Late last night, I finished off a Bukowski and dug back into a Raymond Carver collection that had been started and halted a few stories in. The story that I polished off between brushing teeth and calling it a day was a strange freakout that one doesn't really expect out of Carver. It was a piece set in the after hours, with the children of two married couples tucked away in their beds. The couples - presumed to be in the middles of their lives - had broken out the bong and were getting the munchies, all in this stream of rapid-fire giggling and conversation, of jokes and nothingness. They weren't small-talking, but rather never concluding any of their thoughts, traveling through the night like people saddled with the scared and hyper-alert brains of rabbits and squirrels - blurting unfocused comments about needing more cream soda and orange popsicles, while attempting to talk about their jobs.
At one point, the host and his buddy's wife go to the kitchen together and it's hinted that the wife's husband sees her put his arm around the host, from behind, as he reached for something from the cupboard. He later initiates the end of the night, wanting to leave. There is no argument in the car, no argument at home and as they lie in bed, the wife wonders if there's anything to drink in the house. She's told there's no wine, but there's beer. She asks her husband to please fetch her a beer. She opens in and falls asleep. He takes the beer and sets it safely aside and turns off the light. The story ends and you just sit there - with a tense ball in your stomach, having been through an unpredictable evening and a gentle end.
The music of Beaty Heart is not exactly like this - being slightly more tropical than this mood would suggest, but it does allow for many disjointed feelings to collide all at once. Some of the choices that they play here would make interesting accompaniment to Carver's short story, with people ignoring the obvious and thinking about the absurdities quite a lot more than necessary. The band's singer, Josh Mitchell, sings about making sure that you are brushing your teeth correctly and about a man who, "Doesn't sing too well/Cause he has no lungs," but when he hears those songs that he likes, he gives it hell anyway.
The songs are all matters of assorted conditions and movements. They are rooted in the very human itchings and squirmings. They are aware that we won't and can't sit around for long without getting a bit antsy. This is when we blurt out that we need more cream soda or we dive into the backyard pool from the roof of the house. A song like "Luck Set" seems like it could have followed the unlikely path of that bedtime beer from the fridge to the exhausted hand, right to the darkened nightstand, where it would warm overnight.
Beaty Heart Official Site