So I guess you could say this post falls in the category of things I like. As many of you who have followed my blog over the years knows, I love the 4AD music label(specifically the earlier years – the past 10-15 years have been somewhat hit/miss). One of the bands that I enjoy from the earlier years is RED HOUSE PAINTERS. I recently acquired their SHOCK ME ep.
This recording features 4 official tracks and one untitled “hidden” track (at the end of track 4). Released in 1994 it really is a wonderful collection of covers and original material. For this post I want to focus on the title track which is a cover of the KISS song Shock Me (written by Ace Frehley) that was originally on the KISS album LOVE GUN. In fact there are two versions on this EP (the electric and an acoustic version). Both versions are very solid and very unlike KISS. Which is one of the things I love.
Don’t get me wrong; I love kiss I actually saw the Alive II tour at a local venue called the Richfield Coliseum (near Cleveland – which no longer exists – how time flies) on 8/1/1978 and what a show! But that was in my fist pumpin’ hard rockin’ teen years. Maybe you’re not a fan of KISS or are not familiar with this song. That’s okay. Ace Frehley wrote this song after an event that actually occurred on the KISS’ ROCK AND ROLL OVER tour where he was nearly electrocuted. If you’re familiar with KISS you can imagine this song has the tell-tale chugging hard rock sound that many love from the make-up clad quartet. I’ll post that video at the end of this post for comparison sake. But first I want you to listen to the RED HOUSE PAINTERS version.
RED HOUSE PAINTERS have been described as slow core and folk rock. While their music inhibits both of those worlds this song is definitely in the slow core vein. One of the things I enjoy about it is that is has a very Velvet Underground feel to it. The second iteration of the song which is acoustic sounds familiar yet very different. I can sit with my eyes closed listening and imagining Lou Reed and Peter, Paul & Mary singing this. It really is quite beautiful.
The EP has ephemeral/ethereal cover art that 4AD was known for in the early days. If you don’t recognize the image – it is a detail of an old broken down upright piano keyboard. A beautiful simple image that resonates so well with the RED HOUSE PAINTERS sound. Dean Carlson of ALLMUSIC described this version of the song and the EP as “Somehow quietly splendid”. I look at the KISS version of SHOCK ME as the “I dare you to” version and the RED HOUSE PAINTERS versions as the “surprise me” versions. Because even though the lyrics and music is the same the songs couldn’t be more different. And I think a great original cover of a song that basically re-invents the songs potential is also great art. I think I’ve said all I can at this time. I hope you enjoyed this post.
Finally the moment you have been waiting for? Here’s the KISS version from a concert in 1998 in all their makeup and costumed glory. 🙂