alt-rock trio Painting Rockets are a fitting example of the resurgence of the ambition of youth in Edinburgh’s music scene. A healthy rivalry has formed between young bands in the capital and in the west. Here we see the power of the Scots in collaboration as Painting Rockets recently found new management under Chrissy Mullen from Glasgow-based New Hellfire Club, coinciding with a re-master of their EP ‘Happiness In Measures’, and a truly impressive one at that.
Painting Rockets lead singer Keli Thomson has had a busy month: even while I prepared this review she is rather fittingly spending time jamming with Paramore’s Hayley Williams. In their EP ‘Happiness in Measures’, there is tangible similarities to Paramore’s rock credentials. The EP features astonishing maturity beyond what is expected of a debut EP release, from a band that only played their first gig last summer. Even the album art has a very unique identity and kudos to its designer.
‘Aeris’ opens the EP as Dan Howlieson pulls us in with an eerie and melodic bass track accompanied by soft vocal tones from Keli. The ability of this band to create suspense is a consistent theme throughout, and our ears know that Aeris is setting up for a climactic end – dutifully provided at the hands of harmonised vocals and heavy hitting combinations from dual occupancy guitarist and drummer Stephen Christie. If anything, the track leaves us wanting another summit, bigger than the first, but as a tease for the rest of the EP this works well.
Headline track ‘Happiness in Measures’ is a well-constructed flagship anthem with a chorus fixed in the memory after one listen and Christie’s rolling drumbeat reminding us to nod along in sync. Engaging from start to finish, we see fewer melodic hooks and emotional summits but instead a welcome reminder that this alt-rock trio are the current frustrated youth of today. Lyrics like “stick to bettering the place you’re at and pack in the fucking two-faced act” are so relatable to fans of this genre that not only will this song become a favourite but a personal connection will be felt with a band trying to make a difference.
The interlude track ‘Maybe’ is a showcase of Christie’s ability to tell stories without lyrics, clearly a man with a natural aptitude for the rolling melodies that flow through alt-rock today. Successful Selkirk band Frightened Rabbit break up their albums with similarly moving short interludes and I would like to see Painting Rockets take on this in a full album, which would help bridge together their variety of impressive track styles on show so far.
Perhaps the most full-bodied track on the EP, ‘If Hate Wasn’t A Word, Would You Still Exist?’ was the moment I realised this band had huge amounts of potential to represent Scotland as the next embodiment of the aforementioned Paramore and the likes of Fall Out Boy. At risk of stereotyping, the track does have a traditionally American alt-punk rhythm to it, which could be a sign of the band’s upbringing in a time where US punk & alt-rock hit an evident boom. I like to think that while the track’s engine might hold such influences, the fuel is definitely Scottish, and this is perhaps Dan Howlieson’s best showcase of an ability to chop and change bass riffs throughout to really give the track the strongest structure of the whole EP. On occasion Painting Rockets leave us wanting more or expecting a change of pace towards the end of their tracks to add that extra dynamic, but with ‘If Hate Wasn’t A Word’ our ears are more than satisfied with the balance between the comforting and the unexpected.
The closing track, ‘You’ll Never Know’, is a moving ballad that fully showcases the talents of this band. It plays like the last act in some kind of epic rock musical, where Keri tells it how it really is, clearly drawing on very personal experiences and in doing so displaying an impressive vocal range to match any other in this genre. Its ability to build in size with each line is an impressive display of layering. Similar to ‘Aeris’, I can’t help but feel that the track could have been bookended by an even more patient intro and perhaps a fall before another epic finale at its end. This said, as a showcase of all that Painting Rockets are capable of, it fits very well into an EP that is ambitious and wide in variety.
It strikes me that Christie’s ability to write music stretches across multiple genres around punk, progressive and alternative rock and he sought to demonstrate his talents across this EP. A wise move, and one that I feel has paid off because I would expect a very dynamic album with twists and turns from this band unlike a lot of