The Painkillers : Feel The Pain
Once upon a time, before it was co-opted in the coffee shops of 1960s New York by earnest college drop-outs looking to excise middle-class guilt, folk music was a vehicle for blunt social commentary and personal catharsis. Like the rich tapestry of life it drew upon for lyrical inspiration, folk music used beauty as a contrast, rather than a perennial subject.
The Painkillers – Joe Bludge and James Baker (Victims, Beasts Of Bourbon, Le Hoodoo Gurus, Dubrovniks, Rockin’ Hendys) – play a garage-fused brand of folk music. The folk sensibility here derives from Bludge’s off-beat lyrical observations on love, obsession and every fucked-up human emotion in between; here on Feel The Pain Baker’s troglodyte drumming style infuses Bludge’s muted folk edge with a swaggering garage aesthetic.
On Tomorrow, The Painkillers are locked into sincerity mode, pleading perpetual romantic attraction; on Theodora, Bludge walks the line between celebration and bitterness, stumbling in and out of emotional focus as the fog lifts and the booze kicks in.
After the misty-eyed John Phillips-spiced Californian pop of Big Eyes Green, The Painkillers take to the outer suburban roads of Detroit in the snarling Stooges-esque On A Lyric By Robert Herrick. Elsewhere Rodeo rumbles like a desert electrical storm waiting to light up the sky in apocalyptic glory, Jump Your Ship exudes an adolescent humility that would have almost certainly turned the head of a young David Crosby, while Same is a refreshingly honest paean to emotional consistency.
On Leave Me Alone The Painkillers are off the leash and asserting their independency; Baker is working off an insult and firing at his snare like a sniper waging a war of insurrection – but it’s all forgotten by Memories, with Bludge warbling sweet nothings in the direction of anyone who’s prepared to give a fuck.
Pop music these days is as obsessed with image as politics is with two-minute media grabs. Like a powerful orator trying to convey a substantive political idea in a crowd of facile rhetoricians, The Painkillers are a welcome triumph of substance over form.
Best Track: On a Lyric By Robert Herrick
If You Like These, You'll Like This: TAV FALCO and PANTHER BURNS
In A Word: Garage-folk
BY NICK MALONE