Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
We tend to be lucklessly drawn to the very situations that are proven landmines, which have been documented to blow hands and legs right and clean off of people, to lighten them of a heart or their sensibilities - the things that they use all the time. On the other sides of these common afflictions, these landmines that make vile congress with hope and pure love, are broken down sad bastards swearing off ever getting caught up in the hindrance ever again.
We, however, - and that pronoun is used because Aaron Neville's assertion that everyone plays the fool sometime can be counted on - find that relationships, in the long run are worth it. We find that we're exponentially happier when we're in a good one than when we're without. The real issue, which we get a good dose of in Peasant's drafty and encompassing sliver of the mechanics of dealing with and ultimately washing free of the static and the cold shivers that all finality brings, is that of going back so often that the scar tissue just piles on until it's as thick as a highway and weird feeling.
The grieving process, the rending of the self, through negativity, pulling back out of society and mental mutilation is all undertaken with the express goal of filling in the cracks, healing, fixing what went wrong, learning from the valuable and messy mistakes that were made on both sides and then getting back out there onto the cold, merciless hunting grounds to likely restart the cycle. The man and the woman pose so many dangers to the other that the ritual and the dance are the most excruciating fascinations that writers and gossipers have to roll in. We spend more words and more breathy talk - hushed and/or exalting - on the travails of matters gone wrong or matters crippled by the impending doom that neither the lights nor the faces can hide.
Damien Derose, who operates as Peasant out of a rurally suburban Philadelphian township, has tasked himself with the idea of getting under the skin of these conundrums of affection and amour and trying to make hide and hair of them, as difficult as that is. He's allowed himself the time and the material to be meticulous about his studies, not rushing into conclusions or settling for the easy answers that could be accepted as the salve and the decisiveness. Derose gives himself the luxury of a full autopsy, which means that a relationship is looked at closely, the way that John Darnielle has spent his songwriting career following the rocky and ever-evolving lives of his Alpha couple, watching as they implode, reassemble, and implode again.
Derose does a similar thing with a couple that may or may not include a very autobiographical figure. These two are hot and then they're cold, meant for each other and then replaceable, though there's never a strong position by either and both involved play all of the parts, like some long-ago Shakespearean play acted out at the Globe - the men are the women and the men are the men, one and the same in their duality. What becomes so beautifully clear in listening to Derose sing - in that clear mountain stream, weepy-voiced way of his - is that none of his characters and none of us are ever rid of any of the people that we've shared the dark or a kiss with. They fade into the woodwork a little, but they never leave the building. The wrestling with them and the time that they shared an occupation of will continue on and on. He sings, "I've been thinking a lot and I'm still getting old," and this line has a myriad of meanings, all of them reasonably correct. Age will one day stop us dead in our tracks, but until then, our thoughts are the chorus and those lost loves and the ones that are kept, the fitful intrusions of stress and our personal frustrations and fires will be the choir to round it all out.
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