Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
It's not easy to prepare for where Casey Crescenzo and The Dear Hunter are about to take you. You can't plan for their twists and turns. It must be a similar thing to not really being able to understand what that first tattoo is going to feel like before it happens. You can look at other arms and other legs, the torsos and necks of many other people and try to work up a sense of what that ink felt like getting etched into the skin, but until you've actually had the needle start in on you, it's all just fictionalized, make-believe. There are the parlor mishaps and there are those homemade tattoos that also need to be taken into account, those that couldn't have been anywhere near standard or board certified. The reactions would be similarly up in the air.
The Dear Hunter take us into some harsh climates, places where we're constantly looking left and right for exit strategies because if something should head south, we're getting the fuck out of here. There's a lot of what sounds to be pure and good passion, the kind of hot blood that comes from strong emotions, most often rooted in a good place, but we all know how things can flare and matters get hot. Those crimes of passion can be brutal and love turns out to be seriously sketchy and problematic. They just loved too much. They loved too hard.
The Providence, Rhode Island, band demonstrates what it's like to feel emotions so hard that they physically hurt. With every once of happiness found on the group's ambitious and hard-to-categorize albums, there are two ounces of pain messing everything up. Okay, things aren't always being messed up, but they are getting splattered a bit. They're getting complicated and sometimes that exactly what we're hoping for in our interactions with other people. What's the fun in that simple static? There should be conflict and resolution.
We should have to battle somewhat for the good stuff and Dear Hunter music takes us through these scary alleys, into some lush gardens and then back over the falls again, screaming our heads off as the floor drops out from beneath us. We're treated to a song like, "He Said He Had A Story," which seems to be about someone hiring a prostitute. It's someone who has a grasp on the very one-sided exchange that's taking place on that bed. He knows that there's heaven and that there's hell in every thrust and convulsion. He gives voice to the woman, with her pleading, "Please be soft and sweet to me/This life has not been good you see/It's hard with such a history buried in misery," and we know what's on his mind. It has nothing to do with her hardships. Crescenzo sings, "She had a lot of love to give/I was prepared to take it all." It was a business matter. Both people were similarly unclothed, but for very different reasons. Everyone's on their own out here. Everyone has to make it through, however they can, and it's something that's reflected in every fiber of what these guys bring out of themselves. It's that bittersweet balance of all the catch 22s pounding away at the roof and the skull and that bewildering yearning to be good, to seek happiness, to not give up no matter what. It all makes screaming, tearing, storming, crying and loving seem right and honest.
*Essay originally published November, 2011