There’s a lot that can always be said about any Josh Ritter record, because that’s just the sort of music Josh makes. This one, in particular, you could use the words “lush” and “dark” and cover most of the generalities. You could mention that “I Still Love You (Now and Then)” is a pretty great Beast In Its Tracks b-side.
Usually, or maybe usually when I used to write about music far more regularly, I would read a lot of reviews of records I wrote about, before during and after, just to get a feel for how my thoughts compared to other people’s thoughts. I have read almost nothing about this record. I’ve talked to shep. and Allison about it a little, but mostly I have just lived with it and thought a lot about it.
It’s a very good album. Josh Ritter only gets better as a songwriter; Fever Breaks continues his path and progression and it’s very, very good. That’s my entire review.
Now I want to talk about “The Torch Committee”.
This song is so entirely the sonic landscape of 2019. It is warm and seductive to start, and it spirals so quickly into darkness and horror. It is entirely representative of how my brain feels whenever I watch or read or listen to the news. It crawls on your skin like a lover, only when you get to the end, you realize that it’s just bones against your wrist.
Good evening, may we say again
How pleased we are that you’ve come in
The day was long, your bed was soft
Still there’s some names we’re crossing off
It says here by your file you
Have been so loyal, brave, and true
We need not fret, you need not fear
And so we come to why you’re here
Here are my political beliefs: I believe that literally every single human being who exists on the planet deserves to have a roof over their head and enough food to eat and health care that does not bankrupt them. I believe that children shouldn’t be shot in schools. I believe that children shouldn’t come home from maybe being shot in school to find their parents simply missing. I believe that no human being should ever be kept in a concentration camp. I believe that human beings deserve to feel safe and happy and secure no matter where they were born or where they live or who they love or what they look like or anything else that you think makes them not like you and therefore not deserving of kindness and respect.
We see your hands and legs are tied
In clearest breach of by-law five
And left here in this little room
In clearest breach of by-law two
And though you know that we take pains
The process of the law remains
All technicalities aside
You’ll see our hands are also tied
I believe that the single watchword for dealing with anyone else on the planet is kindness.
Something’s horribly amiss
How else could you be on our list
Still we all know directive twelve
All those so named must prove themselves
To hungry mob and angry crowd
Young men making families proud
By means not meant for light of day
We wish there was a softer way
That is my politics: kindness. Not liberal or conservative, not Democrat or Republican. Kindness. I vote in the political party of being kind and generous to my fellow human beings, just like Jesus told me to.
And the things that are happening in this world right now. In this country I live in right now. Those things are not kindness. Separating children from their parents is not kindness. Killing people because of the color of their skin is not kindness. Thinking that it is okay if someone dies because they are too poor to afford healthcare is not kindness.
So put your finger to the names
The only cure for fear is blame
In doing so, you’re doing good
There’s many called who never would
Who stuck by what they thought was right
Who disappeared by dark of night
Who disappeared into the breeze
Left no family left to grieve
Listen to this song. Think about it.
And if your answer is still that you’d sign away your neighbors to save yourself, well.
That’s what the torch committee’s for, isn’t it?