Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound Engineering by Patrick Stolley
The real short end of the stick is received and the shortest straw is drawn when there's a realization that better days were older days, despite their pained expressions and their stubborn refusals to cooperate with the simplest of pleas. There's rarely any remuneration for the times that get wasted by the general thoughts glued together by grey clouds and rain storms, washed down the toilets with a weak wave goodbye or no wave at all. The joints will start to ache and the hair from your head will thin or fall completely out and the nest will be emptied and nothing will make up for the salad days that had tight skin and weren't patterned on anything. The most intoxicating part of youth is the large percentage of it that has no scripted lines and doesn't follow any sort of rule - it just zips along, pounds on your toes, hammers your fingers as you hang off of proverbial cliffs or window sills and then electrifies you in its spur moments to make everything else worth it.
Those electrifications are the moments that find ways of warming you later in life, when you'd kill to squeeze back into those jeans or hear a certain song again for the first time. You can't trust youth and it delights you most in retrospect. What so many wouldn't give to swim in those waters again. It's interesting how amusing the thought of growing pains can be when the growing's been completed. Appreciation while youth is actually developing doesn't normally exist. The days are gone faster than they came. It's a sprint and all of the swirling scenery just adds to the dementia and prattle. It's a preamble minus the explanation, it's a padlock that has no combination, it just spins and spins and you thank it very little as you take to the dizzy spell. You think you can bear hug it or wrestle it to the ground, pounding it in the ribs to spill the beans, to go easier on you or both.
It's a winless fight and Andy Hull, the lead singer of Manchester Orchestra and Right Away, Great Captain, has got banged up hands and the beginnings of two shiners to show for the mess. He smiles through those shiners there, for inside, deep in his vault, there's a greater knowledge that it's all part of the process. If he wasn't to feel petrified of what's lying in store for his life, if there were gifts just wrapped up in pretty paper and tied up with bows navigating his every step and if the hedges were trimmed to their immaculate roundness and the green were the same bright shade of green on all sides of the fence, what kind of a man would he be.
He'd be the sort of man that could be classified as Cheez Whiz or imitation, a cloned bundle of emotions and reactions - someone who's been coached through the raging waters and babied past the trouble zones where there are tripwires, land mines and alligator infestations. He would be a man who was told what his motivations were long before he knew when to ask if anyone knew how he as supposed to be feeling. He would have a lightly hissing inner voice, commentating all of the appropriate moves to be made, like a GPS system suggesting you might want to take a left in a few feet. It's a reassurance that would then act like an operating system. There would be no need for stress balls or shoulders to cry on, just more sunblock and glasses.
The songs that Hull writes for the Orchestra and for himself are compositions that take the things he's feeling at the time, put them in his teeth like rabies-infested dogs take hold of rabbits they've hunted down and flings and whips them left and right until they can't see straight. He does it in a civil and controlled manner, just letting out those frustrations coming to the grips he needs with them. It's a deadly poison to keep them in, for they rot and they stink up the joint. He sings with a distinguished candor things that could only come from a guy who reads a healthy number of thick, leather-bound books when he's just fumbling around. He sings, "When you look at me, I'll be digesting your legs," and these are words that old men don't think any more. Their minds have been transformed so many times over that the fieriness that comes when emotions are just getting their license to act on their own, to take the training wheels off and to break their curfews is lost upon those who feel that life's half over, at least. There's no going back. Hull doesn't write to go back and he doesn't write about running away necessarily either. He writes about the limited visibility that allows youth to stare at itself in a foggy white mirror and believe that they can see for miles -- that the bottom of all of it is before it.