I must admit, I was not a huge Tonic fan. Sure, I knew If You Could Only See (Who doesn’t?) but my friend Randy is OBSESSED with them. There’s Tonic songs I liked but I never realized was them until years later. My first real exposure to Emerson Hart was his 2007 solo CD Cigarettes And Gasoline, one of the greatest break up albums ever.
Get this now… I’ll wait
Based off that, I was able to go back and rediscover Tonic. It was almost like Emerson was telling me himself, “Open up your eyes”. Oh, that’s the song from American Pie. Oh, that’s the song from the X-Files movie. Then there were a bunch of great songs like Mean To Me and You Wanted More. And then there was Emerson’s ever present goatee.
Ah, the 90′s…
Much like the title suggests, Cigarettes and Gasoline was pretty volatile subject matter. Between his divorce and the disappearance/murder of his father, it’s a touching and at times haunting glimpse inside of a person. I have rarely heard an album so raw. What a truly tortured artist.
“Like these trees, my pain is constantly growing.”
I was able to meet Mr. Hart recently and had mentally prepared myself for a brooding musician. Imagine my surprise when he turned out to be one of the nicest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. I don’t know if he’s gotten happier over the years or if he’s just one of those people who is able to channel his emotions constructively into his music, but now he’s all about the good things in life and it really shows on his latest work Beauty In Disrepair.
The Best That I Can Give- After his divorce, Hart dated the woman that would later become his second wife. He said it was a rocky time because you’re both dealing with the drama from past relationships. This is the song he wrote when he almost blew it.
Who Am I- A song about being insecure with a great piano riff? I’m on board.
Hurricane- Powerful. This song is about thinking about all the things you’ve done wrong and it building and building into a cyclone of depression and unanswered questions. It’s about screwing up everything you care about and wishing it was different. It starts out with the gentle breeze of an acoustic guitar and steadily builds towards the gale force winds of the chorus. The second verse is like the calm eye of the storm, gently reminding the listener of the many fires he’s started that he needs the wind and rain to extinguish, then the other wall hits you and you ride out the storm until the last placid woah-oh-oh-oh’s breeze by and the sun comes out again.
To Be Young- I’m assuming this is a song about his relationship with his daughter and how he regrets being gone so much but she’s able to stay happy because of her youth. There’s some really neat percussion in this song.
Mostly Grey- I’ll be honest… I don’t know what this song is about but it’s REALLY pretty.
You Know Who I Am- This is quite possibly the greatest explanation of love I’ve ever heard. It’s cool to add a ton of ingredients to stuff but sometimes the straightforward simple way is best. From the message to the music, everything about this song is stripped down. Just an acoustic guitar with a kick drum (It could even just be an actual foot tapping) and the ghost of a steel guitar floating around the edges. This is my favorite song on the album.
Another Life- This sounds like Emerson Hart doing a Maroon 5 song. Win.
Don’t Forget Yourself- This song is quite simply cool from the opening cadence to the percussion to the lilting chorus. Emerson puts a bit of husk in his voice for this one. There’s a fantastic female back up singer complimenting towards the end too. You almost can’t hear her. It’s a very subtle effect.
The Wire- This song is like an artsy movie that I enjoyed but am pretty sure the message was over my head. I really love the lyric, “I don’t mean you no harm just as lost as you are” though.
Hallway- This is probably my third favorite song on the album after Hurricane. This is basically Photograph by Nickelback if someone talented did it.
All Is Well- This song is beautiful. It’s mostly piano with what I think is an accordion in the background. It’s about climbing up to the top of a mountain and screaming out a denial of all the bullshit in the world. “Sometimes there won’t be answers until you let ‘em go… so let ‘em go.”
The Lines- This song kind of sums up the rest of the record. It’s all about the vicissitudes of life and not being able to go back and change anything but accepting it as making you into who you are.
There’s a very poignant lyric in The Lines that says, “I’d seen enough to know when it’s best to fight, when it’s best to let it go”. I think is the essence of Beauty In Disrepair. Kahlil Gibran said, “Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that it’s heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain. It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self. Therefore, trust the physician and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility. Out of suffering have
emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” Rocky Balboa said, “Nobody is gonna hit as hard as life, but it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.” My friends, Beauty In Disrepair, that’s how winning is done. A-