If the world hasn’t ended, the doors are at 9
NQ Arbuckle began their recorded career over a dozen years ago with a song about “a real old-timer punk-rocker at the bar, grinning, sitting by a lonesome tall beer that needs drinking…who annoys the young girls with his dancing.” In 2002 that character was a jerk with low intentions and no boundaries, but Neville Quinlan sings and strums his story with a shudder that tells of everybody’s fear that they’ll someday be that lonely guy/gal at the show. Not just any lonely guy–the one without the dignity to keep his boredom to himself. In 2014, we find Quinlan confronting that fear again in what could be the band’s best song ever, “Red Wine”
This is not even close to what I ordered, but I’ll take it anyhow. / Oh, red wine, you must be so bored of our problems. / I think I’m dancing but I’m not really moving.
There’s no clear threshold to fall face-first over. It’s a slow stumble and over time you get closer to the subject of “Punk Rocker” than to the song’s narrator. In “Red Wine,” and over much of the album, Quinlan examines how the barrier between singer and dancer (even though that barrier is thinner in good punk and folk, right?) doesn’t protect you from aging or the slow erosion of dignity, common sense, and the plain ability to communicate. It’s not always discussed across the different sides of a bar stage–sometimes he’s telling stories of different sides of relationships, life and death, sobriety and denial, maturity and terror–all that great novelistic stuff. “I wish that my sadness would make you change,” he sings in duet with Carolyn Mark, just wallowing (compellingly) over how selfish of a thing that is to need to say and what it means that he knows it’s selfish and still says it, still insists on repeating it for an entire minute.
If you’ve never heard any of their other three albums or their collaborative album with Carolyn Mark, it will still only take you a song or two to realize this is one of the sharpest, best-written, funniest, most devastating bands around. The Future Happens Anyway builds on that claim with a lot of force. Country-rock that fits into the grooves between Springsteen and Steve Earle at their best. The title introduces the theme and each song digs toughly into it–a beautifully executed set of songs.