Ike Reilly returns with another batch of smart, literate songs on 18 May with the album Crooked Love. But there’s also a new single from the LP, “She Haunts My Hideouts”, filled with the strange, lovely imagery we’ve become accustomed to from the husky-voiced bard: swallowing steel wool, huffing workshop rags, old houses, a barroom crowded with our past and a soul equally crowded by loneliness. It’s kind of a love song but definitely a psychedelic stomp, a wade in a stream of higher consciousness from a wordsmith who’s always a few steps ahead.
Though the songwriter-as-poet compliment gets old and doesn’t always work, it certainly applies here:
Reilly‘s a guy who pulls raw material from thin air and weaves it into something that speaks to and often elevates the human spirit. At his best, he transforms the mundane into the profound, the stain on the floor into the sublime metaphor.
In more earthly terms, the singer-songwriter says that he had to look no further than his own home for the track’s inspiration. “I’ve got a place in my house where I’ve got a bunch of tools”, he says. “A grinder, air compressor, paints, and chemicals. I mostly play guitar and sing songs in this place, and sometimes I get dizzy from breathing in all the paint thinner and shit. It’s a cheap high that I can conveniently say is accidental. ‘Holy shit, those fumes really got the best of me. I better get back in there.’ I found myself out in that shop attempting to be alone, but I guess you can’t ever be alone if you are haunted by a conscience or a conscience in the form of a human being. A person in your life, if you’re lucky enough, who cares to make you value love and the brevity of life. I thought of this place as a hideout. I thought of bars as hideouts. I thought of touring as a hideout. But wherever I went, there was something always with me, guiding me and reminding me of goodness, and I sarcastically referred to it as a haunting…,a haunting in the form of the woman I love and live with. I wouldn’t call ‘Hideouts’ a love song though. It’s more of a back-handed compliment.”
Somewhere deep inside the track hides a Dylan song that never was, a would-be AM radio hit that got lost in a drawer filled with disabused screws and broken hammers, just waiting for Reilly to stumble upon it and give it life. “I approached this song originally as a punk song,” he says. “The chorus was sung in a half-assed Ramones style. That didn’t last long. I don’t know what you would call the style that it was finally recorded in, but I do know that the guitar riff that Tommy O’Donnell plays is classic rockabilly. It’s a part that is seemingly improvisational and yet none of the parts are interchangeable. Tommy’s parts are a direct response to my vocal phrasing. Sounds pretty sophisticated when you say it out loud. We wanted the music to stay out of the way of the ‘story’, although the story was not really linear but little sketches. I guess we just wanted to stay out of the way of the words. This song sat around a while with no background vocals, and then my youngest kid, Mick, started to sing, and his voice changed a bit, so he and I overdubbed the background vocals. He sounds a bit like me, but he can sing in tune.”
Reilly, the kind of guy who might stare you down and suggest that you gotta lotta nerve asking him questions, points out what we’ve known all along: It ain’t how the soup got made, it’s how it tastes when it hits the table. “All this shit you write or say about a song or the writing of a song doesn’t really mean anything if the recoding doesn’t cut it. And by ‘cut it’, I mean, ‘Does it sound authentic and original? Unforced? Does it sound like nobody else’s experience could have created the song? No combination of players could have made that noise?’ In the face of struggling to find a bigger audience that will allow me to keep writing and recording with my incredible band, I’m proud of the fact that nobody really makes songs and sounds like we do.