Austin has a reputation for being weird. There’s the Cathedral of Junk, which is more or less what it sounds like, and chicken shit bingo, which is exactly what it sounds like. Austin also has a reputation as a great music scene. So it’s a natural home for Spray Paint, a great weird band that manages to rage and shrug at the same time.
Punters On A Barge is Spray Paint’s fourth full-length album and was released by Australian label Homeless Records. Since the 2013 release of their self titled debut, this self described “scum rock” trio has been making apocalypse-friendly tunes with a deadpan air and a Texas twang.
Punters On A Barge features the same awesome ugliness of Spray Paint’s past albums, but there’s more depth here. Previously the band had a simpler lead guitar sound with fuzzy fill-ins keeping the noise level high. And that was great. But on Punters, guitarists Cory Plump and George Dishner display a Sonic Youth-esque appreciation of one another’s playing. The virtuosity with which they harmonize the light and the loud is comparable to Thurston and Lee. On “I Hate Your Paintings,” relentless guitar scratching is interrupted by a metallic down-tuned drip. The relationship continues on “Fishing,” a 90-second compilation of rumbling bass notes and light, sporadic note bending and stretching. The guitarists’ instruments take on personalities — one alert and fearful, the other heavy and menacing.
About halfway through the album, Chris Stephenson pulls out a drum machine. “Day Of The Rope” begins with a stark, futuristic electronic beat overlaid by surging, electrostatic, fuzzed-out guitar. It sounds like a robot on the fritz. These middle tracks add an industrial accent as the band indulges its noise rock desires.
If Spray Paint’s music plays with counterpoints, when Plump and Dishner sing it’s in weirdly perfect unison. Their low-intensity, sort-of-angry, conversational shouting collides with the instrumentals. On “Yoopy D.B.,” their sinister scolding is truly unsettling: reminiscent of Beck’s “Truckdrivin Neighbors Downstairs.” Tonally, the singers sound unmoved by the violence they describe around them. Chaos reigns. Whatever.
With each album Spray Paint has added more sludge to their sound. They are dark and surreal and make my head spin. If Austin secedes, I hope they stay here.