Album Review: Not Blood Paint – La Normalidad




Most concerts start with a song. A Not Blood Paint show starts with a sacrifice. Before a set at New York’s Living Theatre this past fall, the band’s four members lined up in front of the audience, clad in matching disheveled suits with Ash Wednesday crosses smeared on their foreheads. They smiled at the crowd as one of them held up a stuffed animal and slowly disemboweled it with a hunting knife. Dark, red wine poured from the creature’s insides, streaming into a bowl that was ritualistically sipped by the musicians, who each convulsed and giggled before taking the stage.

Bizarre theatrics such as this have garnered Not Blood Paint a small cult following, but the spectacle would mean nothing if it wasn’t backed by a sharpened pop sensibility. This principle of hell meets hook is the thesis of the band’s debut album La Normalidad, a record that owes just as much to the FM classicism of The Beach Boys and the Stones as it does to the psychedelic vaudeville of Of Montreal. Sunny four-part harmonies interlock with constant signature shifts, proggy guitar solos, and tribal wails. And that’s just in the second track. While this could easily make for a sonic mess, every song ropes in the listener with an homage to a familiar genre or oft-covered musician before subverting expectations with an abrupt change in gears. Ominous guitar twang propels the Western showdown of “Shooter” until the bullets morph into tiny disco balls for the dance-worthy finale.  “Army” recalls Graceland-era Paul Simon with its bubbling bass line and choral exclamations, then descends into an off-color soundscape of panting and military orders, causing one to wonder if the song’s patriotic protagonist (or any of us, really) is truly cut out for the armed forces.

But Not Blood Paint is most fascinating when exploring the realm of strange lust, a topic that creeps its way into several of La Normalidad‘s songs. “Watch Your Mouth” starts off simply enough, with lead vocalists George Frye and Joe Stratton trading barbs about a girl. As things progress, we discover the former’s made a cuckold of the latter, having flirted with Stratton’s lady at the laundromat and, in a bizarre turn, gotten high with her as she poured wine into his ear through a tube. “Now I know you’re lying, because she’s allergic to wine and she don’t use tubes!” protests Stratton. The song works both as a piece of macabre comedy and pop bliss thanks to the dueling vocalists, fractured keyboards, and a chorus that taunts lyrics from “Beast of Burden” while still celebrating its ubiquity. Whereas most bands falter when it comes to this sort of copious genre-bending and experimentation, Not Blood Paint thrives. The art never overwhelms the pop and the pop never overwhelms the art.

Essential Tracks: “Watch Your Mouth”, “Shooter”