Subsonics - Flesh Colored Paint

by Bill Golembeski Rating:8 Release Date:2018-04-20
Subsonics - Flesh Colored Paint
Subsonics - Flesh Colored Paint

The great (and sadly defunct) band City Boy had a song on their first album called, “Oddball Dance.” Well, that pretty much sums up this record by The Subsonics, who are, apparently, “the best band in Atlanta.”

This record is filled with a cornucopia of pop hooks, wacky guitar licks, a bare bones (and wonderfully sympathetic) rhythm section, a Fifties’ vibe, and twenty-seven minutes of joyous rock ‘n’ roll grooves.

That said, the brevity of the album is an issue. Of the fourteen songs, only one makes the three-minute mark, and several others are under two minutes. And Rockin’ Clay Reed’s vocals are, perhaps, an acquired taste as they sound like a hybrid of Lou Reed, Marc Bolan, Lawrence of Felt fame, and shot of tequila with a helium chaser.

The title track, “Flesh Colored Paint,” bursts the album open with the strange words, “Where the donkeys wear shoes.” Then it gets cerebral with the line, “Where nothing is real, nothing is fake.” Is this Albert Camus-inspired rock?

Ah, but this is great pop music. “You Got Eyes” sounds like a catchy Velvet Underground tune. The guitar is just rough and ready vintage rock. Then “Moving in with Baby and Chita” is indelibly inked into the part of the brain that likes to remember insanely catchy melodies. “Why Should Anybody Care at All” recalls the innocence (and just plain fun) of Buddy Holly. The same is true for “Begging Hands” and “Too Much Too Many Heartaches.”  All of this is, indeed, even more Pure Pop for Now People.

And Jesus of Cool would love this record, too.

Things slow down for “Die a Little.” Now, I could be wrong but this album does have a surreal literary bent to it, and, perhaps, this tune makes an allusion to the 17th Century belief that each episode and consummation of physical love (aka sex) shortened one’s life by one day.

Who knows? Maybe it’s just another great (but underappreciated) metaphysical pop song with a cryptic lyric.

And remember, this is the band that wrote a song from Frankenstein’s newly created point of view in which he laments the sad reality of not being baptized. So, there’s a lot to love about these people.

The tempo accelerates for the jangly rock of “In the Black Spot” and “Most Popular Boy in Town.” And it continues with “Must be Poisoned.” But truly, and I’m not certain if this a valid criticism, these songs just end too soon. Perhaps that’s the depth of their beauty. You know, a single glance, indeed, may hold more truth than a whole lot of words. And Wire’s Pink Flag certainly challenged preconceived ideas of the construct of a pop song.

Didn’t the Who sing, “Hope I die before I get old”?

Well, these songs don’t stay around long enough to get old.

The final four songs encompass the short breath of the album. “I Believe I Don’t Believe” is the epic that breaks the three-minute mark. It’s a strolling rock ‘n’ roll song that captures the uncertain certainty of the album’s ethos. “Johnny Left-Hand” is Rocky Horror rock music. “Cold Winter” is slow with deliberate drama. Clay Reed’s Vocals leak all over the track, as does his languid guitar solo and the backing of Rob Del Bueno’s bass and Buffi Aguero’s drums.

It ends with the sonic take-off of “Permanent Gnaw” that grinds with a short sharp psych dentist’s drill of a song, which is a bit at odds with the rest of this melodic record.

So, in the end, all should be forgiven. Didn’t someone say something about the love you take is equal to the love you make? Sure, but this album is still too short. It does, however, land a great punch and then walk to a neutral corner. It compresses time. And Rockin’ Clay Reed certainly has an oddball dance of a voice. But this is, ultimately, a pretty great rock album. It’s a great record because the tunes defy the very moment in which they so briefly exist. What did Buddy Holly sing…“Everyday it’s a-getting’ closer, goin’ faster than a roller coaster.” Yeah, this record raves on with that amusement park rock ‘n’ roll ride.

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