Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
There is a tug to almost all that Tim Easton sings about. It's a tug to get you think all those thoughts that don't have to be seedy. They could be romantic. They could be good and just, but they get twisted and wrung just a touch when Easton gets them in his hands and these thoughts turn punchy. They turn into the finer points of a night or a discussion between two people who have had exactly one or two too many and the conditions are ripe for all kinds of interesting combustions. The songs from the Joshua Tree, California, singer and songwriter's latest album, "Porcupine," are the machinations of a man who sees the bigger picture and understands that the frame is broken and that all of it looks better from further away than it does from close up. These songs are tortured by the knowledge that there are more unhappy endings to stories than there are happy endings to stories. Oh, sure, that might not be all that fair, but anyone would have a hard task ahead of them if they wanted to prove that point otherwise. Easton sings with Caleb Followill and Bruce Springsteen in his voice, but he's more of a life-long troubadour-type from the state of Texas, from the hill country, slinking out at night to shake the walls of any old and dirty tavern that will have him, than anything else. There's a grim tinge to all of Easton's work, making his lyrics and raspy - four whiskeys deep - delivery sound as if it was arrived at in a sleeping in the same clothes he's been wearing for weeks, tough times lying here, ahead and behind way. All the while, there's still a vociferous call for love, a pleas for love - the one and only salvation that he's looking for - pulsing through "The Young Girls" and "In Love With You," while there's always that bit of warning that either will or will not be heeded. It's at that point that shit goes south. It's then that Easton's songs become the painful examples of heartbreak that they're bound to become if he has his way. He sings on "Broke My Heart," "The only love you'll know won't be strong enough to drown you/Love and destruction seem to go together/When you find one, the other's close behind/A broken heart isn't the worst thing in the world when you give it just a little piece of time/There's only two things left in this world - love and the lack thereof." It's as if there's a coin that gets to be flipped in many of these cases, but the coin is double-sided, with two versions of the same outcome on the surface of whatever lands face up. There's the love and there's destruction. There's that same love and there's none at all - all of it, sadly similar. Easton finds this dilemma to be rather tasty and he lives for it - not necessarily to chuckle about it or to feel some kind of sick masochistic delight in it - but rather to get so cozy to it (and the many variations of it) that he stands some kind of chance of cracking it. He stands a chance of not getting caught up in the tempting lure of younger women. He stands a chance of being able to forget the parts of life that have run him raw. He stands a better chance of not being fleeced by all of the many lowly things that fleece a person. There are too many to count, but Easton's counting.