The things you should know how to do
July 30th 2008
Arthur Killroad- This is Something Witty
Arthur Killroad- Breaking Everything in Sight
I’ve listened to this record over and over again and I can’t help think about my little brother, a two time Iraq War vet who loves to sing and wears his heart on his sleeve. He has steeped himself in the idiosyncrasies of indie music, while still harboring his guiltless pleasure of belting out every note from The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most while driving to get a burrito from Amigos. Similarly, Arthur Killroad’s 2008 release The things you should know how to do (the most?) captures the definitive sense of familiarity, intimacy, and disappointment. The music is steadfastly structured in acoustic pop—forceful open chords decorated with a voice that is gruff and masculine, yet sincere and emotionally wrought with plain spoken pleading. Sounds great eh?
Though the truth is that just like our bipolar moments of mania and displeasure, we are sometimes caught in an unflattering light. Rather than tactically avoiding looking contrived, Killroad seeks to make the telling of mundane moments his anchor. He criticizes the motifs and worn tropes of classic romanticism instead favoring the tactile objects of relationships—gifts, guitars, and shaving blades—trinkets of those quick moments between the archetypical peaks and valleys, unions and break ups. Known as Mike Petruccelli to his mother, Arthur Killroad is extraordinarily adept at addressing these experiences.
Like any Midwest punk cum everyman’s troubadour, Killroad can be confronted with his fair share of criticism. The metaphors can be dumb and the vocabulary can be dry. He runs the risk of forever being attached to the inexperience amassed during college. Some might say that the novelty of the scenester with sad eyes and sad words wore off somewhere around 2001, or that the verbal marshmallows created by Killroad’s songs may be everyman, but they are not important…they are not Bukowski—just a kid bitching about a life short lived. Is it arrogance that he expected real happiness before he even graduated college?
Killroad then confronts this abasement by, what else, writing a song about it. The Starving Artists Convention is a reflexive monologue asking if Mike, Killroad the person, is truely a douche bag. The answer taken away from The things you should know how to do is no. However, along with his noble attempt at emotional exposure, he gets caught in uncomfortable moments. The opening words of Robots and Zombies, speaking to a deep sense of alienation, sets up and unravels a trivial metaphor. Killroad is at his best when he writes about common things in plain terms. Two songs particularly stand out among the rest. This is Something Witty, which ironically tells the critics to take a long walk, is Arthur Killroad‘s manifesto.
“I’m not apologizing; I’m only describing things and saying how I feel about them.”
This track distills what is best about Killroad, both in attitude and style. Breaking Everything in Sight succeeds because of the technical recording choices, from the simple introduction built upon with layers of vocals and an epic grand piano, making a powerful aside to the acoustic power pop tracks.
In all honesty, I have to write about this record from a measured distance because I simply would never have picked it up on my own. The record’s range of artistic value is great. In contrast to the remarkably well arranged songs mentioned above, others like Harvard on the Hocking come so close to Eve 6 that I am convinced Killroad just wanted to make his track list reach 10, no matter the consequences. Who would do that to themselves without a good reason? While I may just have to take a long walk, I know that Arthur Killroad has defined a specific place for himself and is comfortable with his songwriting methodology, and he obviously loves the process of recording his music as documented on his Myspace page. In all Mike Petruccell’s song writing skills are his greatest asset. While the use of an alias cannot insulate him from the criticism he duly receives when he takes the road most traveled, he certainly makes it clear that he is capable of going anywhere he pleases.