I’ve written this same piece more than a few times. A couple versions existed in my head when I have had the great privilege of an hour car ride all by my lonesome – time to think – a rarity in your 30s. Other occasions I have put pen to paper (hands to keyboard) regarding this and the inevitability of what comes out is almost laughable. See: kicking stones forward while looking at your feet with headphones on and a hoodie up, coupled with a longing for a time that was entirely devoted to feeding the fire of feelings – right or wrong. And of course it involves the soundtrack that can bring you right back there – whether you go kicking or screaming or fall backwards with open arms.
My friends and I have a long history with the works of Wes Eisold. No need to regurgitate what is already known. Suffice to say American Nightmare brought with it a few chipped teeth and torn & frayed shirts when you were around to witness it in the flesh – growing up in the barren wasteland that was/is Connecticut (as an aside, whether it is true or not will be left to history: but a podcast interview with Nicky Money (Horror Show & Nothing) made mention that Wes took the name Cold Cave thanks to a convenience store somewhere around Fairfield county…I would like to think that’s true and the irony is not lost on me). As one pulls up roots and moves across the country to find some sense of self you assume that most artists will be in the rear view mirror. However, the next Eisold incarnation that was Some Girls found a way to boil down and distill early-mid 20s disaffection in a way that few others did. Cut to the chase and cut the fat and cut people off. Much like me at a party holed up in a corner trying to water the flower that was I against a wall with various sorts of liquid-ations. At that point I mentally thanked Wes for a second ride on the marry-go-round of pain and assumed that the trip had come to an end. Shame on me.
Here’s the thing – whatever the clichés are about not being able to outrun the past – they are true for those of us that try to run forward while always having our necks craned back. Don’t get me wrong – this is a self-inflicted pain that is like a drug where one must keep upping the dosage to get some sort of buzz anymore after years of abuse. “Could have beens” and “should haves” will gnaw at a soul like a rat on a 3 day old doughnut. Also, to quote a quote – “Nostalgia is denial – denial of the painful present… the name for this denial is golden age thinking – the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one ones living in – it’s a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.” – Take it easy on me, won’t you?
you are not ever “done” with anything as much is it may not be “done” with you
And so finally we arrive at Cold Cave. Let me just get out of the way now that I love every piece of music outputted from the hard drive – from the earlier “noise” days down to the more minimal but still hook-forward approach today of just Wes and Amy. But…but for this piece we have to focus on the sophomore LP “Cherish the Light Years.” As I mentioned above, at times I had thought I was older…wiser…had moved on from the trappings of the past only to find myself stumbling across on old diary or shoebox full of pictures…and that is when the realization hits you that you are not ever “done” with anything as much is it may not be “done” with you. And so when the LP came out – it was as if a letter from the past that I had shoved down into a dirty beer bottle and mercifully threw out to sea only to find it somehow, someway get washed up to the seaweed ridden shore years later. I remember every word I wrote without even reading it.
Every lyric buried within called out like a voice from behind me. Finally, someone else “got it.” Some wax poetic about the “good old days” or “how it was when we were young,” but few truly exist in their heads in those times. Wake up every morning and feel that past in the bed next to them. When you walk to a coffee shop and see every former haunt as a reason to dwell on “swings-and-misses” over the past decade. Hearing the name of someone casually mentioned in conversation leads to thinking about times where you decided to bleed from biting your tongue instead of unleashing the tidal wave of spit from the words that could come flowing out. Low-and-behold, interviews with Wes at the time mimicked exactly my feelings. He spoke of the writing/creation process for the album – how he needed to binge and purge on the past. He traveled back to key places and towns and would walk around to feel it and exist in it again. Old flames go out if you stop stoking the fire – so don’t stop.
On more than one occasion I have done similar rituals – it stems from a phone call from a friend telling me that “so-and-so” had their life flipped upside down and I feel the need to go backwards and dream about how it could have been so different for them, me, us…the world. It accelerates as friends and I share 2 ounce drinks and start telling stories that the other forgot. It gets worse when I put on an album like “…the Light Years” and take the long way home.
Art imitates life and these days Wes has mentioned in interviews that his affinity for this album has waned. Oddly enough, a reason mentioned is that people involved with the creation have moved out of his life and thus the work itself appears flawed in his view. Sounds like the past itself. People come and go, memories get re-worked in our own heads, for better or worse, and we are left trying to figure out how we could have done it better. I doubt that process ever truly stops.
“I know I’m buried somewhere down there in the catacombs of your mind, dig deeper and you’ll find…”
“Remember how you moved and I never heard from you again? Sometimes I do pretend…You said that one day you’d come back for me, and that is the only reason why I’m still a part of this dreadful scenery…”