Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Album Review: Painted Doll - Painted Doll

What happens when you put a comedian and a death metal drummer/vocalist together? No, that's not a joke. Painted Doll is just that combination, with Dave Hill coming together with Autopsy's Chris Reifert to form something rather unexpected. You might assume they would traffic in the darker realm, perhaps with black comedic takes on death metal's violence obsession, but that's nto what this is at all. Rather, Painted Doll is a throwback to the power-pop and psych-rock of the late 60s. So what does it sound like?

Painted Doll's approach is hazy-day power pop, the kind that is upbeat... if you're strung out. The opener, "Together Alone", also the first track released, bounds along with a wonderfully lazy energy, the guitars jangling under the mud of the production, the vocals laid-back and not at all pushing to get to the front of the mix. It's a sound that is inviting without ever trying to make a spectacle of itself. Another way of saying it is that Painted Doll's music is pop music that can be played in the background to set the mood.

One of the little details I always appreciate pops up in "Carousel", as backing vocals come in during the chorus to "doo doo doo" and add an extra bit of color to what's going on. It's a wonderful moment, but it sadly doesn't come around enough. The track comes and goes in two and a half minutes, which isn't enough time for the thrust of the song to come back around again after the solo. Power-pop is supposed to be tight, but that might be taking things a bit too far.

The band gives us one of those trifecta's, a band/album/song all sharing the same name. In this case, it happens to be the best song on the record. The chorus has beautiful, layered vocals that create a huge harmony, and with four minutes to play with, the song is able to develop into a full-fledged piece. There's a bit of Foo Fighters to the main guitar line, but the heart of the song is pure 60s, and reminds me of how satisfying power-pop can be when it's done really well.

Which brings me to the crux of the issue here. Painted Doll's debut album is quite enjoyable, and has a great sound, but I can't say it's great. There are songs that are, like the title track and "She Talks To Mirrors", but the record as a whole doesn't measure up to that standard. For every great track, there's an "Eclipse" that doesn't seem to go anywhere, and doesn't have a sugary hook. But, the good outweighs the bad, easily. "Painted Doll" might not be a great record, but it's one that makes for a fun listen, and a fun reminder of a type of music you don't get to hear much of anymore. Certainly, if you like power-pop, this record is a fine way of spending half an hour.

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