Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
There are those days that can just get to you. The days that just break your spirit up into tiny little bread crumbs, scattering them dismissively onto the ground, leaving a trail that - if you want to - you'll have to go back and collect as a defeated body to get put back together. Most of those days that smack you around leave plenty of collateral damage and scar tissue, and they usually wind themselves down to a point that leaves you missing some of those crumbs, so that the new composite of you looks as it's been eaten at by rats and vermin. You're never quite the same after so many beatings and so many disappointments. When you've been chewed up, chewed down, chewed out and spit to the ground, it will alter you, not all the inconsequentially. We're occasionally greeted by the unreasonable conditions that squeeze us to into pulp and leave us on the ground twitching and broken, feeling it all drain out of us. We've seen Brooks Strause much more sullen than he's been over the last year and more so, we've heard him considerably more depressed than he's been lately, but there riding with him in his eternal sidecar is a depression that floods him. It's an understanding that, no matter who you are and no matter how lucky you might be, that luck runs out and time and the odds catch up to you. Those hot streaks come to screeching halts and cold streaks can get even colder. For those not of faith, it could be assumed that no one's looking out for any of us and for those of faith, there are plenty of days and circumstances that would lead you to agree with those naysayers and atheists. You would clink glasses with them and share a commiserating nod. If the right thing happened, you'd go ahead and damn the maker or call him a phony as well. It could all boil down to something simpler though and Strause, the talented songwriter from Iowa City, Iowa, seems to be intimate with these thoughts and the ability to rationalize his powerfully insistent darkness. It greets him with ideas that sound as if they should be banned, as if the very consideration of them will lead you into the pits. There is constant talk of suicide and the future alleviation of sadness when one is gone from this hellhole they're currently living in, but it's really just Strause dissecting the condition, not wanting to be gone. It seems as if, on "Sing King," from his excellent record, "Apostatize!" that there's mournfulness, at the death of a son, but there's an admonishment from the grave that, "A second taken grieving is a goddamn waste of time," as if to suggest that it should have never come to this. It seems that this idea could be seen as an incredibly insightful twist: that current grief should be mourned and deciphered, but celebrated at the same time, for there must be brighter lights just on the other side, without it ever having to end in death. Strause seems to adhere to Bukowski's thought, "I am constantly confused by the lack of durability in human affairs." He gets that we're not just flawed and sad, for that would be enough. But we're flawed, sad and we pass that on to others. We can't help it. We're looking for others like us. We're looking for ways out, whatever they may be.