29 March 2012

Chuck's The Man

For those of you who know me personally, you really can't ignore the fact that I am a complete cynic and highly misanthropic. I would not, however, label myself as a total pessimist. There's a decent amount of good in the world. At least enough to not entirely lose faith in everything. I can carry on with a wry smile, beating myself up physically for the promise of time off with loved ones.

In the pits of despair, one might turn to other positive outlets for a reaffirmation of livelihood. Perhaps your favorite meal will help battle the demons. A favorite movie can keep them at bay. My sword, my rusty shield has always been music. There have been hundreds, if not thousands, of moments where the perfect song or album has lifted my spirits. Sometimes it has been a conscious decision. "My Bedroom Is Like For Artists" by Latterman will ALWAYS put me in a better mood. It's one of my go-to songs for when I'm feeling totally shitty. There are bands who are known for positivity and anything from their canon can get you out of a funk.

Conversely, there are bands to listen to when you're feeling incredibly hopeless. The bands with the sad songs that, rather than lifting your mood, insulate the sinking feeling, darkening the storm clouds even more. This can be quite a beneficial therapy as well, as long as you don't allow yourself to fall too far down into the proverbial abyss.

Regardless of how much of an optimist you may be, the routine of life can (and will) eventually wear you down. It's naive to think otherwise. Outside forces are constantly eroding away personal well-being. Some have the power of a speeding train while others are relentless on a very small level, causing more damage over a longer period of time. A part of me takes a great deal of comfort in the fact that these positive bands, these beacons of light in dark times can fall victim to the same sort of weariness and hopelessness that the rest of us feel all too often. It makes me feel less like a monster, more than a shell of a human being when they seem to be on my level. Even Latterman's positivity gets dashed upon the rocks on the We Are Still Alive album. It's a depressed, panicky walk through a city and a life that's falling apart, but still upholds at least a bit of hope.

Hot Water Music is always a band that I have associated with positivity. They've always helped me steel myself against a cold and unforgiving world. Moonpies For Misfits, an alcohol-soaked call to arms, always give me strength when I need it the most. Caution a full-blown, rock-and-fucking-roll record has been a backbeat for me for years now. Although their subject matter might not be thew textbook definition of positivity, there's enough of those kind of vibes to label the band as such.

The band's past has been quite the rocky one. After the release of their hugely disappointing last album in 2004, the band broke up a couple years later. The band as a whole felt like they were simply going through the motions, losing sight of what was important. This kind of detachment is evident on "The New What Next". That's why the four of them all went their separate ways for a couple of years. They felt the strong urge to get back to their roots, to remember why they began playing music in the first place. This wound up being a great outlet for the lot of them. Chris and Chuck penned some amazing albums of folk-tinged solo work, Jason joined up with a different touring band and George spent some time in Against Me!.

After what felt like an eternity, the band reunited and began playing shows together again. I was lucky enough to catch them in Chicago for their SECOND reunion show ever. They played a two-hour set and ended it with my absolute favorite HWM song at the time. The boys were back in town, hungry and ready to rock. To most fans, they haven't released an album since 2002's Caution. Incidentally, it has left us hungry, champing at the bit for any new material.

On May 15, the band will release their first full-length album in almost ten years. They released a brand new song yesterday entitled "Drag My Body". Any fears of the new album not meeting my high standards were assuaged upon reading what Chuck had to say about this song:

"Sooner or later we all inevitably hit a wall, and lose steam and find ourselves in the vortex of self-inflicted torment," says frontman Chuck Ragan. "'Drag My Body' is a simple story of finding oneself at a point of no return, at the end of a rope and teetering on the edge of madness with the realities of failure looming. Just as well realizing the capabilties of pulling oneself up from those obstructions and simply carrying on."

YES. This is exactly what I wanted to hear from this band, whether I was aware of it or not. The song itself is amazing. Combining the jaggedness of A Flight And A Crash with the anthemic, driving rhythm of older material, "Drag My Body" is that call to arms that I so desperately needed. This is the kind of song that fleshes out the weariness into something more than just a feeling. It sheds light on both sides of the coin. On one side there's the darkness, the exhaustion. On the other, there's light and energy. Neither more prevalent than the other, but co-existing in the same amount of space. It's all in how you decide to view it.

There's a metaphor for life in there somewhere, you just have to look hard enough.

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