Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Alex Hornbake
The three young men in the Durham, N.C., band Bombadil seem to possess more wisdom than they should this far into their lives, or maybe it's just that they're applying that wisdom already and letting it inform them explicitly, allowing further wisdom to expand in triplicate. They take these grounded epiphanies - about how to live longer, about how seeking greater enjoyment isn't wrong, about how relationships go astray, about how soul mates are out there, about dancing and whooping around for no better reason than inspiration striking -- and let them expand into meaningful odes to recognizing that someday everyone will have their last day and, now that will be incredibly disappointing if something's not done about that finite allotment of calendar and daylight. Daniel Michalak, Bryan Rahija and James Phillips make up this three-piece, bluegrass-like band with a new record out on the fantastic Ramseur Records, based out of the group's home state and original home of The Avett Brothers. The three have found a way to sing much about the trappings of marriage, or really, what can happen before and during a marriage, choosing not to address the after so much. With the song "Kate and Kelsey," Bombadil explores love and matrimony in the form of fear - someone who wants the wedding bands and someone who finds love to be ruthless and scary, but not as scary as being alone. In the song with the title of "Marriage," we're taken into the lair of a marriage that has lost its allure, settled into the complacent mode of two people living together, getting along alright, but seeing that things just aren't the same. It's that magic that gets spoken of between two people - those sparks, as fake as they may be, just silly little chemical reactions that could have just as easily been caused by the hot fudge on a sundae - and it's on its last legs. There's so much caution and speculation in these songs of thought-out narrative. As writers, Bombadil make the most of their words and have found ways to convey such impossible feelings, such scary possibilities in songs that are brutally frank and sometimes downright brutal. They hold within them some extreme sensations and thoughts. For instance, "Honeymoon," begins with the line, "Throw the body in the lake and take a chance that no one finds/Your life is stories that you fake and rake like leaves behind you…blow the kiss you never felt and belt your wife for smiling," casting an outrageous darkness on a new union. We're brought into the story and we hear a madman. It's a more intricate version of the opening lines to the classic Toadies song "Possum Kingdom": "Make up your mind/Decide to walk with me/Behind the boat house/I'll show you my dark secret." The difference is that the lives being discussed in "Honeymoon" will never come to any real death. No one is going to actually going to be killed. All of the violence is emotionally - all of the death internal, all of the suffering behind closed doors with no body count to tally up. The characters in these often bouncy and infectious songs played by men in straw hats, suspenders and checked shirts, are going to just carry on, taking the collateral damage as if it were dessert. They will probably grow old and further apart, but they'll be the only ones who can sense the true emptiness of their time. Bombadil explore these situations with vigor, making it a research project to plumb the depths of tandem destruction - how much two people with the best of intentions might be able to hurt one another without actually raising a hand. On "Marriage," we're dropped into the scene later in a life - maybe later in the progression of the married couple from "Honeymoon," and the words go, "I thought you knew?I thought you knew/This was just two names on a court certificate/20 years and the same kiss and I thought you knew/I thought you knew/This was marriage." We share the uneasy feeling.
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