“BREATHIN’ EASY” (WRITER: JOHN CROSLIN)
ARTIST: THE REIVERS
RELEASED 1991 ON POP BELOVED LP
Zeitgeist was a cool little 80s pop-rock band from Austin, Texas. John Croslin played guitar, sang, and wrote songs. Kim Longacre sang and played guitar as well. Garrett Williams bashed the drums and Cindy Toth played bass and sang backup. All of them had drive, talent, and charm.
The band’s super first album, Translate Slowly, came out in 1985 and made some friends, as did their energetic, bright, often epiphanic gigs. Here in Chicago, they never failed to send audiences home sweaty, exhausted, and happy. They played raucous guitar rock with vocal harmonies. They liked baseball and they liked beer and they liked weird cover songs. They were fun. You could crush on any of them.
Noting the band’s capacity to excite audiences, Capitol Records signed on to license its next two albums. Prior to the first major-label release, however, the quartet was compelled to change its name to The Reivers, because a new-age ensemble had already trademarked “Zeitgeist.”
Both Capitol albums (Saturday and End of the Day) featured strong songs, but never were able to get the band out of the indie section at your local record store. Following the end of their contract, Croslin wrote a huge batch of songs and the Reivers delivered the Pop Beloved album in 1991. It was released on DB Recs, owned by Danny Beard. DB had issued Translate Slowly and Beard had served as executive producer of the two Capitol LPs.
While there are other Zeitgeist/Reivers tracks I like more, there’s something special about “Breathin’ Easy,” the opening cut of Pop Beloved. It has the tension and world-weariness of adults who’ve had jobs, kids, relationships, and who know self-doubt too well.
Like most of their output, “Breathin’ Easy” has a warm, hazy, feel. It’s near enough for you to hear every intake of breath, as sweet as lemonade, and close enough to feel your heart break. Overlapping vocal lines produce tension, guitars intermingle like barbed wire, and the rhythm section holds everything together amid the fear and resignation.
Following Pop Beloved, the Reivers broke up, with the four members moving on to different lives, bands, and jobs. But they remained friends, and years later re-formed and even cut a new album in 2013. And I keep hoping they get in the van one more time for a trip to Chicago.