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In just one month, the traditional music trek of Peacemakers to Puerto Peñasco’s beaches will be upon us for the XXIII edition of Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers’ Circus Mexicus. In an interview we did with Roger a couple years back, he explained how people were hearing music off their albums sooner through social networking and he is always pleased to know fans are ready to sing along at any time. This year certainly won’t be an exception as the new Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers album “The Independent” hit airwaves in late April, followed up with an album release concert at Talking Stick Resort in Arizona on May 2nd. With just weeks to go before the music fest, beach soccer battle, camaraderie and tequila filled weekend that is Circus Mexicus (June 5 – 8) we asked a faithful Peacemaker follower and fan – and buen amigo above all – to share his insight into The Independent. Enjoy!
Contributor Tom Syvertsen
A day or two after it was released, I decided I would eventually write a review/editorial for the latest album from Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers named “The Independent”. As I thought about the challenge of reviewing someone else’s art, it became apparent this was about much more than the writing, music and sound inside “The Independent.” For me this is about our Peacemaker Family – a family full of love, hope, friendship, beauty, support and dysfunction, just like any other family, but indeed a family. I pondered all the lifelong relationships and friendships our community has blessed me with over the years, and look forward to the unknown friendships ahead. I thought about what has brought us all together. It became clear to me that “The Independent” is just one more thing we can share, talk about and have in common.
Of course we all have our preferences and individual taste and certainly all take our own approach to art and music. I LOVE “THE INDEPENDENT” and WHAT IT STANDS FOR! I personally attempt to try and figure out where the artists are coming from, whether it’s a song, painting, sculpture or whatever it may be, which leads me to something really important we cannot take for granted and that is accessibility. Our friends at RCPM are indeed accessible to us and that is a gift itself not to be taken for granted. Ask yourself, which artists on your iPod or in your music library can you approach after a show, get a picture with, ask a question or just have a simple conversation?
So let’s start with a disappointment I think a majority of us share in regard to “The Independent”. I will be the first to admit I wanted more songs. I wanted more, not because I EXPECTED more, but because we Peacemakers are insatiable when it comes to RCPM.
Next, I want to talk about the album cover, which in my opinion is a masterpiece. This masterpiece was created by Daniel Gonzales who also created the “Unida Cantina” cover. Let’s face it, album covers seem to be losing their significance due to the electronic age. But are they meaningless? Not always. Think back to when we were younger. Visually symbolic, the album cover gives it an identity. I’ve lost count of how many times I said to a friend, “Oh man that’s a cool album cover!” Can you think of Pink Floyd-The Wall, The Beatles-Abbey Road, SGT. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Bruce Springsteen-Born in USA or any of your other childhood favorites without thinking of the album cover?
This leads us to the Tarot Card theme of “The Independent.” The number “0” is The Fool card. The Fool Card can initially indicate a fresh start, a new beginning, entering a new phase in life and forging ahead along an unknown new path, expanding and being open to new things on the horizon, starting something new, or embarking on a new journey and heading into the unknown. It can also indicate spontaneity, living in the moment, letting go of expectations, doing the unexpected, acting impulsively and being carefree. Then we have the faith aspect of The Fool: trusting and going with the flow, keeping an open mind and heart, letting go of worry, fear and recapturing our innocence. Finally, we have foolishness. Being willing and able to accept the choices we make (good and bad), being true to yourself and trusting your heart and following it. There’s much more to this album cover than just colorful artwork. The Fool, The Frog Prince……take a look into it and you will see this all come together.
How does all this tie into the actual songs? Well to be honest, that’s still evolving but it is coming together. It all takes time to absorb and put into context. Sometimes you have actually put something into the music in order to get something out of it. I liken The “Independent” to a puzzle and I for one will enjoy putting it together.
Before I received “The Independent”, I’d already learned the music and writing of Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers cannot always be totally understood the first few times through. Over the years there have been songs I initially listened to, put aside, and came back to at a later time. We all know what I’m talking about, double sometimes triple meanings inside a lyric. Let’s be honest, everyone has “skippers” on most albums we own from any artist, but I have never gone back as often as I do with RCPM and have a very rare skipper all of a sudden resonate with me. What I have learned from this is to stick with it, trust it and take it in.
