Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
The moment we take our bodies - or someone else's body - for granted, that's when it all goes to the rats. It's then that we're left dizzily wandering the streets, mumbling to ourselves and wondering when our spine stopped tingling and our heads will stop spinning. The Rocketboys of Austin, Texas, offer us these gentle reminders that we cannot do this alone. We are not meant to travel through these lives as solitary figures because it will drive us mad. We need our skin, muscles and our own bones to act as our carriages, but we need to feel those sensations of our hands and arms pressing down indentations into the soft back of another - someone close to us, our mother or father, the woman or man who helped give you your own children, or those young ones who make everything worth it. The five-piece band makes this kind of startling and stunning prettiness in the form of what must be categorized as shoe-gazing folk music, plunging us down and into cold corners, but giving us the logs and the matches to change how we feel about the conditions and how they feel to us.
Rocketboys songs on feel like a sensation that would overcome a person who reacts poorly to the "new" information that many of the stars shining in the night sky burnt out hundreds, if not thousands of years ago, not wanting to accept those deaths, as now it seems as if their dreams and hopes are wished upon caskets.
Lead singer Brandon Kinder delivers his words as hymns, as if he's putting a compassionate arm around our stressed and tense shoulders and pulling us closer, suggesting that we not weep for those stars - they'd already lived such good lives. Kinder deals kindly, offering condolences, but reminding us that all is not lost if we're still able to see our breaths fog up the windows. He deals with his memories of times through the sights and sounds and smells that he talks about in "Sights and Sounds," forsaking them at times - not knowing that they were going to be so valuable someday later - but ultimately cherishing them as the sustenance we need when we close our eyes and we become darkness.
He sings about feeling as if he were a ghost, when it's the listener who feels as if we're hearing from one, a hazy voice that's not here to haunt, just to faintly exist in some shade of light. It's a romantic way of dealing with perceived tragedy, the way he sings of these difficult times as mementos and passing notes. It sounds as if all will not and cannot be lost to death or the idea of death. He sings, "When we die all alone, if you're God then take us home/If you're not we'll be waiting by and by/Cause all our fathers have said we are prodigals at best/We will meet one day in that by and by," and we're with him, feeling buoyed by this mood of prevailing spirit.
*Essay originally published January, 2010