The Districts Bring Politics and Acid Trips to ‘Great American Painting’  


Philadelphia indie-rock trio the Districts (Photo via Chromatic PR)

By Nicoline West, Arts Writer


Philadelphia-based indie-rock trio The Districts released their fifth LP “Great American Painting” via Fat Possum Records on March 11. 

The album is preceded by 2020’s “You Know I’m Not Going Anywhere.” Some of the band’s best-known tracks, “Young Blood” and “4th and Roebling,” come off 2015’s “A Flourish and a Spoil.”

The Districts are currently on tour with “Great American Painting” from March 9 to April 16 with supporting artists Frances of Delirium and Vanillaroma. Per an Instagram post from the band, two shows have been postponed and one canceled due to positive COVID-19 tests. Their March 19 show at Salt Lake City’s Kilby Court had previously sold out. Shows for Salt Lake City and Portland are awaiting rescheduled dates. 

The Concept

“Great American Painting” tackles the uglier sides of the nation’s fabric. Guitarist and vocalist Rob Grote pulled inspiration from America’s extremes — Washington State’s sweeping national forests and Philadelphia’s tear-gas-filled protests. The album intends to convey the complexity of our country.

The Districts’ political sentiments open “Great American Painting” with “Revival Psalm.” Grote sings, “They won’t be laughing long, dirty money eyes stare cold into the camera.” The second track “No Blood takes a dive into gun violence. It was first released as a single on Feb. 2. Grote sings: “Gonna set you on the run, if you know what’s good for you honey, better carry a gun, ‘cause there’s no fun left in this town.” “No Blood” was inspired by an experience the band had in Paris at La Cigale where the venue was put on lockdown due to a nearby attack. 

A Brief Deconstruction

The Districts take a semi-successful stab at a psych-rock sound with “White Devil.” Screaming guitar lines are interjected by Grote’s actual screams. “White Devil” demonstrates the inconsistent nuance in the album’s political lyricism. The ‘White Devil’ feels like an elusive creature while the lyrics “abused by the state” swing in with a face-slap. The upbeat tempo is abandoned for a redeeming psychedelic melt at the bridge.  

The exact energy of U2’s “With Or Without You” is matched by the band with “Long End.” Depending on your level of zeal for ’87, that may be a good thing or a bad thing.

OnI Want To Feel it All,” the band reminds us that “Great American Paining” is in fact a chip off the ol’ rock and roll block. Obviously, nothing is finished without a song inspired by an acid trip. Here, whispery vocals tumble into contemplations of the pace of the modern world.  

The ninth and final track, “On Our Parting, My Beloved,” blends a touch of spoken word and a gentle, thumping build. Grote lets his vocals fly, “and fate herself sings their songs, high and haunting.” Buzzing guitar comes in to close the song on the chorus, “you will feel the fever leave you.”

“Great American Painting” is a dreamy dive into life, love and America’s great stack of problems. It is some of the most conceptually concise work from The Districts yet. 


[email protected]