Recently I looked at a satellite image of my neighborhood, and tried to pick out my house. As I zoomed in on it I thought, “I wonder what was going on for me, for my family, at the time this image was taken. Was I happy? Was my wife sad? Was my son playing?” Zooming back out, I could see the homes of my neighbors. Pulling back further the whole of my city, the whole of my country, ultimately the software allowed me to see the planet in one frame. A whole planet with countless stories, triumphs and heartaches, things that are causing enormous joy and unbearable sorrow. I remember thinking about my own emotional trials, alone out there in the universe and in our darkest days, how insignificant our enormous pain is in the scope of the infinite.
Occhiolism, the debut album by All Poets and Heroes, takes a macro view of all that baggage and lays it all out there with such emotional honesty that, to the listener, it can almost seem intrusive as if we were given access to Rob McCall and Corey Jordan’s personal journals.
This music, is literature.
With songs like the excellent “Wine Song”, a song about ending a relationship that has run out of joy and has burned out, you can almost hear vocalist McCall’s heart literally breaking as he sings “I have to clear my head for this…” and the music swells in a crescendo that belies the emotional low implied in the lyric that will remind you of Radiohead at its most anthemic.
The psychedelic grunge by way of the Palm Desert sound on “Tardigrade” takes a Screaming Trees meets Smashing Pumpkins sonic wall to a cynical if not a downright angry place.
“Life on the Line” a song about someone who has taken their own life in a hasty decision. A cautionary tale that one could mistake for an elegy, written to the victim in retrospect, replacing despair with hope, words that had they been offered before the end could have made the difference.
One of the many highlights on the album is “Cruel” which contains a beautiful turn of language. The lament of a man, who is defiant that whatever he has been accused of simply isn’t true but ends on a self questioning note and they sneak it in so effortlessly that you almost don’t notice it.
It would be a mistake to think that because they explore such emotional honesty in their words that the music is in any way sad, or depressing as such. There is that emotional punch, but in all of our shared experience there is hope, Occhiolism explores all of that. The songs often come off like soaring anthems to human resilience in the face of that which could drive us to our knees.
The album tackles some heavy shit, but it’s never a downer, just the opposite.
Occhiolism is a debut that presents the kind of music that allows our emotions to overcome adversity and rise in defiance of the trials of simply living, of being human.
All Poets & Heroes songs have been compared favorably to the raw emotional honesty of people like the late Jeff Buckley and sonically like the aforementioned Radiohead but to compare AP&H to anyone is to do them a disservice. The truth is All Poets & Heroes have their own unique sound that is cinematic in its landscape and lyrically highly literate.
There is an old fisherman’s prayer that says, “O God, thy sea is so great and my boat is so small”, it says a lot about the universe too, and how we all weather our own private storms as they lash upon the bow of our spirits. We are but a lone voice shouting into the sky, just trying to keep it together, living what Thoreau, in Walden, called “lives of quiet desperation”, and as Thoreau reminds, it takes poets to remind us that simply living makes heroes of us all.
This essay is dedicated to the memory of Thoreau scholar Dr. Gordon Boudreau (1929-2020)
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