Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
You can picture the look of the sky in the Pearl and the Beard song, "Vessel." It gives you the willies. You're looking into the piercing eyes of tumult. It's the worst in air and clouds staring at you like they'll stop at nothing to end you, to wipe you clean off the map. The building acoustic guitars - played as if they were stuttering, stammering and losing their shit a little bit - and the sweeping, depths of the ocean strings make a scene that's crawling with villains. We're outnumbered by the bad vibes, but we're not sure if we're just imagining things. It could be just that. We're faced with a sea full of voices, with creatures restlessly roaming and swimming, flipping and flashing their tails and fins back and forth, bored and scared - tired of being both. There's a feeling that everything out there in the waters, upon the waters is plotting some kind of revenge. Some of it may have already happened - say, phase one of the revenge mechanism - as the song begins with a murder. It feels like something out of one of Hemingway's fishing excursions, but the spirit of the captive, the prize and the meal is speaking from the beyond. It could be a sturgeon or a tuna, some big, scaly conquest, and in defeat it sings, "Drain my gut/Spill it all out on the deck/Burn their hands/Sure as hell has burned my own/Sailor, come to me/Bend the wind and seas/Restless wandering/Sailor, come!" asking for the end. It feels like a suicide note, a begging for sweet mercy. It will all be over soon, on that deck, strung up, kicking and twitching for the last times.
Jocelyn Mackenzie, Emily Hope Price and Jeremy Styles, of this New York trio, set us up for these wonderful tales of open-ended horror and glory. "Vessel" might be a sea-based escapade, with waves cracking boats and people in half, winning mostly, though not getting too far, but "Douglas Douglass," from the New York band's latest record, "Killing The Darlings" is a revival song of the seediest provocations. It's a low-down, sweaty affair - a man stuck between a temptress of a new woman and a wife that makes his life hell. He wants something that he shouldn't take, but it's not going to stop him. The stomping and the clapping overtake us - providing his conniving heartbeat, the leader of the astray. Everything gets out of hand, he chokes his wife after a bender of apple wine and thinking through those swirling dark thoughts and goes to chase down the lady he believes he wants, the one who had said, "Give me give me what you've got/I'm gonna make you what you're not…/Give me, give me all your soul/I'm gonna dip you in my bowl." Mackenzie, Price and Styles continue, singing, "Long way down/It's a long way down/And he knows it." Douglas takes the tumble. It feels like a mighty drop and yet Pearl and the Beard still make it sound wholesome and buoyant, like the man had no choice and would do it the same way, given the opportunity. It's the splendor of folks making their own poor choices and getting to watch or listen through the consequences. It's our most rewarding form of entertainment.