Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
Not every Photo Atlas song is like "Memory Like A Sinking Ship," but it is one that takes you on a trip the way that the Denver band takes trips lyrically. It's just over three minutes in length, but your heart feels like it's going to rip out of your chest, pounding as wild as it is. There is insane tension that's built up, brewed to perfection. The top of the thermometer is going to blow the fuck off. It's one of those nightmares that you wake up from, in a pool of cold sweat, with a heaving body, with the sheets rung tight near the feet. You wake up and it takes you a while before you've convinced yourself that it's okay, that none of those horrible things were real. It's just your bed, your pillow, those dead lights and resting books. Everything is accounted for - safety included. But nothing really stops those ugly thoughts from galloping. Close your eyes and they're back on you like jackals.
Photo Atlas lead singer, Alan Andrews Jr., marks these worrisome thoughts with feverish energy, giving himself over to the free fall. He makes them into moments that are sharpened and full of dangerous possibilities. They are betting on lackluster outcomes, though those are never the ones that are being rooted for. If there was the belief that all was ruined, there would be no need for all the passionate expostulations - there would be no need for such care being put into any of this.
Andrews Jr. sings, "With the wind against our back/We were racing down these dark roads/If this is a dream/We're sitting in the back seat wondering/How do we stop/You're clutching onto my arm, breathing deep/We know your eyes are bloodshot/We're sitting in the back seat wondering/If this is a dream/Why am I the last one to figure it out?" on "Memory Like A Sinking Ship," and then he answers his own question - about how to make it stop. He concludes that you just have to slam on the brakes. You can choose to give yourself a shot when it feels like the tires are shedding rubber and everything smells like it's burning. You still might not survive, but there's no such thing as surviving.