Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
Somewhere in the middle of one of these Sam Buck Rosen songs is a line about "understanding the upper hand," and it resonates just a little bit when thinking about this young, young buck of a guy. It doesn't sound like he's ever had the upper hand and maybe only very faint and fantastical brushes with the middle hand, which really is just more about indecision and par for the course. It's the status quo and, boy, don't most of us fit in there, right in the center, where the cheese and afterthoughts of a burger go. We're all good for something, but we're not the main course, just toppings and side entrees to be devoured lickity split. Buck Rosen doesn't seem to be bragging that he knows enough about the upper hand to make it valuable knowledge - something that he can use in pool halls and in power plays, the bargaining tables - but it's just something he's picked up, for right or wrong, because it's always most evident on those overcast days who's kidding who and who's owning who. Buck Rosen has figured out so much in so few years.
He's still a good distance away from legally being able to drink beers and such, but he's already come to understand that the spoils are always quite a ways off into the hazy distance from where he is. The songs that he writes are from his personal perspective, like video tapings of himself now, meant to be buried in a hole and dug up by the future him years from now - or left in that cigar box for those to find them after he's passed on. They'll be packed into that capsule with various articles of clothing, headlines from the newspapers of those days, photographs of current pets and tidbits about the crazy things they've been up to lately, maybe even some journal entries - though those could be mostly superfluous by the time that these songs are listened to. He might even throw a discman or a tiny, handheld cassette player into the earth so that he could play the song immediately upon yanking it from the cold soil and into the future/present light.
What the songs that he writes about himself (for himself) in the present - that are going to be the old hims as quick as a pie cools - are about are essentially the waiting game. It's a waiting game for recognition, for discourse, for recourse, for getting to make some footprints and leave some lasting fingerprints. They're about the pendulum, still working its sweet ass time over to the point where it all starts to even out, when all of the chess pieces are placed back in their original starting grid positions and the first REAL move has yet to be played.
There's a lot of game, a lot of life, that has to be played and mucked through before the timing is right and things really begin. He's in the thick of all of that, writing songs with an echo-ish, jungly guitar that gives off submissions that permeate into the parts of the brain that respond most notably to revolutions and coffee breaks, not to mention hard luck stories about romantic failures and communication problems. He writes these songs as he's fallen victim to the very things that they're about. He's struggling to find out what he's in it for. There's movement in his words, in the tempos and the gyrations of the music, but the betting man or woman would place a huge wad of cash on his frustration of not having discovered his true dance moves just yet. It makes for fascinating listening, these bleak and somehow whimsical and highly advanced offerings of a young man getting down to the carpet, wrestling himself and his surroundings until all have burns on their knees and elbows.