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on December 14, 2002
I have to admit that I first heard of the Red House Painters through the film "Excess Baggage," starring Alicia Silverstone and Benicio del Toro as star-crossed lovers of sorts. The Painters' rendition of "All Mixed Up," originally by The Cars, was featured in this film, and I must say that although the film leaves just a little bit to be desired, that the choice of the aforementioned song in certain scenes of the film is phenomenal. . . see the movie, you'll see what I mean, perhaps.
Emily Hope (Silverstone's character in the movie) compels "John Doe" (del Toro's character) to feel oh so "mixed up". . . Anyways, moving on. . . hearing this song was enough to make me pause the credits and see who exactly was this band performing such a hauntingly melancholic and gorgeous version of the Cars' classic. "The Red House Painters," I read. "Hmmm," I said to myself, this sounds like a potentially great band. So the next day I ventured to my friendly neighborhood record store to see what they had to offer for the Red House Painters. I went through the various CD's they had of the band, and purchased "Retrospective," which I thought would be a good introduction to the band. It truly was. (It goes without saying that I also got "Songs for a Blue Guitar," since it does, after all, contain the song "All Mixed Up" which had impacted me so, but since this review is about "Retrospective," I'm going to stick to this album in my review). I read the liner notes, while hearing both disks of this album, and I was enthralled. How could I, such a devoted fan of good and original music (with a penchant for the sad and gloomy and melancholic) have possibly missed this incredible band, I asked myself? I spoke to a friend that evening, after I had spent the entire afternoon indulging in my Red House Painters CD's, and I told her that I had "discovered" this awesome band, entitled the Red House Painters. "Oh, you mean the band who did the song for that Gap commercial?" she replied, much to my dismay (I'm not prone either to "commercial," or "commercialized" music, or to huge retail stores). Regardless, I did not allow this to alter my fascination with this band. They are really phenomenal; sad, gloomy, melancholy, wistful, somber, with an unbelievable talent for transforming the pain suffered in life and in love into song.
"They're like Joy Division without the synthesizers or drum machines, with a bit of Leonard Cohen thrown in," is what I said to my friend who had informed me of their musical Gap appearance. And they are, but with a style entirely all their own. "Retrospective" has not left my CD player. Their rendition of "Shock Me" (a Kiss song) is as shocking as it is beautiful. And "Katy Song," "Summer Dress,"Medicine Bottle," "Michael," and "Mistress" are gorgeous. And the second disk, with demos, outakes, and live performances, is far from disappointing (as such disks tend to be); they only reinforced the fact in my mind that this is one uniquely talented and outstanding band. The tracks "Uncle Joe," "Japanese to English," "Over My Head," and the closing instrumental track, stand out on the second disk. None of the songs on either disk are disappointing, quite the contrary, in fact. . . each song merits another listen, and another, in order to absorb the lovely subtleties of each one. For anyone considering an introduction to the Red House Painters, this is indeed a great place to start. It's not often that a band entrances me so much, and I am more than happy (sad/happy?!) to have discovered the charm that is the Red House Painters, regardless of "Excess Baggage" or a Gap commercial. They have put a voice and music to the pain of the human condition, what we all have suffered at some point or another, and have done so originally, and this is no minor feat. Mopey, melancholic, and mystifying music (how's that for alliteration?!). . . a wonderful contribution to your music collection, especially if you like Joy Division and Leonard Cohen! Sadness can be inspiring, as these guys more than demonstrate in their music. . . perhaps you too might find their gloomy and ruminating music as powerful and gorgeous as I have. And if not, well, no one's asking you to paint your house red! :)
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on September 13, 2002
Red House Painters, a band centered on the ever melancholy Mark Kozelek, created some of the saddest and most haunting music ever released on the 4AD label. Kozelek's songwriting, focusing on angst, rejection, and the pain of solitude had a way of putting into words what everyone has felt at one time or another. On RETROSPECTIVE we are treated to a disc of some of the finest moments from RHP' five albums released on 4AD, as well as to a second disc of outtakes and live material.
RETROSPECTIVE opens up, ironically, with a Kiss cover. "Shock Me", however, is transformed by Kozelek from a wild, outrageous romp to a low pleading. From there, though, the listener gets 12 tracks of Kozelek's poignant songwriting. "Katy Song", the first standout is, like most of RHP's output, an elegy to an ended relationship, twisting through complicated time signatures and finishing with a remarkably tightly played jam. "Medicine Bottle", called RHP's best song by many fans, is an 8-minute expression of the pain of losing a girlfriend because she could not handle introvertedness and the idea that certain thoughts and emotions are felt but can never be communicated. It cultimates in the astounding lines "I do not want to lose / the thrill that it gives me to look out from my window / and scour the houses from the world in the bedrom. / It's all in his head she read, in a girlfriend's self-help book..." That Kozelek can put into words the feelings that most men have from adolescent to 30 is a testament to his unique lyrical skill. Two of the later songs on this disc, the reverb-heavy "Drop" and "Evil", flow well together and display the crystal-clear production that was a hallmark of each of the albums the band released on 4AD.
Disc 2 is less interesting than the first, as one assumes that the outtakes were taken out of the albums for a reason, and the live material is unexciting (in fact, the live version of "Japanese to English" is downright unlistenable). However, it's closing track, an instrumental, displays the musical prowess of a band where the singer and songwriter Kozelek tends to get more recognition than the musicians.
