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Paint Fumes Show Us What a (Wonderful Garage Rock) World It Is With New LP

 I’m not saying that Paint Fumes are the next pseudo “that was f—— trippy” big thing…but somehow they just might be.

I’m horrible about giving my local musicians and bands their proper coverage. The Carolinas are loaded with great bands, singers, and songwriters. They deserve more attention. Maybe I got slack on covering my locals after two of my favorite local acts, JaggerMouth and Tattermask, each folded a couple of years ago. It’s no excuse though. Tattermask’s heart and soul continues on in Venus Invictus and if we’re lucky, the talented members of JaggerMouth will find new avenues to share their music. Anyway, there are still plenty of other great locals making great music.  Brett Colton Whittlesey, Elijah Von Cramon, and Joshua Johnson’s Paint Fumes being one of the best. 

I first saw, and first heard, Paint Fumes at a JaggerMouth headlining show a few years ago. Their hard and fast, 60s surf guitar tinged garage rock was a highlight of the evening’s host of bands. Sporting a quirky stage presence, the band energetically ripped and slipped their way through a selection of songs from their first two LPs, Uck Life and If It Ain’t Paint Fumes It Ain’t Worth a Huff. While many of the songs dangerously careened on the edge of sounding almost all the same, they never fell over it. The result was a blast of music that had varying tempo changes, but huge emotional swings. Of course, I had to hear more, and right after the show added their albums to my iTunes library. I listened to them on repeat for several weeks and still return to them from time to time when I need a hit of their unique garage sound. 

Last summer, I got wise, via their Facebook page, that they had a third long-player coming. What a World dropped on August 2nd, 2019, right around the time Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time In Hollywood did. Somehow the two became mixed up in my mind. The music on What a World wasn’t really fit for a Tarantino flick soundtrack, not that it isn’t good enough to be in a Tarantino film. It just feels more like what a Tarantino film would sound like as opposed to what a song that backdrops a scene from a Tarantino flick would sound like. The frenetic energy, the esoteric subject matter, and the DIY, twangy surf garage guitar riffs, somehow embody the same spiritual esthetic that Tarantino’s DIY filmmaking process, and product, does. It’s hard to put into words. I’m not saying that Paint Fumes are the next pseudo “that was fucking trippy” big thing…but somehow they just might be. 

The songs on What a World showcase the band branching out a little while embracing, quite masterfully, the musical slow burn. “Spider Web Brain,” the album’s first track is the perfect slow burner of a track. You can almost feel Paint Fumes singer Elijah Von Cramon lyrically pushing his way through the cobwebs in his mind with his vocal delivery. The band branches out in other ways as well. “Tryin’” with its spare, high pitched guitar lines evokes an almost New Wave sound that Robert Smith would be proud of. Title track “What a World” is an upbeat track that really triggers the Tarantino soundtrack vibes in me when I listen to it. It has an almost desert noir sound to it. All that and it’s one of the album’s most upbeat songs. 

Another standout track, “Heartbreak Reaction” harkens back to their early sound with its surf guitar solo and Beach Boys beat. “Neon Sign” is the album’s most interesting track. The band really branches out here and goes almost full-on country, replete with the requisite twang. As the song progresses though it evokes The Rolling Stones and almost becomes bluesy. It’s a great song and a great new direction for the band. They won’t, and shouldn’t, go country-western or blues, but this type of song definitely pushes the garage rock sound that the band has proven to be a master of at this point. I want to hear more. 

Unfortunately, there might not be any new Paint Fumes music on the horizon, at least for a little while. The band is about to embark on a European Tour after a few Stateside gigs. Next time they play a hometown gig though you’d be wise to check them out, and I will be wise to give them the coverage they deserve.   

Carolina's based writer/journalist Andy Frisk love music, and writing, and when he gets to intermingle the two he feels most alive. Covering concerts and albums by both local and national acts, Andy strives to make the world a better place and prove Gen X really can still save the world.

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