Hutch – Happy Nights & Lonely Days
E. Weever writes…
As the sun goes down on another cloudy spring day here on the farm, I rest my freshly shorn legs in the cool grass, toss a few last crawling ants from my nose and nestle in to receive the sounds of “Happy Nights & Lonely Days” – the first offering by Victoria B.C. Canada’s up & coming band Hutch (Lucas and Jesse Henderson plus Colin Nealis).
Album Cover: A grey, desolate daytime scene atop a snow-covered mountain. Small specks of blue sky are visible through a turbulence of encroaching cloud. One would not starve in this environment however as it becomes clear throughout the record that we are being invited to venture past our empty stomachs, into emptiness itself.
Title: “Happy Nights & Lonely Days” is a reversal of the expected, but more honestly describes the day-to-day reality many experience. Night is the time for artists, lovers and dreamers – when the invisible, vibrational cage of conventional reality opens its bars wide, letting us out into broader pastures to graze, mew, mourn and orgasm. The title describes an experience of life that can be hard to admit. Hence I already feel a sense of intimacy, of trustworthiness. And from there I agree to go along for the beautiful journey…
Themes on the album: growing old, pleas to certain females that they try and understand, depression, escape, positions of the sun as they relate to the human capacity to reflect, mourn, regret and rejoice.
The lyrical voice is one of a man who deeply yearns for his own forgiveness; the album’s journey assists the listener in completing this very task. It is a road fraught with heartache, sadness and poetic revery. Anyone who thought they were alone in their struggle to look death square in the face and sigh will find good, friendly company throughout.
“Mary Dear” conjures an unusual scene rarely witnessed: A man leaves his bar stool at closing and, instead of passing out in a ditch or heading home to shout slurred obscenities at his lawn gnomes, quietly makes for the beach just in time for sunrise and staggers – drunk but joyously broken – down the long stretch of sand. The tide foams the shore like an overflowing glass of beer and the listener is suddenly forced to consider whether there may be a kind of purity in self-destruction: a definite and deep happiness in aloneness and even in dissonance.
In “Take These Chains,” we hear banjo elegantly dancing and bouncing on the surface of the guitar, as though eve and the snake have finally learned to two-step in the river. There is a unique and elated way in which these fellows slide across their instruments, the feeling of not just fingers passing between frets but of spirits passing from one world to the next.
The song is a poignant and relevant depiction of what those with wisdom know as mankind’s deeper and typically untapped freedom: to be free of even that which seems to set one free. To set down the chains of optimism, of hope, of dreams, of safety and – maybe foremost – of past glory.
“Straight From the Tree” explores the ancient but ever-new hunch that death, or impermanence, is the mother of not just beauty, but enjoyment, love and genuine appreciation for the china-doll forms of this world. We are treated to a delightful, memorable bass line swooping round like a carousel in 3/4 time. No ponies or unicorns on this carousel though – just tigers.
I find myself thoroughly enjoying the double meaning of one line in particular: “cut me loose, friend” and “cut me loose friend,” the former a plea for freedom, the second a masochistic challenge (“cut me”) spoken to a shallow or “loose” friendship. The listener is here greeted with one of the deeper ongoing themes of the record – that of the pain of freedom. One is lead to consider the question, “is there such a thing as being too free?”
The title of this ‘world-weary miniature’ eludes not just to a drinking habit, but also to a moment of lucid clarity – the brief space between enactments of addiction when one may reflect with free and honest agency, from a place of sincere power.
Within this ‘holy moment’ the song’s central character intimates a paradoxical life of numb pleasure-seeking, aware of passing the days with liquor and sex as a way to escape the pain of responding genuinely to one’s own heart.
It is a haunting and honest portrayal of modern human narcissism: leeching away one’s own brief life, missing altogether the joy and deep relief that comes with choosing to live for others rather than for one’s self. As an admission of this essentially adolescent mode of being, the song delivers one of my favorite lines on the record: “maybe we’re younger than we oughta be.”
One of the more anthemic sing-a-longs on the record, “Devil Take Tomorrow” feels like a beautiful slow dive into all the things I am scared to admit I have set utterly free. Riffing on the topic of limited or ‘selective’ vision, there is an adorable surrender on this track that leaves incredible peace in its wake. Handing tomorrow over to the devil communicates to me a willingness to face the worst – to welcome more than simply what might bring comfort. Let the devil take tomorrow – and he can have that horribly bland hay our caretaker keeps dishing out as well. But not the oats. I’ll keep the oats. And some of the hay.
“Shed a Tear”
Ethereal banjo lines and junkyard-esque percussion section.
“We can see everything a new born babe can see.” Need I say more?
