Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
A song that Jean Redpath, a frequent singer on National Public Radio's "Prairie Home Companion," sang last week on national television plays a prominent role in the early ruminations of this essay about the Los Angeles band The Submarines. Redpath, a white-haired grandmotherly sort was introduced warmly by David Letterman as someone that he personally sought out to have on his program - something that the can't-be-bothered comedian surely doesn't often do - and with a simple piano accompaniment, "Some Kind of Love," written by John Stewart of The Kingston Trio, was sung a striking piece of sentimentality at its best. Redpath sang about different kinds of love - platonic love that never dies, shiny love that's more lustful and hardest to hold to name a few - and after each short delivery, a common refrain of "for through laughter and rage, it just mellows with age," we're left with that very blunt and lovely similarity of all love coming to a familiar conclusion. The mellowing, the aging that might take that love to a different place at the conclusion if only for the staggered starting positions - the quick burner, the slow and steady or the questionable - is sweet to think about when considering the Submarines song that has earned the band made up of husband and wife songwriters Blake Hazard and John Dragonetti and drummer Jason Stare some fairly substantial acclaim. As the song that everyone in the world associates with a finger dragging a touch screen of icons from right to left on the black front of a touch iPod or iPhone, "You, Me & The Bougeoisie," is a song that will always be misconstrued texturally, given an association that has nothing at all to do with the content of the language and the sentiments being offered. Every day that the protagonists wake up, they "choose love" and they "choose light," and they're standing there - perhaps in their pajama pants and pajama tops, the little sleepers still sticking to the corners of their eye sockets, still a bit bleary from dreams - in the center of the first world where the options are nearly endless, where the untouched situation exists, where these loves of shiny gold, these loves of friendship and etc. all congregate, just like insects to bright lights. This is ground zero for beginnings and ends, for the first parts of the mellowing process, for that time-honored graceful or wrecked aging, whichever a body chooses to attempt. The Submarines seem to take in the idea that any sorts of hiccups or disastrous doings, the things that make people say to others that it's been "one of those days," things that break up a marriage, things that give people the blues, should not necessarily be processed and understood summarily, but over a passage of time. In a time when people are telling each other what they're doing at every given minute through electronic means and are attempting to know themselves and their inner personalities on a very micro level, to be able to call the bullshit and to have a good long sit with the dealings before dramatizing the unimportant portents is of greater value. It's better to be able to say, at the time, "Who are we to break down?" as Hazard does. The music is filled with blissfulness that's aware of those issues out there in the lyrics that would suggest less rosy proclamations, but there's an indication that there are stronger and more convincing reasons to choose that light and to choose love, whether it's the kind that fizzles or the kind that survives the most persistent attacks on it. One gets the feeling that these pleasures of the first world - the pleasures that are just out there for the taking by anyone at any time - are the kind that mellowing don't mellow and the kind that aging won't wither. They remain fruitful and the music of the Submarines bears that in mind consistently, as if this band is how we are meant to consider our blessings - in love and pop.