Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
The good and the bad relationships, the ones that end in ugly fights and breakups and the ones that end in marriage (happy or otherwise) have their points of skepticism, those iffy gray lands where everything's out on the table and you've got to make a move to one side or the other.
Right there, in those moments there's a period of consideration, a time for the Great Think. It's a rattling around of options, the choices weighed and the decision to take a plunge or to just start swinging and kicking, turning tail and running as fast as you can to get to somewhere else immediately. It hardly matters how much it will hurt, who will get hurt, etc., for what's best for you is what's best for you and it always will be. It's consistently the driving force.
Themes' last record, "The Phantom," features a house on-fire on its cover, with a front yard dotted with grazing buffalo. The music that Jacy McIntosh and Kelsey Crawford put on it seems to be the work of poisoned air, of stale air that's getting sucked deeply into the lungs by everyone living in it. It's like waking up and finding oneself surrounded by a smoky, burning house and not panicking for there's been a recognition that this moment was possible and has been possible for some time.
As a matter of fact, now that they think about it, that smoke was there when they went to bed. It's been in the room for the last week, the last month or the last year. They've said goodnight to it right after they brushed their teeth and right before they tucked the kids in for the final time every night for so long now that it feels so much like the normal that they've always known. But that poisoned air is bad, that smoke is bad. It will, eventually, take over and kill them.
McIntosh and Crawford write into their music this feeling of finally getting to a point where something has to be done. All of the red-cheeked thrashing and pounding has been replaced with more of a glassy tone, where everyone knows that this can't go on much longer. It's walking down a solitary path, needing to finally make it right inside. There are dry mouths and flickering hearts, thumping and shorting out like a light fixture with a catch in its throat. We're in the middle of our own opera, and no one's speaking, just watching and trying to figure it all out, waiting for the move, whatever it's going to be.
*Essay originally published August, 2011