Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
Our real flair is our impermanence, some could say. Some like Joseph Arthur, the Brooklyn musician who walks into the room as if it were about to be taken hostage by a purple hazed gunsmith (him) with a penchant for studious remarks that seem to come off-the-cuff and as wry medallions (his), would definitely say such a thing. It's one thing to think that everyone's been figured out and it takes a smarter person to recognize that not only isn't everyone figured out, but they won't be and as an added bonus, they can't be.
And as a second added bonus, if that weren't enough, you yourself can enjoy the same ambiguity until the coffin finds you with stiffened shoulder blades and eyes that are no longer drawn and made out of water, circles and dots. Arthur has a tendency of trying to figure out which guy his is around every conceivable bend in his arc, doing so in song after song. He comes up with some very strong conclusions about the waffling spirit of human nature, where there's reinvention, huge pink erasers that can just leave piles of droppings and mysterious ink that's not seen nor evident in just any old circumstance of light. The shadings are important to consider, the crosshatchings too, for they're the intersections of the blendings - where the numerous signatures form one full name, which could run down an arm, over the legs and across the face dozens of time, just covering the inches. He considers it a romantic vision of the individual being someone who's capable of at least chipping down to the original surface of the he or she, the original coating of paint and going from there to discover the added layers that are bound to accumulate given enough time.
But that vision is an unlikely happening for the original coat of paint has been dyed or sanded off and replaced more times than anyone could realize. The person is as they are today and everything else is presumptive and baiting. Arthur writes often about the multiple personalities that are loitering throughout his inner hallways, keeping to themselves until they feel as if they'd spice things up outdoors. They are the eyes in paintings that follow you around and he sings of the ever expanding coterie, a rogue's gallery of lanky identical twin brothers and sisters who share a common bond that involves an obsessive need to write and record music that is loaded with the kind of sexy swivel and end-of-the-night observations that lead to people falling into the arms and chests of others, just to rest their eyes.
Arthur showcases a flamboyancy of roaring rock and roll that encapsulates the rank and dirty urinals, the cigarette smoke that's been barred from the bars but still lingers in the wall pores and the lifestyle that's always over-the-top and full of rawness of emotion. It's all of these many personalities of his - which allow him to be the savant, the philosopher, the playboy, the misfit, the flirt, the stoner and the individual - that come out in different voices and different mindsets as Arthur continues to shake hands and meet with all of the conflicting individuals that take nourishment from the same mouth, take blood from the same heart and stare out of the same aviator sunglassed eyes. He sings, "You're dreaming I'm running through your veins," and that's the exact same dream that takes up most of his slumber, only there are a lot more feet.