Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset
by Rhett Miller
Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset, the intense and intensely personal new album from erstwhile Margot And The Nuclear So & So’s frontman Richard Edwards, battled its way into existence against the longest of odds. Richard Edwards’ first solo album is the phoenix that rose from the ashes of a scrapped record, a scrapped marriage and a broken body. Less haunting than haunted, it bears a roadmap of scars, a cartography that, if traced back, leads to a much happier time.
There is a yellow house in Indianapolis across the street from a public park. A screened back porch where each night a young mother and father smoke a few guilty cigarettes and drink a few microbrews. There is a brilliant, muscular, challenging new Margot record called Sling Shot To Heaven. Then a tour, ill-fated, truncated and generally doomed. The young father is home all the time now, gripped by a mysterious illness that starts in his gut and reaches out to the farthest corners of the yellow house.
He finds just enough strength to muster an occasional smile for the daughter who bounces through the yellow house, scattering sunbeams like a flower-girl might scatter rose petals down an aisle at a wedding.
When the days are darkest, he is granted a reprieve. Some folks in an organization called MusiCares come to his rescue. Maybe he imagines these folks or maybe they're angels but the reprieve is real enough.
Suddenly he’s writing songs and riding bikes. Playing in the yard and pulling his weight around the house. He chronicles the battle against his own body and turns it into an album. An examination of absence. Probably mind-bogglingly great, but who will ever know? He shelves this record, deciding it’s either too true or not true enough. Although things are going well, he can’t help but agonize.
His newfound health has him thinking bigger. He learns that a well-known producer in California has fallen in love with Sling Shot… The young man wants to work with the producer. He re-writes and conspires. He robs a bank or something, somehow cobbling together the money to get to LA and see all this agony reach some sort of redemptive climax.
But he starts to feel sick again, losing forty pounds like his body is the outro to a sad song fading away. He flies to Los Angeles in spite of this. He spends the winter in the studio, tracking by day and sleeping on the tracking room floor by night.
And that’s when, as the song says, things get weird.
What awaits him at home is a new and larger devastation. The yellow house disappears. There are divorce papers and tears and a sudden iciness that can’t be blamed on the Indiana winter.
He lives then in a friend’s basement. The doctors cut open his stomach. The young man is an old man now. He wanders around Indianapolis with his cane. He eats mostly painkillers. He returns to Los Angeles. With his cane. And embarks on a lost weekend that lasts a month. He is now re-writing songs he’s written twice already, re-recording songs he’s recorded in two different cities now. He is circling back in arcing loops, rebuilding emptiness, closing in on a platonic ideal of despair. He is somewhere distant now. Off so far that the deep end is just a blip on the horizon.
What does he do in this moment of decision? Does he give in to this darkest of desires? Does he strike out against this body that betrays him? Or does he do the hard thing, the brave thing and convert this terror into something useful, something beautiful, something that works the kind of magic that reanimates a person?
He comes back to himself. To us.
Richard Edwards made Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset in Los Angeles where no one ever dies and heartbreak is golden and the cold Pacific Ocean wants to eat you and spit you out again as a new man.
There is no band now. There is no cryptic moniker behind which this new man hides. There is just Richard Edwards, who isn’t dead or even dead-eyed, who hasn’t disappeared or been delivered. He has emerged.