The journey takes a turn with this dreamlike piano waltz through coiled brass alleyways that would give even Leonard Cohen cause to pause and wonder what he’s forgotten in the heart-side inner pocket of his dark trench coat. Some of my favorite lines of the album appear here:
“Split your heart into fragments / float each piece out to sea / north, south, east and west / everywhere in between / that way you’ll be sure / to find me.”
The song “Woke Up” induces a feeling similar to that I imagine young human children have when they ring doorbells and then quickly dart into the bushes to hide. Only here I see, in place of children, 1930s dwarves in over-sized wetsuits or those cynical, futuristic still-life human/statue hybrids that bleed but somehow live forever – the kind you think you see in early morning shop windows when the sun hits at just the right angle and your own reflection blurs together with the mannequin’s face just behind the glass. It’s a creepy-but-elated feeling that has you looking forward to your next batch of beautiful regrets.
It’s a two step, and it’ll get you out of bed to be sure.
“Last Night’s Red Wine” is what Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright” would have been without the reassurance of his song title’s last two words. Instead of consoling ourselves with “it’s all good” affirmations, we are to “man up” and face the inevitability of total loss and what can seem like the ‘infinitely all-wrongness’ of life in modern times. One of my favorite things about Lucas’ writing is that he challenges the listener not to cheer up. To be sad – to feel the low: to let life hurt. A rare message in a culture where almost every human attempts to squish herself into the giant sling that will suspend her just out of reach of the croc’s jaws, but which hangs from a branch ready to snap.
“In the City” is a farewell to the ‘obvious pleasure’ of modernity, an embrace of “deep caves,” “dark forests” and places undiscovered. The singer is clearly more at home once the sun goes down and all is dark and hidden but for lamp light.
I am reminded of a ewe we once had here on the farm who spent her days in the barn and her nights outside grazing. We thought she may have been undead, or at least a kind of vampire. But it turned out she was simply a clandestine vandal who spent her daylight hours in the barn’s wooden stalls carving out socio-political images that cast clever commentary on the inequalities and injustices of the post-Kantian fascist world order. We knew her as ‘Sheepsy,’ but she later escaped to London where she became known as ‘Baa Baa Baanksy.’ I wish this were just a bad joke.
As the album nears its close we are treated with some gorgeous slide guitar as well as some Doors-like organ play. Set that beneath a journey to a Mexican town, grave-dig-dating and some unapologetic commitment to aimless travel and we have Hutch’s “Coldest Part of Town.” As one of many tracks on the album that clock in around the 3 minute mark in length, the song contributes to the ‘travel vignette’ feel of the offering, the listener being ushered on a journey of brief encounters mixed with deep sorrows and satisfying ‘coming to terms’ type redemptions.
The last song on the album, “Tonight” starts by calling out the hidden desires of a would-be love. In honest fashion, the singer owns up to what a hard-luck man might still have to offer a lady of the world – an allowance and even welcoming of all her fear and suffering. A woman far too disillusioned to bother with the club scene or ‘plenty-o-fish’ may find solace in this catch: a man with equal yearning to disappear inside the delightful heart of sadness.
With characteristic simplicity, poignancy and empathy, the song contains what is probably my favorite line on the record: “I only care about what’s really there.”
Well done Hutch – a real treasure for all those who are too world-wise to bother with treasure hunting. The album finishes and I am left sitting in the paradoxically deep silence that headphone cushions provide once the music has ceased. As the album reverberates through memory I give pause for one final reflection.
Despite a familiar central lineup of guitar, banjo, upright bass and drum kit, one should not make the mistake of categorizing Hutch’s music as “traditional.” Though evidently inspired by old timey folk songs, durges and spirituals, Hutch successfully emerges from this cage wielding original songs that brim with life and lyrical colour all their own. Many surprises, insights and breakthroughs await the listener who takes the time to enjoy “Happy Nights & Lonely Days.”
E. WEEVER CONCLUDES.
The Sheet Pope writes…
Mae Dew writes…
i untucked a napkin that i wrot it on. a hutch is a animal box what has mesh for rabbits i think. i woner who let it out ? an making music but sortuv like real hard times rabbid music i thot cuz may be in that hutch wishin an hoping. i thot its also has one tall guy placing strings and may be bass i saw him hes with curly hair an the music curls in on you too evry which way.
i think its a rabbit wot places guitar and i heard that guy plaCE drums i wonder if its a snare snares can trap rabbitts too.
did you start that song? i liked it and when pianos came i thot a tugboats. thanks for some tugboats too.
i like the sing ‘stars on rout again stars a rout again’ cause no wun ever thinks on stars an what rout they may take twards findin you in tha dark ? an im prey sure he songs it twice on row so that is clever right. did u record dat album?
i thot i am going to write dat view tomorrow but devil takes tomorro an so here i spose let the angel have today and thar you go what doo ya know 1