adore and have held very dear to me since college.
♦» Although, given his misogynistic behavior in 2015, it’s easy to hear that misogyny in his early lyrics on both the “Rollercoaster” album and on Ocean Beach. However, that misogyny and “poor pitiful me” attitude was dressed up in ambiguous, melancholy metaphors that were much, much easier on the ears than anything Kozelek is pumping out now.
♦» So what I’m saying is that it’s palatable still. But just barely.
♦» These are pretty no~frills reissues, and that’s okay I guess. Not everything has to be on white or clear vinyl with expanded liner notes and special packaging. The “Rollercoaster” album comes as a 2xLP in a standard sleeve; Ocean Beach is in a double gatefold, and is sequence across three sides of vinyl with the fourth and final side being dedicated to the inessential Shock Me EP — containing two versions of the oddball KISS cover.
♦» On both albums, Kozelek sound incredibly young — his voice not growing into its strongest until Songs For a Blue Guitar, and even possibly after the dawning of the 2000s. On “Rollercoaster,” he sounds unsure of himself still in many songs, but the band is already incredibly tight practically right out of the gate. Originally released in 1993, the Wikipedia for this first self~titled album mentions the anxiety and pressure Kozele felt after being signed by 4AD; and that tension is palpable in the guitar freak out on “Funhouse” and the endless reverb that swallows the coda to the infamous “Katy Song”; on the feedback blasts of “Mother” and the desperation and triumph of “Strawberry Hill.”
♦» The album is comprised of 14 tracks, and an additional eight from the recording sessions were held over for the companion album with the bridge on the front cover, released mere months later. Many of the songs here, as well as throughout Kozelek’s career up until April in 2008 were inspired by Katy herself — the love that got away, the one that broke his heart — who passed away from cancer. But the Kozelek of today does inform the Kozelek of the past — is it really him (and is it really her) he sings of hitting with his still stinging hand on “Down Through” or is it a character?
♦» This vinyl reissue marks the very first time that the “Rollercoaster” album was made available on wax in the states — it was originally only released here on CD. The then~shoegaze and slowcore influence on the band’s sound comes off relatively well when presented on vinyl — the power chord crunch of the full~band, rollicking version of “Mistress” makes things sound a little crackly on my turntable, but everything else has a rich warmth to it; presumably how it was intended to be heard.
♦» Interestingly enough, when revisiting the “Rollercoaster” album, you realize that while Kozelek came to the table with this amass of songs, sometimes they seem a little like sketches — that really comes through in the way the songs are paired together on each side of the record — like the way “Dragonflies” hits its angry, aggressive shoegaze stride, then just stops completely and segues into the piano version (and much preferred version) of “Mistress.”
♦» Two years later, the group released Ocean Beach, also being reissued for the first time on vinyl in the US — and also for the first time on 12” vinyl; originally being pressed in a very limited edition 10” version in the UK that included a cover of Yes’ “Long Distance Runaround.” Label: http://4ad.com/releases
|Red House Painters I (Rollercoaster)|