By Julia Montagnet, The Angry Ex-Punk Housewife
One early spring morning in 1989, dressed in a tattered, red silk smoking robe and his old Converse, Gerald Collier rolled a Drum while I smoked my Camel on the bench outside our basement apartment in the U-District.
“I had a dream last night,” he said. “I was walking down the street and I heard my music coming out of an apartment window. It was unbelievable. I live for that to really happen one day.”
If Gerald’s CD release party at the Tractor Tavern last summer was any indication, it’s safe to say that if he hasn’t realized this fantasy yet, he will soon. The former leader of Best Kissers in the World and his long-time band mates performed to a capacity crowd that roared and cheered the moment he took the stage.
I’ve sporadically kept up with his career over the years, losing touch not long after his band Deer Whistle put out one CD, Stranded Somewhere Else, in 2002. For the uninitiated, a quick stroll through his catalogue shows a talented, ever-evolving singer/songwriter who has released solid albums every couple years for more than a decade.
His 2007 release, How Can There Be Another Day, is by far my favorite work by Gerald (except for a great cassette tape in 1989 of just him and his guitar recorded on a portable tape player). A collection of B-sides and live performances lovingly resurrected and restored and released by Portland’s In Music We Trust Records, Day shows that the years and experience have not been wasted on Collier. His guitar playing has progressed from good to beautiful and compelling. I recall him commenting once in the Best Kisser days that all his songs were basic bar chords, but that is not the case anymore. And his voice has not only held up over the last twenty years, but has gotten stronger and deeper, matching the evolution of his songwriting and musicianship.
Gerald has always had a dark, morose sense of humor; his view of the world is far from uplifting. Lyrics like“ … but don’t kiss her on the neck cause it reminds her of her father most times” (“Whored Out Again” on “I Had to Laugh Like Hell” 1996) and “She’s a cool drink water, if you like kerosene, with legs as long as a highway, and a nose full of amphetamine,” (“Long Distance” on “Low Tar Taste” 1999) evoke images of an ugly world of angst, struggle and hopelessness that has pickled at the bottom of a cheap bottle of whiskey and woken up hung over in a stranger’s bed.
As our old friend Rachel once said, “Ah, Gerald, no one does pain as well as he does.”
Still, the melodies are catchy and Gerald’s natural ability to make poetry out of the dark underbelly of society can suck most folks in despite their best attempts to resist it. He has a gift for song craft that has caused rock scribes to ponder why he is not listed alongside Cobain and Lanegan when citing dark, influential Northwest songwriters.
Watching him on stage that night at the Tractor, I am reminded of Gerald’s unique ability to turn pain in to beauty. You may say to yourself, “He is such a cliché of the tortured country singer,” yet you can’t drag your eyes and ears from the stage or deny the emotional power of his best recordings.
This weekend, Gerald will grace the intimate confines of Eastlake’s Mars Bar with his first live Seattle live appearance since last summer. As a fan who has known of his talents for nearly two decades, I was pleased when Gerald told us that “the show will be featuring a little bit from my entire body of recorded work including some Best Kisser’s stuff that I’ve never tried before in this setting.”