Richmond Fontaine – You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To
The thought that Richmond Fontaine will never release another record is almost as unbearable as the act of listening to their new album itself. For this is indeed signalled as the final outing for a group that came together back in Portland more than 20 years ago. Since then, we have been treated to marvels such as Post To Wire, Thirteen Cities, and We Used to Think the Freeway Sounded Like a River. Of course, to say we have been treated to such gems is to discount the feelings of muted anger, intense sadness, and general world-weariness that are induced by any record from Willy Vlautin and the band. The lesson quickly learned is that a Richmond Fontaine record should never be put on at a dinner party, but also that if you’re feeling a little bit downed then by listening to almost any of their songs you can be reassured that you’re not alone in that regard, which is never a bad thing to be reminded of. On their valedictory release, things have changed only by staying the same. Returning to a more conventional song cycle after the utterly unique combination of story and music that was The High Country, You Can’t Go Back … is another collection of tales from modern-day life. As ever, there’s a wide cast of characters. The three brothers who roll into town, “One’s just out of lock-up, One’s a drunk and a clown, The other don’t say much of anything”. The middle-aged man who takes off one night with his friend Ronnie, “I got sick behind a car, slept against a bank wall, Ate at Annie’s donuts and made it to work on time”. The man who knows his partner is having an affair, “I don’t care if she plays my old Armstrong records to him …, But does she wake him up in the middle of the night, Just to start talking?” And all of these encounters are wrapped up in a typically maudlin-sounding, yet somehow beautifully elegiac music. The thought that this is the last Richmond Fontaine album is indeed almost unbearable. But like the small-town protagonists of their many albums, tomorrow we’ll pick ourselves up and move quietly along. And at least we’ll always have Winnemucca.