Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Shawn Biggs at Studio Paradiso, San Francisco, California
Is there value in anything for its years alone? Could wear and tear - essentially scars of survival - be worn as medallions and earned acclaim? An old door knob is kept in the process of a move because it was once on a door in the 1920s, handling hands that went on to wrinkle and find graves. They're worth money, these door knobs and miscellaneous old Coke bottles, beer signs and threshing machines.
Old buttons made from seashells and copies of the Saturday Evening Post are held onto, not just for sentimental reasons, but for ones that have no argument. Old people, without any regard for what they actually accomplished in their salad days and productive times, are seen as treasured old bags of skin, bone and hazy memory. Their stories and experiences get credit for simply being aged, for having happened so long ago. It's value by hour glass, accreditation by time gone passing. The vintage is hunted and the new is looked at leeringly, conspicuously as if it will only let us down. Give it time, give it time is the approach to newness if it doesn't work or strike immediately.
A band is supposed to give us the new sound, however, encouraged to shuck all influences and to sound like nothing that's ever come before it. The magnitude of such an undertaking is colossal and the very idea of it is the definition of daunting by every angle. Crack a new egg, they all cry from the rafters. Los Angeles' The Antiques find their share of value in the dated - not necessarily the sounds of the past, but in the wrong or right ways of Depression Era times and thereabouts.
Those years might be incorrect, but what's in the songs that Joey Barro writes and sings, is a bridge to a time when if you wanted a beer, you had to brew it yourself. If you wanted gum or to grill steaks, you had to mix your own chewing paste and strategize where the meat could be attained, and for what price. A harder life and a simpler level of involvement weren't absurdities. The ease at which anything is now accomplished would have never been believed when Capone was running Chicago or when Buffalo Bill Cody was taking his traveling circus across the country by train or to Europe by boat. Annie Oakley was just a folk legend back in those days - despite the enormity of her stature and name - but today, her every move would be found on CNN crawls. She'd be Angelina Jolie or Eva Longoria, be it with a more butch reputation.
Where does this get us - all this asinine talk of female gunslingers and girls interrupted, in connection with any circuitous analysis of The Antiques? It gets us at least to a point where the mind's lubricated and acceptant of anything. Hopefully it takes us to the kitchen table that stands on a gritty floor, with a small metal fan circulating the hot air. Hopefully it takes us to one of those wooden seats at that table, covered by a sticky tablecloth.
The other seats are filled with old friends holding playing cards in their hands. A cloud of purple cigarette smoke is collecting like a storm, by the dim light. The Frigidaire buzzes against the wall and the way anyone sees it is that it's a long way between there and all of the bullshit troubles they find themselves talking about over skunked hands, wearing shirts that they've always worn. Barro and The Antiques link the us nows to the us-es that we never were then, but it's the us that we think we could have been before our grandparents were born, where everything we did and felt would become a treasured story for the grandkids.
*Essay originally published September, 2007