Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
Last night, after a little browsing at the bookstore, the one settled on happened to be a memoir about a man who had seen his life reveal itself much differently than how he thought it would. He thought he was going to be a traveler. He thought that he was going to remain untethered forever, tied down to nothing and just experiencing one adventure after another. Instead, the dust jacket tells us that he found himself with a wife and kids and working a job that he didn't love, living in the middle of Iowa. He struggled for a long time with this mockery of circumstances that he found himself dealing with. The story is supposed to be that of an ordinary man wishing to lead an extraordinary life. The way that it sounds - without having read a word of the book, is that he doesn't get there and he just might determine that there's just as much value lurking around in those ordinary days of ordinary men as there is within those rare extraordinary cases. What's it matter what you actually hoped for, it seems to ask, if you've still got it alright?
The songs from the Providence, Rhode Island, band Tik Tok, which you'll hear below, travel down a strikingly similar path, though that realization - for some of these characters - still seems to be a decent ways off. A song like "Janet" tells the tale of a woman who discovered the world, crossed all its rivers, named all its animals and stars. She's discovered all the oil, dug up all the diamonds and pearls and has definitely done something right to have been in the right place at the right time, but the man that loves her - or knows her best - this Johnny, tells us that she hasn't got a brain in her head. Here, he might have it all, just as she does, and there's little happiness to be had because he's miserable in his short-sightedness.
The Tik Tok boys sing about a careless undertaker (could this just mean that the bodies don't get in the ground?) and a duchess of woe, within the centers of their folky, honky-tonk numbers that take on quite a bit of punch and throw out curled lips and sweaty brows. There is all kinds of disappointment and letdown pulsing through these smoking stomps. The people in these songs seem to take what they can get and still find some way to look at the transaction cross-ways. They sing, "I feel as happy as a pig in his prime," a sentiment that we can recognized as extremely short-lived, if we learned anything at all from "Charlotte's Web." And sure enough, we hear shortly thereafter, the claims that he needs to make rent, but the rent's already been spent, probably on all that mud that the cheerful hog was rolling around in. A song like "The Maggot Mouth Stomp," is one that digs into small town politics, where the feeling is that one man is forced to deal with a whole lot of dimwits and that his "brain is too big for this town." The real wonder here is whether or not that's really true. It's more likely far from it, and there should be an attempt to find the good in the slop, even if it kills them cause there's likely no way they're getting out of there anytime soon.