Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
It's usually best that we don't hope for too helluva lot. Our expectations are what get to us. They sink us into despair quicker than anything. We want and hope for too much, when we only get what we're going to get. It never lives up to what we had in our head, even if we thought that we were being conservative with the estimations. We doom ourselves going in. We're just prone to it.
When Fort Frances lead singer David McMillin sings, "Everyone I know looks for love to feel young again," you wonder about just how old he thinks he is and what's happened to he and his friends that puts them in such a place where love needs to have that effect of them or it's something of an undesirable load. This is an example of the expectations being too damned high because, as anyone who has ever been in love can attest, love hits hard and there's a lot of hardening and even more aging that kicks in simultaneously. If you're just looking for a day or two, where you can slip out of those old joints and that less-taut skin, those baggy eyes and the thinning temples, love can probably help, but brief and intermittent feelings of youth does not necessarily make you feel young. All that we can hope from love is that it leaves us a little happier, despite its best efforts to screw with us and to leave us disheveled and groggy. It usually just leaves us staggered and worn out.
We hear it throughout the songs of Fort Frances, this ache and this residual effect. The song, "Hard-Earned Heart," where the line about looking for love to make one feel young again lives, is a story about "faces faded in between" and it's about getting tripped up all over the place, feeling like there have been thousands of nights lost to the stuff. It's a story of being foolhardy and believing in something that doesn't believe in you back, or will never be all that kind to you. We move on with our wounds and we have the shortest memories of any animals we can think of.
McMillin, bassist Jeffrey Piper and drummer Aaron Kiser make these plights sound like the night following the run of the bulls. There's that saltiness of having done something illogical and half-minded and there's that sobering reality that you could be much worse off. The endorphins are still popping off and there are remembrances of some of the highlights from that whirlwind. There's a lot of holding on being done and there's a tenderness involved with some of the things that have passed. It's as McMillin sings on "White Roses," "Love be simple/Time be kind/Wherever you go, keep me on your mind," pointing out that this is all far from over. The memories might stay as young as ever and the expectations just as high.
*Essay originally published January, 2012