Wednesday, August 11, 1999

Better red than dead

Posted By on Wed, Aug 11, 1999 at 12:00 AM

How relentless is Mayo Thompson? After more than 30 years of crusading as the Red Krayola, the man is still pushing the limits of the anarchistic song structures that lie somewhere between rock and art. And while Thompson’s original bandmates, Frederick Barthelme and Steve Cunningham, are long gone, they are not completely forgotten. On Fingerpainting, sole survivor Thompson resurrects old compositions by the Red Krayola and mixes them up with archival recordings of the band from each decade of their incredibly long existence. Harking back to the trend-setting "Free Form Freak Outs" of their 1967 debut, The Parable of Arable Land, such fresh Krayolas as David Grubbs, Stephen Prina and ex-Minuteman George Hurley smear themselves all around the vintage visions of chairman Mayo. Certainly, dismissing Mayo’s legacy of fractured pop-exhibitionism as mere improvisational music would be a severe underestimate. More to the point is that Mr. Thompson seems to have anticipated the entire post-rock phenomenon by about 30 years.

This latest edition of the Krayola features a healthy balance between gentle little songs, distorted sonic mania and ambitious audio collages which seem influenced by William Burroughs’ cut-up methodology. There are also some unbelievably gorgeous instrumental passages amid all the deconstructivist breakdowns of stereotypical counterculture claptrap. The only real question here is whether or not Thompson is too smart for his own good, since the titles of his revitalized freak-outs are so long that they must be seen to be believed. In other words, the Red Krayola refuses to die!

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