Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
Today, I walked through a dead house. I should say it was a deadened house. It was mostly dead, but in a few weeks it will be completely dead, as a crane's claw goes through it over and over again until it's nothing but a flattened mess. It will slice through the rooms that welcomed home my mother and all of her brothers and sisters. It will tear a living room that contained the best Christmas Eves I'll ever know and later became grandpa's bedroom when he was suffering through what would be the prelude to his final days to shreds. It will take the attic that we knew housed some forbidden puzzles and the electric Viewmaster machine that we only saw once or twice a year and it will reduce it to 120-year-old kindling. It's a house that's in no shape to be spared. It should be crushed. It's been sagging more and more considerably on the south side for years and it's just a fraction of what it used to be - a place of life. Today, the cabinets had been ripped from the walls, the carpets torn from their borders and pieces of the ceiling had cracked and were scattered sadly across the floor, along with some broken light bulbs and two stray playing cards. The emptiness of it all gave you chills, making you think about how quickly something can go from warm and inviting to a place that you would like to see destroyed just so you wouldn't have to understand this kind of emptiness, this kind of loveless abandon.
The Boone, North Carolina, band River Whyless takes us into some interesting places - some that feel barren like this nearly dead house, some that feel as if there's hope left and some that could go either way. It feels like there's more life than death still to be had, but that's up to the principle people and their decisions are going to matter. These are people who are fighting for that brightness that will light them up. They're looking toward the people they've surrounded themselves with and they look toward religion, if there's anything there to be had. They fancy themselves appreciators of words and signs. They fancy themselves poets and still they fear the way a blank page looks. They fear the way many blank pages look. It's scary to think that you have to live enough to fill them some day.
Lead singer Ryan O'Keefe sings, "You shook and swore this would make us happier/Man what a thrill/Cause the life we built is the one we die for," and the words ring like something of a threat. There's no helping it though. The threat must remain. You've got to put something together. You must raise it and you must stretch it as far as it will stretch. You must fill those pages and those rooms up with enough words that it won't make a damned bit of difference if all those rooms get torn apart by strangers sometime years and years later. Those were still your words and those were still the rooms that you loved and lived them in.