Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound Engineering by Patrick Stolley
Is it a copout to want to write about extinction when talking about The Dodos? It's like talking about glacial speed when referring to The Turtles or hipster belts and tight leggings when writing about The Storkes? It's like writing about Neko Case when the story's about The New Pornographers or taking a rubdown at sunset literally. Meric Long and Logan Kroeber - The Dodos of San Francisco - don't meet any of the formal requirements of extinction, but the name does help set off the sentiment. They don't hand-serve images of the end of creation through their music, the panoramic view of flattened buildings and corpses (or no corpses).
They don't represent nothingness with the passionate songs on their latest, Beware of the Maniacs. It's a different denomination of extinction, one that doesn't carry with it the same panic that strikes when one talks about the plights of condors or Bengal tigers. The extinction that gets you thinking when listening to anything that Long and Kroeber have had a hand in is more of a temporary removal from recognition and existence that's replete with an overabundance of all of the little things that are sensory and blinding.
The amount of gravity that Long can stitch into his folk-ish songs is spellbinding and the living proof that the massive undertaking can be accomplished with just two men and their simple, un-juiced up instruments should be enough to start question hat you know about anything. The extinction that Long and Kroeber bring to mind is scary in its simplicity, the whisking away from all surroundings if the whisking was actually done at lightning speed and unannounced.
There's a lyric in "The Ball" - an extraordinary six and a half minutes of music that sounds like care wrapped in care, smiling carefully and loving you back, if that makes any sense - where Long sings about making some weather, a few minutes before the song tangents into the riff of a wild stallion not quite broken, but smart enough to mind its manners indoors. Making weather, isn't that what we've all been doing for decades, predating the rising temperatures with our hairsprays and H3s?
The Dodos preclude snap judgments or frilly understandings of their clockwork. They don't write songs the way others write songs. In most cases, the songs feel like unavoidable storms that come up, turn a 3 o'clock in the afternoon sky as invisible as a midnight and then leave you be, though they thunder little and hail not at all. There is no downpour or a bleeding of gusty wind, just a blackening, as if swallowed. They make songs that feel like whiteouts, blackouts and avalanches - where you're still alive and fine, but you've got nothing to do but ruminate, all of the distractions and inundation swept out of the picture for the time being. It's a big sea swell that you can live in without choking. It's being cast out into the blue or skydiving without having to fall or leave the ground. It's a magnificence in altered reality that makes you want to exist in a new way entirely, where extinction is a choice.