Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
It's really a pity that we're still fighting through a winter right now. It's not fair. We have our piles and piles of crusty snow melted away and we can see the entirety of our yards again -- believing that we're transitioning into something a little more palatable - and then we get dumped on again. We take another two or three inches of snow right to the chin and the guts. It's a sucker-punch. What we might think about using for a removal of any remnants of cold and the hunkering down season are Madison Square Gardeners albums. They'd be ideal as machines not just to use as snow blowers, but in the process of snow removal, the revolutionary part of the Gardeners would be that in the chucking or blowing of the snow off to the side, it would actually convert the white stuff into sand and sunshine and before you could count to twenty, the winter wonderland would be turned into a blazing hot beach. You'd look down and shit if you weren't wearing surf shorts and you'd already been slathered with sunblock. You'd have your boat shoes on, your wayfarers protecting your eyes and you'd be hard-pressed to guess that you were still standing in the middle of January.
The Brooklyn band, made up of lead singer/guitarist Aaron Lee Tasjan, bassist Mark Stepro, pedal steel player Rich Hinman, drummer Ramblin' Rob Heath, guitarist Johnny Kengla and piano player Bryn Roberts, taps into the very things that make us wish for endless summers, for those humid nights that are just right for falling in love and staying there. It's a band that believes in those qualities and in a fountain of youth that will keep us feeling those timid, but true vibrations that come from first kisses and hands in hands. They bring us into the wonderful clutches of summertime, of water balloon fights, legs being shown, dewy grass and the longest days imaginable, days that seem as if they could hover for months.
Tasjan has a way of writing us back into moments and years that we're no longer a part of. He sets us back in the 1980s when John Cougar, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty were writing and releasing their seminal recordings about the lives of Americans, about all-American virtues and the girls that they wanted to make their own, to be the wives that they'd have all-American children with. It's a wholesome take on the art of courting and of growing up - from grocery store bagger, babysitter, volleyball star or football hero, into a father or mother putting a roof over heads and food on the table. It all started somewhere and many of those beautiful beginnings can be heard in the power-pop songs of the Madison Square Gardeners. You can almost hear Tasjan sing, "Well, she was an American girl/Raised on promises/She couldn't help thinkin'/That there was a little more to life somewhere else/After all it was a great big world/With lots of places to run to/And if she had to die tryin'/She had one little promise she was gonna keep." Instead, he reminds us that, "True love ain't always innocent/If you want it, you pay for it," and that, "A dark heart is dangerous," but it all feels like Main Street on a late June evening at the drive-in movie theater, with the fireflies flickering on and off, here and there, like popcorn's being tossed at the screen, but the lovers could care less.