Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Nick Krill and Jonathan Low
Long live complication, or so it will be whether the fix is in or it isn't. There will never be a detour around the convoluted expression of love and the re-gifting of, the smashing of, the sabotage of, the negligence of or the sinking of it. There will never be anything that anyone can do to tip-toe past all of the sleeping beast dogs and lions balled into slumber at the feet of the emotion, just waiting for the crack of a twig or a rustling of a gum wrapper to startle and lurch into action. It's without a doubt as confused as a person can be, when those pangs of the stuff strike for the first few months, when there's no way to tell which end is up and which is crossways. It's all part of the intoxication of the dealings and there are those who live off of it the same way a donkey could live off of apples or a horse off of clovers and bluegrass. Pennsylvania's Drink Up Buttercup have gone off and dreamt up a number of ways that we can all jointly explore this very sentiment, as if we needed them, but these - without sounding too pushy - are ones that need to be heard. They need to be taken in and swished around in the mouth, shifted from one hand to another as if to get an accurate weight reading of them and then to throw a good dress or pair of slacks on and dance around the floor with them as if, finally it was realized, that they weren't going to bite or hit. They were just going to be there for examination and for a tender touch, for observation and the kind of settling, romantic conversation that old lovers could have over a deep bottle of red wine. The songs that come out of the mouth of lead singer James Harvey have such undetermined finality in their tempers and yet they all have a calm sort of punctuation that is not a dot-dot-dot, but an ending mark, the ending mark. There is a period at the conclusion of most of the bands songs, after they've swung and waltzed and spectacularly done what they set out to do. Most of the time, it seems, that Harvey, Ben Money, Farzad Houshiarnejad and Mike Cammarata take to a story of painful conclusion and give it a sprucing, as if to suggest that wounds make sure they heal and the love that implausibly arrived is just as implausibly absent and dried up. So it goes, so it lies. "Lovers Play Dead" is a rich song full of graveyard metaphors and imagery that takes us to the end of the rope for two people - or is it? The band describes it as a dysfunctional relationship that some people find satisfyingly sick and twisted. The two lovers in question find themselves hanging onto a piece of coal instead of something shiny and that fixes them with a passing thrill, as perversions go. Harvey sings, "They hop in their graves/No priest to say, 'Rest in peace,'" and it's enough to just crumble you as the saddest thing ever, but the tender music that plays alongside the words - as it is with the tumbling and aerodynamic whispers that the band sprinkles through all of its songs - gives the impression that the two are caught up in something that couldn't bluntly be determined to be failing or hollow. There are ghosts in the graveyard and there are guardian angels in the graveyard as well. There are disasters and then there are the minglings with disasters that are the most interesting and lasting, the situations that could be brutally honest and heartbreaking, but could still be reconciled. Drink Up Buttercup makes songs that intimately bring us into the sitting room, over a stiff cup of coffee and enough baggage to live out of for months or years. There are young ladies there and like we mentioned before, spooks - lots of spooks.