When sitting down to write this review, I had to double-check that Not Blood Paint’s newest EP, Calm Down, was indeed an EP and not a full-length album. It had nothing to do with the length (the 26-minute runtime speaks for itself), but more with the oomph; the record comes loaded with the same amount of proggy weirdness and dramatic weight as La Normalidad, the 2012 debut from the Brooklyn art-rockers. The trick is that they accomplish this with less songs and more stripped down arrangements. As freakish and addictive as it was, La Normalidad was also a bit on the long side.
Admittedly, I’m either not intelligent or aggressive enough to connect with Not Blood Paint’s ideology and politics, which, judging from the songs themselves and a fascinating Tumblr account, veer on the conspiratorial side (although I could be wrong). I’m more drawn to the reptilian aspects of their music — the paranoid squelch of “Don’t Wanna Talk About It” and the tribal climax of “People of the Rock”, a fire-walking call and response between George Frye’s manic operatics and the rest of the band’s sunbaked harmonies. It’s a prehistoric desert song, and despite Not Blood Paint’s almost indescribable live show, I’m thinking “rock” refers to a habitat and not a concert.
But Calm Down‘s strongest moment is the eye of its post-whatever storm. Two-and-a-half-minutes long and consisting solely of slow, ’50s dance guitar and gorgeous four-part harmonies, “Family First” stands out just by being short and simple — only it’s not. Lurking beneath the gentle plucking and singing is a profession of masochistic devotion: “Your family could treat me like a rug / I wouldn’t scream / I would be seen but never thought of.” More specifically, “I’d lie on my face while they dug heels into my spine / I wouldn’t fight, I wouldn’t gripe / I’d take it in stride.” When placed alongside the oedipal squirminess of opener “Help Me, Mother” and the horror-movie cuckolding of La Normalidad‘s “Watch Your Mouth”, “Family First” is Not Blood Paint’s latest exploration of abuse, of being both the abused and the abuser.
Everyone’s been one of those things at some point in their lives, and with the band’s tightened grip on accessibility, hopefully more and more people will listen, regardless of who they voted for or who they’re hiding from.
Essential Tracks: “Help Me, Mother”, “Family First”, and “People of the Rock”