Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
It just happens to be New Year's Eve, the final day of 2010, as this essay is being written. There's a steady, driving rain ridding the ground and our roofs of all the snow and ice we've accumulated over the last few weeks. Here at the entrance of a new year, one that carries a consensus feeling that it's going to be better, brighter, more prosperous and just a helluva lot more of a charmer, we're confident in the vagueness of all that is bound to come down the pike. We're confident that we're going to find it to our satisfaction, for it's the only way we know to scrape the sour taste of disappointment out of our lowly mouths - this blind prognosis of hopefulness. California Wives, a Chicago quartet, makes the kind of music that we could plan this particular night around, this night of endless half-dreaming, of the sort of starry-eyed bliss-for-a-second dementia. It's uplifting in its dampened pall, in its knowing way of letting the last 365 days go, of believing that the next 365 are going to be champions and still reserving some focus with the rationale that they might not bring with them the same bitter taste, but one that's slightly different, a cockeyed version of that same kind of bitter.
None of us here are fools enough to think that all can just transform with the changing of one night to another, one year to another. Within the context of their songs, there are party dresses swishing solemnly and there are fancy shoes squeaking silently on a dance floor, pivoting and shuffling as they dance a slow and soft one, the person wearing them holding tightly onto their partner. "Twenty Three" is a song that specifically calls to mind the ethos of a night like tonight, as lead singer Jayson Kramer tells us to have a drink and say our goodbyes for the last time. There's a feeling that we're never going to be or see the person we are right now, ever again. He or she is about to go away for a while, as this night sets in, as we waltz off into the sunset that's actually been gone for quite some time and what we're now faced with is a moon that never sets, but just gets faded out, or phased out - lonely and sad as it hangs in the sky at noontime still.
California Wives has the feeling of vulnerability, of the uncertainty of what's going to happen when are youthful days are just starting to become our old man or old woman days. You'll never see a gray hair in any of their skittering, moonlit songs, but you're going to hear them thinking about the possibility of those gray hairs, of what that's all going to mean. Or what it already means for this final run of younger years.
**this essay originally posted on Daytrotter January 11, 2011. Since then, the band has been fortunate enough to get California Wives-branded Sharpie markers. No small feat, amongst other feats.