The '59 Sound - The Gaslight Anthem (mp3)
Love U More - Sunscreem (mp3)
Struggling to express ugly emotions with those I trust and who love me isn't unique. The world is full of people who keep the bad shit bottled up. What does seem ironic is that I'm somehow more comfortable weeping or screaming or punching the top of my car while on the road, inviting strangers to witness my little tirades, which probably resemble something like "The Fast and The Exorcist."
Songs that can at the right moment draw forth the poison from inside me are legion. Not like they're squeezing blood from a stone, fer Chrissakes. These songs are squeezing water from an overburdened sponge. In college, the Sunscreem song "Love U More" was on frequent repeat in my car, and I'd often drive blurry-eyed and wiping away tears. The lyrics are downright embarrassing at times, and the music ain't much better. But I'd just broken up with someone and haunted by the feeling I had failed to hold up my end of our relationship bargain. I didn't enjoy it coming to an end, but I couldn't see any other option. It felt like the lesser of two awfuls, but awful nonetheless. Something in that song helped siphoned out the poison.
Lately, "The '59 Sound" by The Gaslight Anthem has been getting heavy rotation in my ears when I'm alone in the car. The song's got teenagers, tragedy, and the mention of a gospel choir. It's a top-notch weeper that works even though it's not "quiet and minor and peaceful and slow."
You release them into the world knowing full well there's plenty of growing up still to do, but you can't help them, and you can't even witness it happen anymore. Instead, you replace them with a new crop and start the damn thing over again. It's this weird "Time to make the donuts" "Groundhog Day" kind of feeling.
The chains I've been hearin' now for most of my life.
This particular senior class experienced some heavy shit on their journey. Two student deaths over a 2-year span, and both off-the-charts unusual and tragic. While the deaths of those boys were most especially painful to their parents and relatives, tragedies kill parts of everyone they touch, and those deaths touched every student in one way or another. Every adult, too, for that matter. "The '59 Sound" is the sound of tormented teenage souls, desperately clawing and fighting to accept the unacceptable.
And I wonder, were you scared when the metal hit the glass?
Although I was by no means his best friend, we had spent plenty of time in one another's company. The weekend before he was killed, he'd been going through the dorm with permanent markers, writing his name on pillars and walls and doors. "Bob was here '72." He wrote the "'72" part in the hopes it would look like some old alum had returned to make his mark for old times' sake.
Maybe four nights before his death, Bob came into my room and wrote it several times on our loft. We talked for probably half an hour, and it was the kind of conversation that meant very little to me at the time. But the night of his death, as about eight of us gathered silently on the balcony and struggled to understand how to feel and how much of it to share, I desperately tried to retrieve that conversation.
Surely it was no coincidence that he was leaving his mark on that dorm mere days before he died. Surely it was no coincidence that my longest personal conversation with the guy happened mere days before he was gone. Yet I could only remember bits and phrases, and none of those orphaned pieces felt meaningful enough to justify the symbolism of a young man imparting some last crucial wisdom on his friends. I was still too young and clueless to realize that nothing he had said would ever allow his death to feel meaningful.
Young boys, young girls
Ain't supposed to die on a Saturday night.
No offense to the God in which I believe, but I can think of many worse things than getting to spend an eternity listening to my favorite songs, or even getting the gift of having one or two of them release me from life's waning moments. And sometimes the only way to swim through the sadness is to take great hope in the little things.