he Rolling Stones make a good case for being rock’s first and foremost true bad boys. The Beatles were always one (often two) steps ahead of them, but the Stones remained relevant for as long as they did because although the Fab Four had them continuously beat in terms originality, innovation and influence, the Stones always crushed in terms of sheer bad-ass cool. Much of that reputation lies with “Paint it, Black,” the lead track off of 1966’s Aftermath, their first album consisting entirely of originals and an early peak for the Stones. The Beatles had used sitar before, but not to sound as damned sinister as it did on “Paint it, Black,” maybe the most demonic single to ever hit #1 on both sides of the Atlantic.
You could lay a whole lot at the feet of this song—first truly evil song ever made a huge hit by a world famous band, progenitor to goth and industrial and other supposedly wicked genres, and so on—but most importantly, it’s simply an awesome song. Recently, NME named it one of the top five singles of all-time, outranking any other Stones (or Beatles) entry, and that’s probably because, over 35 years later, it still sounds like the devil incarnate.
And that’s also probably what inspired this collection, a set of eleven tributes to the Stones’ “Paint it, Black,” organized by Andee Connors, head of experimental San Fransisco label Tumult records. As far as tribute albums go, however, this is hardly Burning London: A Tribute to the Clash or anything else that vapid and ill advised. No, there are no actual covers of “Paint it, Black,” here—some songs suggest it through their mood and atmosphere, some songs tickle it a bit with a guitar lick or a bass line, some songs just pay homage to it with a repeated musical theme, and one song outright samples it. Rather, this is a tribute album in the way tribute albums should be assembled—songs that pay tribute to the essence and spirit of the source, without ever being derivative, redundant or boring.
I wouldn’t even know where to start with trying to describe this album. The two artists on the comp you might have heard of, Acid Mothers Temple and Hvratski, turn in what most would expect. Apart from that, to a relative beginner to the musical underworld given voice through Painted Black, these songs exist in some sort indescribable nether region in music. Combinations of genre adjectives like ambient, experimental, and minimalist merely hint at the mystery of the music contained within. No two songs on the disc sound alike, but the flow is impeccable. The songs work independently from the “Paint it, Black” association—some of which you’d never know was a tribute if heard apart from the album—yet, these songs clearly belong together.
You will hear sounds on this album that you have never heard before. Take the arguable climax of the album, done by the unfamiliar Troum. They take a sound that is vaguely reminiscent of an intro to a Cradle of Filth song, except they stretch it out to six and a half minutes. The sound, apparently made by some weird mix of distorted guitar and organ, is pure evil, and becomes truly hypnotic and soul burning by the end. Listening to this song is like watching your own casket being lowered into your grave.
On the tumult website, Andee hints at a track that was left of the CD, made by a band that would’ve sold hundreds of more copies of the comp. The band, described as “a very popular, Japanese band” who is almost definitely The Boredoms, probably would’ve made an amazing spazz out interpretation of the song that would’ve broken new records for cool. But Andee was right to leave off the track, because it would’ve broken the somber, deathlike mood of the album, something even the more involved and less abstract tracks don’t manage to do. And that’s the most important thing about this album.
If you leave this album untouched long enough, don’t be surprised if it develops its own surrounding BLACK CLOUD OF DOOM. Makers of Plastic Mutations: An Electronic Tribute to Radiohead, take heed--Tumult raises the bar once again with this fabulous tribute compilation.