Sunday, February 26, 2012

Music Made Me - Part 7

I have plenty of musical memories from 8th grade, and I have another significant spike of influence in 10th grade that continues onward. But my Freshman year is a bit of a musical mystery. I've been digging and there just hasn't been that much that I've found. I guess in response to the extreme social changes of high school I didn't explore any new music. I mostly stuck with what I was already listening to and held on to that as a comforting constant in a sea of new experiences.

What we have here are mostly 8th grade experiences that just bled on through, because I basically have no memory of what was going on in late 1995.

Plateau - Nirvana

Most of my influences up until this point had been through friends. But at some point I started listening to the radio. Most adults get their radio time in the car, but as a kid you have to more intentionally carve out time to listen. I had a CD/cassette/radio stereo combo in my room by this point, and sometime around this time I started listening to 107.7 "The End".

The Nirvana Unplugged album was released shortly after Kurt Cobain did himself in. I had listened to Nirvana earlier on, and learned to play guitar to a lot of those tunes, but I didn't actually listen to them very much. This album though, this softening of their sound, really worked well for me.

I had fallen into the habit of listening to the daily top ten list on 107.7 before bed. I remember a long stretch where "Plateau" was the number one track. It got to the point where one night the DJ pleaded with people to lay off requests, to give up the slot to any other song even if for just one night. It's not even that amazing of a song; there are plenty on the album that I prefer. I to this day don't know why this is the song that worked for the mourners. Is it the sadness in his voice? The frantic chorus? The ethereal outro? Something about this song really connected with people to the point where they en masse called for it daily.

Personally I prefer "Oh Me". But that's not the memory now is it.

Add It Up - Violent Femmes

I had a cassette tape with part of this album on it. I don't know if that tape was from my friend Carlos, but I forever associate it with him.

This song was… raw. Dirty. I mean, he says "fuck", and that was still a big taboo to me. I felt like I was listening to something that I wasn't supposed to. I've heard "Blister in the Sun" plenty of times over the years, but it's "Add It Up" that takes me back to this time. There's something about the irate loneliness that just fit. Carlos and I are out on our bikes, full of misdirected lust towards our respective crushes. We're talking and bonding as we zip around. And this is the soundtrack. Of course we were outside with no ability to broadcast music, but retroactively this is what's playing in the background of my memory.

Devil Boy - Seven Mary Three

This is another album I attribute to times with Carlos. It immediately feels like an appropriate fit for those times, but I can't put my finger on why. It fits into that same mental bucket as that Femmes track: biking around the neighborhood.

I remember being not entirely satisfied with this album. There was something about the tone that didn't exactly work for me. It wasn't… effortless. But there was some potential. I wasn't able to really understand this until a couple of years later I experienced their next album, which we'll talk about when it comes around.

In the end I went with "Devil Boy" as the track here because it feels more nostalgic for the time. But I’m thinking I like "Anything" better.

Golopogos -> Muzzle - The Smashing Pumpkins

I started listening to the Pumpkins because of a girl. Now their next album came out, in all its two disc glory, and I listened to it for my own reasons. And it was one hell of an album. Billy Corgan certainly hadn't been dicking around with Siamese Dream, but Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is pretty much the definition of ambitious rock album. Sweeping, symphonic, complex, and sometimes downright difficult to listen to.

I could never listen to this album in direct sequence. It's just too all over the place. I developed some complicated series of track skips to carve my own path through it. It started with the title track, that lovely piano intro that brilliant lifts you up for "Tonight, Tonight". The journey from there was a dreamscape that sometimes dipped into nightmare. "Jellybelly", no thanks. "Zero" was okay, but I would rather skip right past to "Here Is No Why". I kept going for a bit but would be sure to skip "An Ode to No One". "Love" too, depending on mood. But then I’d be free to relax off the skip button as the disc closed out in style.

The best example of what the album was for me is in the combination of "Galapogos" and "Muzzle". "Galapogos" does that thing I love, where it slowly builds from a soft gentle intro into a heartfelt crescendo. That emotionally and sonically leaves me ready for the anthemic yell of "Muzzle". I perceive them as one song. Which is normally the sign of a good album, but of course I had to skip three or four tracks before getting to this pair. It somehow makes it even harder for me to select a song for this album. It was always a connected experience, however uneven the journey.

1979 - The Smashing Pumpkins

With two discs to the album I feel it can justify two entries. This album coincides with my increasing friendship with Noah. Mellon Collie was something we were both processing at the same time. I don't think I realized it at the time but we were listening to it in completely different ways. I'm pretty sure that the songs I skipped where the ones he listened to, and the ones that connected for me where ones he skipped. I didn't really understand this about our dynamic until a solid four years later when we were college roommates.

But there's one song that I think everyone can get behind: "1979". Care free, optimistic, and swept away by a groove. It's so tight and poppy that it feels like an extreme outlier in this crazy album. But it's so good that it feels perfectly in place wherever you put it.


  1. I think (almost) everyone of our age group has a distinct memory or feeling directly relating to 1979. It's just the song. I can feel exactly what it was like to be a teenager when I hear that song. And I never really even listened to the smashing pumpkins.

  2. Without caveat Add It up is a summer bike ride with you circa 1995 for me. My copy of that Violent Femme's tape is the only cassette that I ever broke from overuse. Add It Up and Kiss Off are now my go to karaoke song, because I feel those songs in my bones.

    I think Seven Mary Three, and their trying too hard aesthetic, really touched on my feeling of awkwardness in my transition from child to whatever I was then; certainly not adult.

    The last time I was in Gig Harbor I really wanted to go out into the woods to see what bike track turned into.