Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
The symbol associated with the Heligoats looks to be some sort of Madison Avenue executive owl, with a maniacal smile like the curved hands of a clock, holding a fork and looking ready to dig into a Thanksgiving turkey and some stuffing. It's nearly cannibalistic. The various aspects of the owl creature, seen all at once, are nightmare cookers. They encourage some cold sweats and restless tossing and turning that twist sheets taught, as if they were towels to be snapped in a locker room. This could be the beast that tramps around Heligoats chief operating officer Chris Otepka's head when he closes his eyes, like a white rabbit. It might be the wild thing that he follows down a hole and through various corridors.
It could spout these absurdist truisms that are right, just off-kilter a bit. They could ring like the bleetings of an overzealous street preacher, who stinks like an early morning after a hellish night - like bourbon and himself and girls. They could strike a target and they could sail aimlessly past the markings. It's what the owl executive gives you, so it's not necessarily an accurate portrayal of what Otepka and his Heligoats project bring to life. The stories that surface on Otepka's newest album - a six-song short player entitled The End of All-Purpose, are brawny in the very idea that nothing's really turning out the way that it was drawn up when drawings and forecasts were being made - except for one character who's turned out exactly the way that everyone always told him he would turn out, but that's no picnic and not much better than the depressing thought of things unraveling so adversely.
His is a fascinating take on a porn star's suicide attempt, though there's really not all that much porn and absolutely no suicide to be found within the song. It's an in-depth exploration of the problematic troubles that seem to find their way into the act of love, the act of choosing who gets your love and who just gets to take it for a huge discount. The ideas that are kicked around have more to do with the kinds of love and wish fulfillment that go on in the ever-increasing promiscuity of modern times, the kind of tag-teaming that's chalked up to sowing wild oats and getting it out of the system. It's teeming with intriguing notions that are more than just words and more than just poetics needed to go along with some musical chords. Much of Otepka's songwriting career, which included a lengthy, but cut-short stint as the band Troubled Hubble, he's been praised for his writing and yet when he delivered it with the wry smile of his, the cleverness sometimes was seen as being a little too goofy.
A song called "I Love My Canoe" could have been charged as part of the brotherhood that included the Barenaked Ladies' "If I Had $1,000,000 Dollars" and "That Was A Crazy Game Of Poker" by O.A.R., with just a little more indie cred, but the majority of Otepka's words feel as if they've been researched and confirmed. The words are precisely chosen and gently worked into the right sentence. The songs on The End of All-Purpose are his best and most thought out yet. He sings two incredible lines - for a song or a book - in that little song about the porn star, that could seed some lengthy ruminations and some deep stares. You'd never peg him as someone who might look at the car spindle in Berwyn, Ill., as a grand destination, a place for clearing a head - who might be able to find more beauty at a dirty flea market than the average person, concocting all kinds of anecdotes to accompany everything that every vendor is trying to get rid of. He sings, "Love's just a question of who's sucking blood and who's bleeding," and what can be seen here are two victims, both addicts. And then later in the song he sings, "I wouldn't put my body through it if I knew that I couldn't take it," to quell the worries. We're all big people and we choose how we're going to turn out and that alone is an endless current that will keep Otepka writing.