Live Review: The Red Paintings

18 September 2012 | 12:51 pm | Bonnie Neville

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To say Brisbane orchestral, art.rock band The Red Paintings stick up for animal rights is an understatement. The band exist to serve as a soapbox from which frontman Trash McSweeny bleeds their extremist views on injustices born from the ugly side of mankind. He speaks to the masses about veganism and sticking it to the man. The band facilitate change in a way so utterly disarming that you are challenged not to heed their word. The Red Paintings beg you to evolve.

The band appear. McSweeny sports a Communist hat offset by a clover green coat that brushes against his calves and hints at the red and white striped fabric underneath. An R2D2 backpack clings to him while he points a toy ray gun at his forehead. The set starts off building from samples of authoritarian male voices, space sounds haunting in the background as strings and cymbals collide. Drums kick in, shattering the ethereal introduction. McSweeny addresses us like a dictator. The band's female string section are dressed as geishas. They are elegant but have a harder edge than their traditional effigy.

Local artists in the form of petite femmes are introduced and take to their canvases either side of the stage. Invigorated, two guys body slam to Dead Adults. We hear of McSweeny's desire to have Björk paint Thom York's penis during one of their upcoming European shows. McSweeny plays guitar with a jar containing a 'pickled alien foetus' named Elliot – nothing out of the ordinary. The epic, Alice In Wonderland-inspired tune The Streets Fell Into My Window invades the halfway mark of Walls and McSweeny looks distressed. He is gesturing for his bandmates to stop and mimes cutting his throat with a fingertip. “Don't you just hate that fuckin' song?” he asks. Jaws hit the floor. Nervous laughter follows. “Who the fuck likes Alice In Wonderland?” McSweeny launches into a rant about how he believes the author was a pedophile on LSD, then attacks McDonalds for their “Mary had a little lamb, fries and a coke”, campaign. He expresses that he keeps The Red Paintings going solely to turn people vegetarian or vegan. A man in the crowd interrupts: “I love Angus beef, fuck this vegetarian bullshit!” At that McSweeny announces the show is over.

Punters throw up varied responses: “Why the fuck are we here?” and “We believe in you!” McSweeny's bandmates talk him around. They begin again and rise up with urgency even as the crowd thins. It's as if the new songs sort the weed from the chaff. McSweeny speaks of the band's forthcoming The Revolution Is Never Coming LP and how it has apparently taken 10,000 years to finish. It is still uncertain when and if this will be released. We hear Rain amongst the drummer's intentionally ironic suggestions of “Experiments are done for your protection” and “Refugee camps are here for your protection”. To close the set we are offered a choice between the band's feisty Fuck The System or their cover of the Mad World by Tears For Fears. They play both, thankfully. Hands on knees and with the little breath he has left, McSweeny says goodnight.

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