by Nick Hanover
Sometimes a song from Austin’s past won’t get out of our heads and we’re forced to share it with you so it will get stuck in yours too, like a music nerd version of It Follows. This week, we dig into the creepy vibes of “Rest Versus Rust,” from Spray Paint’s seminal sophomore album Clean Blood, Regular Acid.
Other than grandparents and Florida lawyers, is anyone ever actually scared by “shocking” music? I’m talking about the Marilyn Mansons and Alice Coopers of the world, freak glam titans with elaborate stageshows and pancake make-up and buckets of fake blood. Pretenders to thrones of Texan splatterhouse auteurs, all flash and gristle with no real rectum clenching anxiety side effects. Kid stuff. Absurdity. My guess is that the real terror comes from music made by people you suspect might be out chopping up fresh bodies were they not distracted by the frequently just as psychotic antics of the band life. Dudes like Spray Paint, Texan splatterhouse auteurs of a different sort, masterminds of tracks like “Rest Versus Rust,” a catchy murder anthem you can dance to, if your dance moves mimic the unpredictable twitches of a body with a recently separated head.
Real psychosis is defined more by constant auditory hallucinations than visuals. Hollywood has taught us to look for the twitchy conversationalists speaking of visions rather than the bespectacled man in his 20’s tapping at his temples to drown out sounds we can’t hear. You can’t make that mistake with “Rest Versus Rust,” where a vicious hum is chained to a beat that swings around a muted, yapping guitar line that deviates from its formula occasionally with sly, slow atonal leads. It’s in service to a Steve Albini-like rage fantasy, full of confessions like “You were always such a bitch/Back when you could walk/But that’s not why I took/The dull axe to your head,” bookended by an autre manta of “I always pull off more than I want to/When I peel the tape back.” You can read that a couple different ways. The tape could be the audio confessions of a sick sinner, labels on a notebook, some other marker of testimony. Or it could be said to a victim, lying on the ground, now with a few less hairs around their upper lip since the duct tape has been removed and they can commence screaming to an empty room.
There is fear in either interpretation, an awareness of otherness. This is a song that gets in your head and won’t get out, but not in the way a poppy bubblegum track does. This is instead a work that worms deep into all your night terrors, your thoughts of what might lurk in an alleyway on the way home from work. Its sonics are geared towards pushing that anxiety further, its “chorus” merely a more atonal kind of fury. There are no theatrics here. No cute singalongs with cheeky gore references, no fireworks from stages left and right, no fake beheading and a grinning Alice Cooper head. Scarier yet is the song’s assertion that “you can always survive one more,” making the point that the goal here isn’t a quick violent end but a long drawn out session.
That’s the thing that keeps horror fans of a different sort coming back to works like Martyrs or Haute Tension or Violence at Noon, where the unending danger comes not from supernatural figures you can laugh off but artists of knives and guns. You’re hypnotized by the startling beauty of the knife, in wonder at the passionate depths of real murder, its suddenness and inexplicable nature. You don’t always seek out art for comfort or for enjoyment, sometimes you want to witness things beyond your understanding, get dangerously close to perspectives that are completely alien to you. Divorced from visuals and spectacle, Spray Paint are able to offer something primal and unflinching in “Rest Versus Rust,” to make you as uncomfortably close to the psychotic state as one can get without tripping over. Unless, of course, you listen a little too long.
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Ovrld as well as Loser City, where he mostly writes about comics. You can also flip through his archives at Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with his friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover