The married couple at the center of Tallahassee do love each other, they just don’t know how to love each other in way that is productive or good. There are some moments of tenderness in the Alpha couple song cycle and on this album particular, they’re just hidden between the long stretches of bleak, alcoholic misery. It rarely resembles the affection between a normal married couple; usually, it’s more like the affection that grows between two people who have been living and traveling together for a long period of time, or maybe two people who share an office at a really difficult job. The way you might feel about someone you fought alongside during an unjust and mismanaged war.
But if you wipe away the accumulated dirt and soot and press your face right up against the glass, there are moments of what looks like real, genuine love. It’s hard to imagine two people who didn’t love each other sharing a moment of quiet, gin-fueled hope like the one on “Game Shows Touch Our Lives.” “Game Shows” takes place on some enchanted evening where one half of the couple is lounging on their sole piece of furniture watching old game shows while the other half is rooting around in the basement, really truly hoping to keep the day’s bender running smoothly without having to walk down to the liquor store, where all the sales clerks know them by name and it’s impossible to just perform a simple transaction without getting bogged down in small talk that has a subtle but distinct edge of judgment to it. It’s like, yes, I was in here on Tuesday, what’s it to you? I’m sorry, I thought this was a place where I could spend my money freely.
And so this particular tableau has played itself out many times before, and the evening usually dissolves into empty silence or intentional, pointed silence; but there’s something in the air tonight, and both parties reach a certain level of drunkenness, a perfect equilibrium between inebriated affection and real, true romance, where they can momentarily convince themselves that the way they live is okay. “People say friends don’t destroy one another/What do they know about friends” — that’s something only two incredibly self-deluded people could say to one another, but it sticks with us because of the clear, burning belief at the center of it. It may sound absurd, but for this couple in this moment, it’s the secret to a long life of love and happiness and they’re the first people to discover it. In that moment they could write an entire 200-page book about the way they live and market it to newly-engaged couples.
Of course, they are wrong. They’ll wake up in their typical dry-mouthed, heavy-headed state tomorrow morning – or possibly at 4:30am tonight, whenever the liquor drains out of their bloodstream – and the whole nasty day-to-day business of their doomed marriage will start up again. But they’ll cling to the moment of beauty they both experienced the night before and in the long stretches between that moment and the next moment, it’ll be all they need to keep holding on. Well, that and gin, lots and lots of gin.