Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Everyone reacts strongly toward the menu items at our/Rock Island's treasured rib joint -- Jim's Rib Haven - but since the only people that have reacted as strongly about that particular barbeque are members of the Strokes and Mac Lethal, we begin this essay about Madison, Wisconsin, band Icarus Himself, with their personal review. "Best BBQ we've had in the Midwest. The hot towels our waitress brought us were a perfect cigarette-in-bed-love-tap after a wonderful sloppy meal of pulled pork sandwiches. Great sauce as well. Every tour we do we try to stop at as many BBQ joints as possible. So we've experienced plenty of good and bad." We tend to gravitate to men who appreciate good BBQ as much as we do. We love those kinds of men, actually. We send them Christmas cards when the appropriate time of the year comes around - or, we mean to. We love that they appreciate the warm, wet washcloth that you get instead of a toothpick, at the end of your meal there. It is a love tap. It's a smack across the bottom, leaving the ass with a chipper, red imprint of fingers. You walk out of the place with the corners of your fingernails stained orange from the secret sauce, and likely, a little bit of that sauce clinging to the bottom tentacles of your mustache, should you be lucky enough to have one. You got messy. You sopped up the excess sauce pooling on your plate with the buttered Wonder Bread that was stacked in front of you - healthy body be damned. When we listen to Icarus Himself, we don't hear the barbeque that they so dearly love and we so dearly appreciate that they so dearly love, but we hear something that's been cooked over a very long period of time. We hear something that's been turned into a tender thing, roasting over some coals or some chips in a slow-cooker. The songs on "Mexico," as well as those on the group's previous album, "Coffins," have taken their time to get to where they are. They aren't smug little outbursts or reactions, but commentaries on thoughts that have been drawn out for quite some time. They are ruminations on the rumblings that start in men's bellies and get louder and louder until they start shaking out of their pores and the same thing happens to the women who are featured in these songs. No one is immune to these rumblings, these disturbances that start low and softly churning, before picking up their steam and their lather. Lead singer Nick Whetro doesn't just sing about the pangs of love or the disillusions associated with it, but takes the approach at the subject like a guy who's never really had any hands ever covering his eyes. He knows that people are bound to mess up and those things are always complicated. Whetro, guitarist Karl Christenson and drummer Brad Kolberg bring forth a sound that is a bottle of champagne prior to and after its violently shaken and had its cork popped. It's beautiful in its pretty green-glassed bottle for much of the time and then it gets all over the place. We knew it would happen. We knew it would get messy - beautifully messy with the ghosts of the past, with the ghosts of the present and with the lingering last words.