I remember saying aloud before my first listen to “The Independent,” “Alright Gents let’s see what you’ve got for us this time.” NO expectations, preconceived notions or assumptions. It’s art after all. When a painter releases a new painting, do we envision what it will look like or do we just simply wait for their next offering, having no clue what to expect?
“The Independent” may sound pessimistic, dark and rough around the edges and there is definitely a blend of anger, frustration, love, hope and rebellion that will hopefully make you reflect upon where you are at this stage in your life. It also pounds a stake in the ground once and for all that Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers are INDEPENDENT!
Ain’t Got the Words for this – Have you ever been so frustrated that you want to scream? Whether it is about work, family, money or a relationship, I think we can all relate to those moments where we just throw our hands up say, “I don’t know what else to say.” Some friends and I were discussing this song and a friend said to me, “…there’s a “falala” in there like they ran out of words.” I inferred that to mean they couldn’t think of anything else to write, so they just used it as filler. My beautiful friend was actually right on the money, but the lyrics are in the context of “I’m at a loss for words” literally. Who can’t relate to that feeling?
Once I Was a Thief – We all grow older (If we’re lucky), we go through life changes, ups and downs, rebirth, renaissance and ROCK bottom. Sometimes it seems we have the upper hand and other times we feel as though we have lost control.
Stick it to The Man – Last May when RCPM came to Minneapolis, they had asked me to procure them a DVD of the movie Hedwig and the Angry Inch, I obliged. Stick it to the Man is an aggressive blend of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. When I hear the lyric “yeah we only want to give him what he’s askin’ for,” I raise my fist in the air, and that fist is holding a stone and I for one want to throw it at the man.
Love Knows How – Another one to self-reflect on. When things are confusing or seem like they will never turn around for the better, just look around you and find the ones that love you and spend time with them. Their Love Knows How to heal you. Enough said.
California Breakdown – The Stallion (RCPM’s well-known touring bus) breaks down….again….in California and the band is stuck on the side of road. Peacemakers are called upon, who quickly rise to the occasion and come to their rescue, and a song is inspired. Is it cliché? Hell yes it is. You try and write a song without one. It’s a hard luck story of someone pursuing and chasing their dream. Then crashing, getting stuck, getting burned and getting up and rising above it all. Turn it into a positive.
Geronimo – Get off your ASS, LIVE and FLY!
5 x 5 – Many of us have, or have had, a partner, spouse or lover lying next to us at some point. Have you ever just looked over as they slept and simply taken in their existence in your life as if it was an actual breath of air? My wife is the strongest woman/person I know and, though she doesn’t know it, many times I stay awake at night just so I can look at her and say to myself…..Wow. OOPS! She knows now. Here’s a tidbit: The term or phrase “five-by-five” comes from radio operator speak. The strength and clarity of radio transmissions are/were rated one to five. A transmission that is “five by five” is the highest strength and clarity. The phrase later evolved to mean “OK” rather than just “loud and clear.” (or as some of us know it can also mean “BRIGHT and CLEAR”). What a beautiful song!
Right Where We Want ‘Em – UNITY – Whether it be a marriage, friendship or a relationship of any kind. If we “STAY TOGETHER” – WE GOT ‘EM. I have always taken those two words Roger Clyne says to heart. “Stay Together!” He doesn’t just say it to say it. I believe he wants us to stick together, work on our relationships and be part of something very special. WE ARE A PART OF SOMETHING SPECIAL!
The Independent – Someone call Clint Eastwood right now for this instrumental that winds its way back and forth across the border.
As we observe our friends Roger, P.H., Nick and Jim evolving and growing as artists, make sure to stop, take a look around at your next show and see all the good we are creating along with them.
Tom Syvertsen is a longtime supporter and friend to RCPM. He lives in Champlin, Minnesota. Tom also helps organize donations for the annual Wish List for Esperanza Children’s Home during Circus Mexicus, which receives proceeds from P.H.’s yearly Hot Dog & A Smile event (this year on June 8th).