It’s not unusual for an artist to express pain and vulnerability, especially when making them a muse. Sharing emotion in song often provides a catharsis, an avenue for venting or vindication. As far as William Fitzsimmons was concerned, it was a way—perhaps the only way—to fully chronicle the sadness and despair that accompanied his separation from his second wife.
Fitzsimmons’ harrowing new album, Mission Bell, offers a no-holds barred testament to the trials that accompany the loss of love and the dashed promises of a once-happy future. Opening track “Second Hand Smoke” sets a tone that reverberates throughout the album as a whole, the first in a series of mournful laments that find Fitzsimmons questioning all the things he hoped he could continue to take for granted.
And where did we go so wrong
I was hiding from the rain and the rolling thunder
And where do we go from here
I’ll be hoping that somebody won’t break my cover
Likewise, the track that follows, “Distant Lovers,” finds him attempting to come to grips with the inevitably of separation and loneliness. “You can take the kids on Tuesday and
every other weekend/I’ll be fine with holiday arrangements on my own,” he allows while confronting his new reality. “Better off as friends, than distant lovers anyways,” he ultimately concedes.
Mission Bell may offer small consolation for anyone facing similar circumstances. Be forewarned, this isn’t a sound suited for celebration. It’s more a pensive afterglow, all rumination and contemplation. The songs rarely rise above a whisper, each a hushed reflection of missteps and misdeeds that inflict sorrow without warning. What’s more, Fitzsimmons expands his troubled template to include turgid tales of suicide (“17 + Forever”), abuse (“In the Light”), and a salute to a heroic young nun who died trying to protect her students from threats spawned by the evil of ill will (“Lovely”). The heartbreak is palatable, the grief inconsolable.
Fitzsimmons returns to his initial theme, that of love gone asunder. “Never Really Mine” finds him confronting his wife’s betrayal and the hard choices he’s compelled to make as a result. “I’m not coming back for you,” he quietly murmurs, albeit with a mix of both dread and determination. “Leave Her” has him realizing the inevitable outcome, without allowing any possibility of complete closure. Likewise, “Wait for Me” and “Afterlife” have Fitzsimmons still struggling with his crushing circumstances, a tack that is clearly more futile than fulfilling. Needless to say, his sentiments offer little hope for a happy ending.
“It hurts too much to say, is it over now,” he asks, clearly reticent to await the reply. Ultimately though, he realizes he must reconcile with the inevitable. Here again, the lyrics are as stark as they are subdued. “This is the last time that I don’t remember your name,” he concedes. “‘Cause in a weeks time I’ll have forgotten your face.”
And with that final sorrowful gasp, the album ends all too abruptly, alluding to a bond that’s broken forever. Somber and sobering, there’s little left to do except to wish him well.
Watch William Fitzsimmons’ 2018 Paste studio session below: