Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
Any attempt at creating a sense of isolation and insulation in song is typically felt as ingenuous and comfortable only in its one substantive dimension. The same goes for the feeling of hominess that can only be replicated if it is in fact being replicated, verbatim from a vivid mental postcard or what"s plainly laid out before two rolling and blinking eyes. It takes a burning imprint and a method of dislodging it from its realistic strings and pulleys to transfer it to other means of compassionate understanding.
Ra Ra Riot - a band of Syracuse University students past, present and on hiatus - find that balance -- already in its short life, literally putting heartbeats and pacemakers into the stuffing of all of the songs that they"ve thus far put to their name - an explosive tag of cheerful and misleading aggression. They"re alive in such a way that they can and do exist in a sort of mezzanine capacity, separate from all main levels, happily formed between states of joy and despair.
Wesley Miles" vocals are of a gentle persuasion that cascades into warmer temperatures and the string section closing in behind him is what gives the music its credible epicness. It"s been drafted from the wings of the higher echelons, where the waters are more sparkly and the untold deepness is indeed staggering. This deck, this mezzanine is not a purgatory at all, for that would mean more sunken spirits than anything, but it is a waiting room of sorts that needs unlocking, with many of the songs gradually making a claim for the present time being more of the payoff rather than the need to submit to a wild goose chase toward ultimate fulfillment, a la the long-term plans and the wishful thinking that overactive optimism can produce.
The things that we can feel most sure of are those which are happening immediately in front of us. We have the most peripheral with them and the detection of fingerprints and future courses are more obvious than at any other stage. When there"s a need to refer to ancient, cookie-cutter adages to see us through certain traumas and the ilk - time heals all pains and others in reference to the unexpected hurts that are bound to afflict us at one time or another - the one that gets led out more often than not and the one that gets used shamelessly and free of all irony is the one that preaches to never take today for granted.
It doesn"t have to be a snippet of verbiage that has to be taken to mean smelling the roses is tantamount to all else. It doesn"t have to refer to making sure that laziness doesn"t take over the controls, letting us get stoop-shouldered and complacent with our efforts in maximizing our small allotment of time. It can just mean to look forward to whatever it is that may happen out of the blue, out of the black and into the red when the morning curtains lift or part, popping open the bright stage lights of everyday performance.
All of this comes through the fog when a Ra Ra Riot song is being involved. The last song that Ra Ra Riot drummer John Pike brought to the band late this past spring, before he mysteriously died at the age of 23, was called "St. Peter"s Festival" and lead singer Miles describes Pike as being the truly optimistic New Englander in his voice and attitude toward this tune. He may be referring to the line in the song where he sings, "You know it"s worth the nights we wait there." It"s such a simple lyric, but the slight incline to Miles" delivery of it is like drilling it home. It"s that emphasis and the reiteration of it numerous times in the song that make it moving and reliable.
There"s a line in "Each Year," where Miles emerges from the danceable drums and the monologue-ish strings by singing, "Come on force it down," and it feels like a holy ghost yanking the microphone and telling it like it is, a plaintive dash of this is it, this is the way to get through it all. You take those lumps and iron out the wrinkles when they happen. There will always be water and steam and time if you retain the patience and the necessary strength. This band is in the business of making life seem easier to live even if it doesn"t feel like we"ve got enough time to do it all right.