I got turned onto the band River City Extension by NPR's podcast All Songs Considered. Bob talks to Jay Sweet, the guy who lines up the bands for the Newport Folk Festival. Jay was at SXSW and came upon a really crowded venue. The gathered, 300 or so, were belting the words to all the songs this band (River City Extension)was playing. Jay had never heard of them before.
When time was up for their set, the fans would not physically let River City leave the stage. The stage manager is pointing to his watch, mouthing some words, and shrugging -- you guys have to get off of there. Another band coming up. So the drummer rips -- does not unscrew, rips -- the snare off the set, and they play down the stairway and out into the street. Everybody leaves with them.
That's my kind of crew. I imagine their average fan to be a late-twenties ruddy guy with a reddish beard, holding a lager, and wearing a green t-shirt. They sing their tunes with the enthusiasm of Mumford and Sons and with the anthemic quality of Five Iron Frenzy.
I've listened to their newest album, "The Unmistakable Man," and I liked the song "South for the Winter" first. The beginning part of the song is so much softer than the rest that I couldn't hear it through my car's speakers as I was driving down to Denver. By myself, night time, windows open. Then it builds all of a sudden to a very loud exclamation, "Sometimes all I want is a job and a God and a wife!" Amen, brother.
The album has a lot of that, musing, melancholy lyrics to upbeat, sometimes thrashing, music. And I've been attracted to songs like South for the Winter for a little while: songs like Best Coasts's "Boyfriend" and Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me." Bethany Cosentino sings, "The other girl is not like me; she's prettier and skinnier. She has a college degree. I dropped out when I was 17." Or in the song "Goodbye", "I lost my job, I miss my mom, I wish my cat could talk."
Remarkably similar in content to "Boyfriend" is Swift's song, but where we can enjoy Cosentino's ironic jabs (she knows she's making a poor case for being this guy's girlfriend), I'm like, "Taylor, honey" (and put my arm around her and pull her to the side) when Swift sings, "She wears short skirts, I wear t-shirts [...] She wears high-heels, I wear sneakers" in this pristine voice of sincerity. Sweety, you are wasting your ardor. He won't even notice you unless you change everything about yourself and become a sex kitten. Better to throw on some sweats and become an angry blogger.
But I like the song anyway because (here comes my point (which is an aside to my greater point, which is that I like River City Extension)) in our culture of flipp'n Facebook everybody takes great care to manage their image, they smile in all their pictures with all their friends in all their travels (if they're going one route) or they're all made up and their breasts have their own profiles and they soften their photos's edges (if they're going another), but they are all screaming I am so happy! And desirable! And my life is so fun! Successful! The PICTURE of SUCCESS!
And here are some artists who have the guts to sing about wanting what we all want and feeling what I'm guessing we all feel sometimes, but we aren't suppose to show it because that would be poor image management.
Unmistakable Man is beer-fused and ranting. Some songs about God: "Another death upon a mountain top / Our lives are nothing but some real shit luck / Remember when we used to give a fuck? / Well I don’t think the Lord understands." and "I wonder if I still own a Bible / If my fingerprints still sit on that page / The one about love, and why it’s so patient / And why I have lost it with age."
And lovers: "I am naked in the dark / with my eyelids shining like flashlights / in the midst of / our dirty playtime / and for the meantime / we are echos of spring time." I play that over and over. Listen to it, it makes you want to cheer.
A review I read puts the album's major themes as, "a lamentation for deceased friends, a realization of the need to treasure loved ones, and a recognition of the futility of a life lived without faith." This one is up my alley -- rip me off that snare drum!