Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Today marks one of those fairly rare occasions when it turns dark again prematurely, just after the lunch hour, as a summer thunderstorm decides to pass through, rumbling the dishes and confusing wildlife. Right now, where this is being written in the far eastern reaches of Iowa, it's loud outdoors as the thick lawns and all the rocks, stumps and foundations are harboring crickets whose natural sensors have been knocked haywire, garbled by the oncoming weather threat. To them, it's the makings of dusk and they've rosined up their wings, slicked back their antennas and begun to play the evening songs already, hours before they're usually bound to - an act that's sure to have them hoarse and worn out come the break of day tomorrow. It's a serene setting, one that puts you into a comfortably slumped state, unduly relaxed with a sense that all of the day's work's been done and there's nothing but conversation, dinner, drinking and slumber to take up the rest of the time. It's here that we throw the needle onto the Barcelona record and the mood and circumstances meld into the music that lead singer Brian Fennell, guitarist Chris Bristol and drummer Rhett Stonelake make. The Seattle band seem to be brethren of what look to be the soft acres of rolling fields, all from a distance, until up close the leaves of the plants reveal themselves to be prickly and easy to lace hands and necks and arms with cuts and harsh rubs. These are the fields that look majestic from afar, but are the rougher places where these crickets take up hiding and shelter so as not to be picked off by predators before the next song of theirs is supposed to begin. The Barcelona sound is one of touching heights and climactic drops - the what ifs and the troubles of keeping the mind from thinking too much about that important organ resting between ours two lungs. It tends to get in the way or at least filibuster most of our time and it certainly does the head of Fennell, who writes about love the way one would a terminal illness - something that's here or not here, but time's running out and there's no telling when, if or how it will turn out. There's plenty of gravity revered and awe expressed in the amount of sway that the heart can interact and in the way that it can dictate and distract. He sings about how it turns us into wrecks and monsters and how those monsters get into trouble in different ways, looking out upon the objects of their love, singing on "The Takers," "What makes these monsters cry/You can see the gold reflecting in their eyes," showing that everyone can be brought to their knees through these flimsy or firm acts. Barcelona gives itself over to the idea of the heart almost as a personality, or a person of its own, doing what it wants and being as flakey or unreliable as the person and blood that it belongs to. Fennell sings about the possibility of starting back at the beginning again - which essentially means a death and rebirth, or a different use of a body - and not needing money or these "poor hearts." There's a soothing feeling of well-earned tranquility, as if these hearts had been worked, taxed as far as they could be taxed, and deserved to just be put out to pasture, like old race horses. They belong out there with the waiting crickets and the winds that rustle, those hearts. And it's the stage for Barcelona, a backdrop of clean passion.