Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Camel of the Sea, we're sad to report - somewhat belatedly - did not live for very long at all. The Minneapolis band was a mere flash that came and it went far too quickly, giving of itself what it could, but ultimately succumbing to natural causes as a fleeting expression. It was a project that was largely that of singer and songwriter Reese Hagy, a man who writes biting lyrics that get graphic and dark at times, taking us into the worlds of Midwestern barrenness and rich stories of aggrieved memories and haunted dreams. He is a writer who rages through the pen and the microphone, without having to get to adamant, but we can hear the seriousness of his meaning by watching his hands and the ever-burning cigarette at the end of his lips, quivering. This doesn't mean that there's a ton of aggression in anything he does either, but there are those moments of gritted teeth baring and it's then that things go red for a short time. It's a kind of seething that see from smart guys like Conor Oberst and Tim Kasher - almost seems like a formerly Omahan thing to be into - and it strikes us just right. It strikes us as the exact way that we react to things. He sings, "This is a test/This is a test/This is a trap/This is where the bow bends and snaps," on "Mr Wolf," a brilliant song with dark undertones, and it's a piece of the song that describes exactly how most of us tend to be wired - reacting to the many trying times that we experience, by bending, but everything loses its flexibility sooner or later and then it snaps. Hagy seems to enjoy exploring these dark roads and those things that can and will make a body turn into an animal, if only briefly. Everyone starts off diplomatically and when things falter, the fangs and the claws pop out and it's then that we catch a glimpse of the salt of a person. He sings earlier on "Mr. Wolf, "Excuse me Mr. Wolf, I fear, it's my child's flesh in your teeth/But I can tell by the look in your eyes and the grin on your face that you won't play clean/They're over-sexed and they're underdressed and they're frail/But they're regulated and their innocence is for sale," and the father comes off as a pacifist staring at the chewed remains of his child in the mouth of an unsympathetic beast. That man will change soon enough. Hagy leads us to believe this and we hear it in his shake and wobble.