Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Shawn Biggs at Studio Paradiso, San Francisco, CA
The lives that Blair Shehan brings to life in Jealous Sound songs, as well as the ones that he used to bring to life in Knapsack songs, are raw deals. The people who are inhabiting them are on the borderline between desperation and something worse. They might be a little bit paranoid. They're pessimists, for the most part, choosing to not even see a glass there at all, much less one that could be argued is either half-full or half-empty. The people in these songs are cringing and they're raging. They're full of lividness about the inequity of so much, of all that they can see and feel. They're harboring so much sorrow that it's hard to know where it could all be coming from - enough rain to fill a year's worth of black clouds.
All of this might be what's in there, what forms the foundation for these songs, but none of them ever transfer those feelings on to anyone listening. It's funny how it works, but when you hear Shehan sing these jagged and brutally honest words of brutal times, you feel uplifted. You feel as if all of this is about as healthy as it gets. This singing - this red-faced, bulging neck-veined singing - it exactly the kind of medicine that it takes to get through any of this stuff. It's all going to calm down and iron itself out. And if it doesn't? Well, then it doesn't and the ending will be spectacularly loud and bloody.
The Jealous Sound is mostly rousing and positive, all the while offering hypocritical examples of anything resembling a silver living. The silver lining could just be mercury or acid. Shehan, guitarist Pedro Benito, bassist Nate Mendel and drummer Bob Penn should make up the underdog's arena rock band, with songs that cut deeply and could fill any cavernous place with light and a big, fat sing-along.
Shehan finds his pain riveting and it's easy to see why. None of the pain that he lends to his Los Angeles-based band is one-dimensional. It's all things to all different people. It's agony and it's euphoria. He howls directly at the anguish, as if he were howling directly at the moon, looking for any way to deaden it, or lessen it, to pry away its grip, just a little bit. He sings on this session, "People like us, we get what we deserve," and yet, that's only half the story. It might just be what he'd like to believe. It's what has to believed just to sleep at night - the whole living with your decisions, sleeping in the bed you made sort of thing. It's something that's okay to feel because it could be changed. It leaves little up to the ether, to the intangibles. You just get smarter and you get sweeter and things won't go so bad. It can only drive you crazier and more worried knowing that so much of everything is out of your hands. It seems that Shehan might lean more in that direction and so the songs come off as more affirming and morbidly joyful than they seem because they're just begging for more of that human touch. It's all there is to save any of us from the deep end. Just a warm hand laid in the right spot, or a kiss that strikes right when it's needed. The right words uttered by the right person. It's all we've got to fend off the madness.