Let’s talk ATX; more specifically about the Austin noise-rock trio SPRAY PAINT. Their new LP Clean Blood, Regular Acid is an exciting agitation from start to finish, and I’m not surprised that it is yet to receive the attention it deserves (but herein I attempt to make amends for this).
While it pokes fun at the mindlessness of head-banger music, this record unwittingly reveals an apparent cultural tension amongst show-goers in Austin, TX. In a conscious effort to berate the dopes, the hicks, the beer-guzzling clowns as they swing fists and stomp out a fury at local noise-rock performances, Spray Paint survey and reflect on various themes of degeneracy amongst America’s “young-adults.” The city of Austin is known for it’s happy-go-lucky attitude, especially concerning its multitude of psychedelic beatniks (“They can’t help but follow / It’s hard wired in the way that they run / Do less things and you’ll need fewer bags”). In this regard, Spray Paint’s artfully cryptic approach to lyrics is unsurprising but also greatly understated. It makes sense that the angst of substance abuse and troubled mental health would surface itself in choppy lines like, “You’re always walking through drains and ditches / Moving slower than normal / You can always survive one more / When we fall asleep.” But I think the trouble is that a line like this one – from “Rest Versus Rust” – indicates both the strength of nonlinear approaches to song narrative, and an inability for such songs to really settle with the listener. There’s a sort of disconnect.
At first the record seemed musically unvaried, which is perhaps a less polite way of saying it’s stylistically uniform. But that’s the production falling short, not the songs themselves. I personally don’t feel that the variance between these twelve tracks has been emphasized enough. For one, the unique quality of “Rednecks Everywhere,” which has a killer bass breakdown midway through that would make Steve Albini proud, conflates the band’s no wave aesthetic with their general critique of Texan subculture. Leading into the chorus is the line: “I know this one chant, only if you can hear it: There’s rednecks everywhere, there’s money in the closet” – they seem to preach a kind of nihilism that hasn’t really been heard since Lydia Lunch’s nights at CBGB (you know what I’m talking about). But what’s great about it is that this album is so particular to Texas, and intimately engages the listener with an underworld that is both frightening and thrilling.
Again it’s tough because this is a smart album, written by guys who seem to be well schooled in the piecemeal craft of noise-rock. I have found a handful of reviews so far, and this record seems to have just washed right over their authors – such that they felt inclined to write a vaguely contextual study of Spray Paint as some residual entity left over from days of Gibby Haynes and what has come to be a long-standing attribute of ATX rock music. This album isn’t about being cool or getting shitfaced, nor is it about living up to any societal expectation. It’s about the rawness of lived experience. The frequent burn of a beating heart… or something like that – it resonates throughout the whole record.
I saw them play with Protomartyr earlier this year at a fest that I organized here in Massachusetts. Needless to say, they made an impression on me. As they return from their European tour, I’m curious to hear about how they fared overseas – I anticipate that their sound probably washed over many, but I hope it caught the imagination of a few lucky stars.
You can grab ‘Clean Blood, Regular Acid’ from Austin’s own Monofonus Press.