Red House Painters

Some things get better with age, like wine. Others get worse, like sushi. Red House Painters' Old Ramon, recorded in 1997 but kept from distribtion because of the collapse of the band's old record label, falls somewhere in between.

Singer/guitarist Mark Kozalek is a songwriter of considerable talent. His melodies are soothing and his lyrics are courageously honest. And at his best, his songs lucidly channel the emotions of a truly tortured artist.

But Old Ramon is not Kozalek at his best. He seems to have reverted to the most conventional of pop-rock sounds but neglects one of pop-rock's most important conventions-namely, seven of the album's 10 songs go on for more than six minutes, and four of them pass the eight-minute mark.

Although the Red House Painters have never been known for short pop nuggets, the sheer dawdling of such otherwise-excellent songs like "Void" and "Cruiser" suggests an ugly self-indulgence that might turn fans away from the band's superior earlier work.


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