Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Sam Patlove, Mastered by Sam Patlove
The Rory Phillips songs on old Impossibles records were always the ones that hit the raw nerve. They struck you in the chest - well, first they struck him in the chest, stabbed him in the heart, really, if we're going to be quite frank - and they made you feel as if nothing felt worse or more exhilarating than suffering through that common indecency of someone telling you that they prefer the exclusive company of someone else over your exclusive company, to paraphrase the great Matthew Caws. The territory where we're talking about the incision and the molestation, destruction or complete removal of the heart and then seeing someone walking away, tracking shoe tread markings with each step - starting dark and fading a touch with each inch forward - is where Phillips gets worked up. It's his comfort zone, a place that he could call his writing home, a place where he throws his dirty socks when he takes them off, a place where he gets his mail and a place that he trashes in response to whatever might be the latest episode to have tripped him up.
The Austin, Texas musician has continued to mine these sensations with his latest project, The Artificial Heart, which includes another former Impossibles bandmate, Craig Tweedy. The folks in Artificial Heart songs are those who are very aware that they have these mysterious beating boxes in their chests. It's an acute sense of tragic understanding, realizing that at any time those things could short out and blow up, shattering everything around them to relative pieces, doing the most damage to the upper regions, as the shockwaves would send their poisons through those wires connecting the heart with the head. The songs deal with the disruptions that crop up between two people who both have a sense that there should be something between them, there is something between them, they want there to be something between them, but they are recognizing that this just can't be. It's not healthy to hold onto something that's harmful or will only lead to worse conditions later on. What we hear in the words that Phillips writes is that there is continual push-back, thousands of hours of second-guessing of denial and all kinds of steam getting blown off. Phillips brings the frustrations of these people into the bright lights and he lets them duke it out a bit, even if they're just fighting an empty ring with themselves. They hear the bells ring to denote the ending of rounds and the scores come back from the judges for split decisions each and every time. These poor people have drifted apart. They can't reach each other any longer and it seems as if it's going to remain that way.