Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
The ladies are problematic for most men. The ladies are twice, if not three times, as problematic for C.R. Matheny, or Emperor X. The Floridian songwriter and performer lets himself become a real bundle of knots when it comes to women. They mess him up but properly, significantly, completely, formally and absolutely. They affect him in ways that most people wouldn't even recognize as ways that any one person could effectively affect any other person. If you were to put together a comprehensive list of all the ways that any girl, or any woman, has EVER affected you - throughout the course of however long your life has been up to this very point, the list would be dwarfed by the one that Matheny could put together. Your list would look like the most half-assed hatchet job that anyone's ever done. It would be glaringly incomplete - a laughable try.
They do something to Matheny that he can't process, so he over-processes it all. He constructs whole volumes of scenarios and situations, but rather than just being the work of an over-active imagination, they're just the work of one hell of a computer brain, which won't stop until all of the details have been filed away properly. This all comes after experiencing the entire spectrum of emotions that could be associated with what all just happened, or didn't happen. It doesn't matter if any of it happened or didn't, if it's real or not. It's real enough. Matheny comes off, in his songs, like a crazed basement dweller, who reads a copious number of books, pamphlets, manuals, magazines and encyclopedias and just lets the overload soothe him when he needs it to. He's definitely got some madness in him.
There's no denying that and it's wonderful for his music, as it all comes off a bit Mountain Goats/John Darnielle - when perhaps he's talking about doom metal (though Matheny's doom metal is technical jargon and women) - and Woody Allen. It's all so damned smart and discomforting, at times, that we love it all that much more. When he sings, "We threw our shoes at God/And I heard you praying for clean run-off/And we trashed your AC and its broken Freon coils/It was an Energy Star/It wasted BTUs/It wasn't right but it was there because I wanted you to be cool/Cooled off and it got a reaction," on the song, "Compressor Repair," we know that he's completely unlike anyone else we're ever going to meet in our lives. We'd like to think that were a lady to ever hear him sing these very same things to/about her, that she'd think the same thing and she'd give the poor guy a shot.