Archive for September, 2010
When I was, maybe 8 years old, I remember really loving Aerosmith. I remember going to the library and getting their album and dubbing it onto cassette. Lynard Skynard, Aerosmith, anything like that that was on Classic Rock Radio, WPLR. Anything my dad liked. When I got older the MTV thing happened, the modern rock radio thing happened, and had my Green Days, my Red Hot Chili Peppers, and my 311s. Of this group, I remember particularly latching onto 311. They hit sort of, as the modern rock radio thing was petering out. Before it was so clogged with Stainds and Creeds, or maybe it was more important that it was my interest in it that was waning. All I remember is that, the only thing that really hit me after that was punk rock. The Clash, the first band that my dad, my brother, and I could all agree on. Nofx, H20, Guttermouth, Blink 182, the Sex Pistols. Somewhere amongst the crusty dreadlocks and safety pin ear piercings I was supposed to go to the Warped Tour. With a friend’s father as a chaperone. But still, the Warped Tour, the event of the year for anyone with a burgeoning collection of band t-shirts. After driving three hours in the rain, to find that it was rained out, I ended up at the now closed Virgin Megastore. Because some kids that I really looked up to in High School were talking about the final Pavement record once while I was in earshot I bought “Slanted and Enchanted.” While still hanging out with the punks, I never skateboarded and never got into Hardcore. Too much gravel. I got really hooked on College Radio, and the Alkaline Trio gave way to Pedro the Lion, Hot Rod Circuit, Jets to Brazil, Modest Mouse, and the Get Up Kids. One day on the school bus, I actually took the school bus as a primary mode of transportation throughout High School, an acquaintance suggested ‘The Dismemberment Plan.’ Something about the name stuck with me. The Dismemberment Plan I repeated in my head. This was just after “Emergency and I” was first released. Wanting to get the full effect, to experience things how they came to fruition, I chose to purchase the first album first. I remember liking it, appreciating the audacious and cocksure lyrics. It was punk, but it was intelligent. When did such things become mutually exclusive? If memory serves, just before leaving for summer camp several months later, I found “Emergency and I” at a Borders. In the suburban upbringing, at least in Connecticut, Borders was an absolutely crucial part of the pre-alternative experience. The only place for miles the stocked Magnet Magazine, and things on labels I was yet to discover like Merge and K. I bought “Emergency and I” hoping it would improve and expand upon the first effort, and because it had great cover art. If memory suits, I played that album every single morning that summer. It became part of my morning ritual. Some people get up and brush their teeth or make coffee. I never do the former before breakfast, and at the time did not partake in the later because I was straight edge. The children would slowly rise to the ringing of the breakfast bell and the opening chords of ‘Life of Possibilities.’ It is not a jolter and doesn’t really hit the listener over the head, rolling guitar couplets, lyrics that are easy to get lost in in an early morning daze. Then suddenly the bottom drops out of it when it hits the bridge, and that was really the first crash for the campers and for me. I was usually half asleep while reaching for the ‘disc 5’ button on my handy down CD changer. The song regains it’s mellow qualities just before the end, just to lull the unaware listener into a false sense of security, with dour synths, repetitious notes. It was always ‘Memory Machine’ that roused the final stragglers. Leaving the cabin to myself. Somewhere about six or 8 lines in, when the chorus first hits, I was up, my robe and slippers on, and I was putzing around the cabin in morning light, making sure I couldn’t smell any urine created over night. Somewhere right around “If they can make machines save us labor, some day they’ll do our hearts the very same favor,” I had taken my usual morning perch on the stoop of the cabin, watching dazed children shuffle across sun roasted grass and gravel driveways to the dining hall. “What do you want me to say?” was usually a question I asked myself. Or perhaps, less commonly, a particularly reticent co-counselor. Which was for the best as it’s singular stabs of guitar and vindictive lyrics are at times the sort of thing a lovelorn teenager is best left to sing to himself. Following breakfast, while other counselors chose something upbeat for cabin cleanup, I hit play on disk five again, not missing a song, and made sure that contemplative sweeping occurred during ‘Spider in the Snow.’ For years the opening couplets to this song were my absolute favourite quote. Before I was 20 years old. Before I had ever heard of K street. I suppose what really matters now, is not that this was, I can’t even say how many years ago…8, maybe 9, that I religiously listened to this album every morning. In a way that, until then, I had never listened to anything with such love before. I mean sure, I had liked ‘Give me three steps,’ and I thought they I had loved “I Heard they Suck Live,” but I really had never connected to anything musical as much as I loved this album. At a certain point it wasn’t routine as much as it was a requirement. Perhaps the difference semantic. I mean my day could not begin without this album. That, had I any sort of musical ability, had I know anyone or, or believed in myself enough to write lyrics, I would write ones just like this, and I would learn to play just like this, and, we would sound just like this. That, I almost wish I’d thought of it first, because, not only was it Travis Morrison’s experience, it was my experience, and I assumed it was everyone else’s as well. In an ideal world, or, the idealist world of a pre-liberal arts college teen, I had hoped to share this with anyone that would listen, because, it was their life. They needed to hear it because they had already heard it, not coming from my stereo, or from a mix tape or CD of my creation, but in their own lives. Or perhaps everyone’s minute to minute thought processes weren’t nearly as disjointed as mine or certain lyricists. Generally, the public really seemed to latch onto ‘You are Invited.’ Being probably the most easily accessible and non-vulgar song on the album, with a teachable moral to boot. For years, not just that first one, that first summer of love, the song was a fixture in another ritual ‘Chill Time.’ As the campers fell asleep it fell to the counselors to discuss something with them, and then play some music to take them to sleep. In most cases, being the sort of summer camp that it was, this responsibility fell to someone like Jerry Garcia, Dave Mathews, Trey Anasthaio. Someone that could really put the kids to sleep. For me however, there was always ‘You are Invited’ and it’s unsure protagonist. It’s primitive Casioesque beat and spoken lyrics. It was all right there for the children to devour, a simple metaphor, a wonderful lesson. ‘Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so mean to so and so, perhaps I should have included so and so in what and what.’ At least, this was what I hoped was going through their minds. And, I would like to think it did. Certain sessions I would have campers who requested repeat ‘You are Invited’ Chill Times, or I would have campers come back to my cabin, having moved on to older cabins and other age groups, but still not having moved on from ‘You are Invited.’ Sometimes it’s legend would even spread through word of mouth, and children I never had as campers would come into my cabin during free time and ask to hear, ‘the one about Invitations.’ That’s the sort of song that it is, one so big that it splits the album in halves while making one of it’s defining statements. One of the few nice sentiments to be found within. Following this comes ‘Gyroscope,’ ‘The City,’ ‘Girl O’Clock’ and ‘8 1/2 Minutes,’ the sort of back to back to back to back perfection that one can really only imagine. Had I ever owned this album on vinyl, which will be possible again come the new year, it would be an easy argument to say this was one of the best, most perfect b-sides of all time. But as ‘Gyroscope’ insists about happiness, “no one wants to be that tacky about it,” so excuse me if I get a little heavy handed here. Where that song is herky jerky, danceable but not perfectly beat driven, like the party it’s lyrics describe, ‘The City’ is remorseful and bitter, baring a final plea for the lost love of it’s narrator it is almost quiet, an almost awkward compatriot to ‘Gyroscope.’ This is just the first stage of the grieving, of the loss the lyrics discuss, it is the final, nearly blood curtling ‘GOOOOOODDDDDBYYYYYEEEEE’ that really gives ‘Good Morning Captain’ a run for it’s money. In the jittery ‘Girl O’clock’ our protagonist bounces back and goes all Forgetting Sarah Marshall, or almost Californication, sleeping with anything that moves and bringing out the Braniac like vocal tics to explore that sort of balls out recklessness. From that nervous breakdown and other self destructions, we head to the apocalypse and all the sirens and crashes involved in ‘8 and 1/2 minutes.’ While we’re at it, might as well throw a party to wash it down, like that Jennifer Lopez video, except before that, and not nearly as lame, or anything to do with Y2k. Because that would date the proceedings. And, in case you hadn’t gathered by all this , there is absolutely nothing dated about this album. When I go back and listen to things that I used to love, the hits from College or High School, lots of College hits stay with me. However, almost nothing from High School holds up. Where it was mostly all just heart on the sleeve romanticism or dated power chords, ‘Emergency and I’ seems to appreciate both, understand both, and use them to speak about a much more universal and timeless experience. The sort of things that we all think but are afraid to speak aloud. Or maybe not, I mean, It’s just a ten plus year old indie rock album by a bunch of guys who epicly flamed out in everything else musical they tried to do. No disrespect to “Change,” and album I loved and still love. But, it isn’t nearly half the statement that this particular piece of beauty is. It’s like trying to compare ‘Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain’ to Wowee, or Slanted. I’m also not saying this because I, unfortunately, will not be anywhere near the East Coast of America this January, I’m saying all this because it needs to be said. Because it’s the same sort of awkwardly beautiful self interested tripe that you may have already heard in this album. Or hopefully now, will hear.