Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
It's not how many people would say it, but there's something valid in thinking that until you've written a song that isn't just a love mark for your particular sweetheart (containing subliminal messages and the innermost inside jokes and innuendos), but a universal love mark for every sweetheart that's currently out there being owned and operated by a great big love - whether you know them or never will, you've got a ways to go. This meaningful and highly elusive ballad has already been attained by Memphis-ish band Antenna Shoes, led by songwriter Tim Regan, who splits his time between the group and his more headline-grabbing outfit from Austin, Oh No! Oh My! The real issue with the song that feels like love, is that it's not a stereotypical ballad at all. Not even close.
It seems that no matter where Regan's spending his time, he's got himself involved with musical acts that are willingly exploratory and unfettered by expectations or cluttered, distended ideas that normally only serve up hooey that leaves bitter aftertastes - like generic energy drinks and Ragu. Regan describes the title track from the group's new album Generous Gambler as a writing loosely based on a book of 50 Baudalaire poems that were about bad tempers and the life surrounding him in Paris during the time of their mid-1800s originations. Regan goes on to say that the devil is out there and it feels like such an outlandish way to think about what strikes another one as a hopeful love song about hopefulness and dreary circumstances. Yep, hopeful and hopelessness all rolled into one.
There are two characters in the song who have boredom in their eyes, but that's not a disaster. The feeding happens on a rainy day and the lights are dimmed shards as the main character slips into a small café for a bite to eat with some shining girls who are depressed by men and depressed by more than they can list. They decide that maybe the devil's offer of immortal health is worth giving their souls up for. Regan doesn't want them to do it, as you can imagine. They're going to make their own choices though, even after hearing this guy - fueled on a pot or two of coffee and offering up a gutsy and effervescent bit of soul - pin the tail on a bright, full moon. He makes his case as clear as it can be. He takes in all of a great breath and lets it rip, channeling some of the older Memphis mainstays - maybe even a horny, just-late Isaac Hayes - and letting it all exhale from him in an exasperated plea to reconsider. He strains his throat into a cobbler, keeping it sweet, but dusty and emotional - like he really cares.
There's a strong man in there singing and there's a guy who knows the way to seduction in there as well - a way to play up the encroaching advances of a devil looking to get some gold into a warm bed and a comforting conversation. Regan writes big songs in the fashion of some of the guys that don't get their proper do. He's got a knack for the Eddie Money, baby-hold-onto-me-whatever-will-be-will be lyrics and an innate ability to cross the bridges that link Hall & Oates, Rush and the Steve Miller Band together into a delicious dessert, a pudding or a dish of soft serve. It's an impressive act and it's pulled off not as nothing like an act, just an appreciation for big songs, big sentiments and chops to sing the lights out.