Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
It's as if the glass is neither half full, nor half empty in Elephant Micah songs, but rather that all the glasses are cracked. It seems that there's no matter or manner to be argued when it comes to how much liquid is or isn't there for there's no way to hold it. It's more like we're standing on the banks of the most well-behaved snake of a flooded creek, hearing nothing, but seeing its pissed and forceful, muddy aggression rip those banks wider and dig their bottoms deeper.
Joseph O'Connell, the southern Indiana man behind the words and music, stands before certain gloomy backdrops and then creates more of his own, but one gets the sense that he eats up the landscape, that he feels the most at home wherever he's getting his ideas. It's he does the majority of his writing in southern Indiana, the ideas seem like similar ones to those that Frank Bill writes about in his great collection of short stories, "Crimes of Southern Indiana," a place that's rightly or wrongly fictionalized as a place full of bastards and heartless tweakers and hillbillies - strung out on the worst possible drugs, all-day drinking as the norm and burnt out on a life that's never had much time for them. Elephant Micah songs travel more into the territories of the disillusioned urban dwellers than the backwoods rejects who are quick to pull a trigger or bury a kitchen knife into a throat.
O'Connell writes about the kinds of people have already determined that they'll never be satisfied with the way things are, but they can't help but continue to keep trying to figure out why that is. So many of the reasons that they come up with are unsatisfactory and there's no reason for it. These are people who are getting deceptively worked up. They're unaware that they're so agitated, but the rubber band just keeps getting wound until - someday - there will be nothing but the explosion to come. O'Connell sings, "Now that the gunfire is in him/The drummers they play as loud as they can," and it's almost like a downplayed war cry, a flare that will play out sooner or later. It could just be that the cracking and smashing of the glasses is good enough and there will be nothing further. Just seeing that broken glass on the floor could be all that's needed to feel better, but it stands more to reason that any man who writes a one-line poem such as, "I expected to see franchises of the possible average future," will likely never find satisfaction anywhere he looks. The only question that remains out there is how loud he'll get about it.