RETROSPECTIVE is a great collection, and packs RHP's best output onto one release. Why only four stars? Red House Painters' music is not for everyone. While those who can remember the angst of their teenage years or still feel it now after a broken relationship know exactly what Kozelek is singing about, others feel the lyrics are juvenile and too depressing. The Red House Painters are worth trying, I think, and if RETOSPECTIVE is too much, try their first 4AD release DOWN COLORFUL HILL.
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on October 17, 1999
Graceful, quiet, and elegiac. Mark Kozelek truly is a gifted songwriter, and if you haven't heard this band yet, this is a terrific place to start.
P.S. A big raspberry to Ivo and 4AD for dropping these guys.
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on July 14, 2001
The first thing you're going to do after buying this two cd set is wonder why you're favorite RHP song isn't here. Then you're going to realize that you don't have a clear favorite because just about everything Mark Kozelek's gang has put together has brought you pleasure at one time or another. Then you're going to think: maybe the piano version of 'Mistress' is my favorite RHP song ...
And then you'll get to the second cd which is the real reason you bought the set. Outtakes, demos, live performances ... this is the collection that you've needed to round out your RHP catalog. A version of "Uncle Joe" that's better than the previous release. A live version of "Mistress" more revealing than the ones that appeared on the Rollercoaster album. A demo of "Brockwell Park" from which the hidden coda at the end Ocean Beach was taken. A stark instrumental that neatly describes the band's beauty and pathos.
If you're new to RHP you've found a good starting point. If you've been a fan for years you've found a hidden treasure along the path.
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on January 12, 2003
this is one of top 10 albums of all time
" summer dress, japenesse to english, medicene bottle, mistress ( live ), kayt song are timeless. They are framed in depression and immorality which mark leaves us a hope to get threw this sickness of sadness. They frame are emotions which people go throw once in there life but to shallowminded to consider it. This masterpiece expresses or fear in love and hate which only rhp can sympahtize for us. The music linger in our minds as feelings which trap our soul in a state passion which are heart cannot reach. This album is are bible into love. i love this album due too his depression into real life situtions of passion and love which the human heart cannot express in such pain
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on January 6, 2006
We sadly say goodbye to the shoe grazer folk heroes The Red House Painters will this best of collection. The Painters will always be a speacial band for me because they just played honest emotionally raw acoutic music.(There are times when they went electric but I try to forget)The tracks for "the best of" disk are excellent. I honestly have no gripes about it expect that "Have you forgoten" some how missed the line up. It's a beautiful song and it should be on the list! The ture beauty of "Retrospective" is the second disk. It would of been just as easy to just release a "Best of" but instead they issued a b-sides rarities disk to go along with it. very cool. It's nice to see the music of the Painters treated with such respect. A great homeage to a talented and unique band
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on January 6, 2008
I first was introduced to this music when I watched Steve Martin's movie The Shopgirl. It had a couple of really magnetic tunes by Mark Kozelek that made me dig until I found Red House Painters - Retrospective. While not the same upbeat vibe as the songs in the movie, this collection of haunting, peaceful lingering music will slow you down like ether and and won't let you go - much like the traffic jam in the opening sequence of Office Space. My favorite is Mistress. Try Sun Kill Moon for a change of pace and more lively flavor.
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on November 2, 2000
If you are a fan of slow, emotional music and haven't heard of Red House Painters, you need to listen to this CD. Powerful simple vocals are paired with guitars and piano that range from lush and dark to sparse and elegant. The drums mostly take a backseat to the melodies, though they create remarkable emphasis when needed.
Every track on disc one is a standout, including the lengthy ballad "Medicine Bottle."
Since this is all previously released material, I wouldn't reccomend it if you have all their other albums - the live material isn't particularly impressive, and I haven't returned to it often. Notable omissions include "Shadows" which is one of my favourites, and the amazing instrumental track that otherwise appears after "Drop" (one of their best pieces of music, in my opinion).
All in all it is highly reccomended as an introduction, but collectors may be disappointed by the lack of new material.
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on September 25, 1999
Having been a RHP fan for many years now, this two-cd collection of some of their best songs is a delight. The rareties on disc two provide fascinating comparisions with the finished tracks. A couple highlights: "Katy song" is sublime, one of the most heartfelt songs you will ever hear. I adore the instrumental on disc two, its haunting beauty provoked repeated playback on my cd-player. Having all the bands albums, of course there are songs I would have included if I had chosen the list, I can say this is a lovely introduction to RHP's wonderful blend of melancholia. I only wish that "24" could have been included somehow, one of my personal favorites as well as my current age.
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on April 20, 2000
This was the first Red House Painters CD I bought and I've purchased all of their albums since. There's just something unexplainable about this band's songs that hit you unlike any other band does. Incredibly original and exhilarating. "Katy Song", my absolute favorite RHP song, is included, a beautiful, slow-moving track that eventually dissolves into an endlessly repeated wordless chorus, kinda like "Hey Jude". My only problem with it is that it doesn't have any tracks from the equally impressive "Songs for a Blue Guitar" album. Oh well. If you're interested in but not familiar with this band, I cannot recommend this CD highly enough.
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