It turns out that I kinda-sorta have to eat my words from the post I wrote about The Gaslight Anthem a couple weeks ago. I compared them to Sons of Bill but gave them a markdown because they couldn’t seem to shift into a lower gear like Sons of Bill can. I apparently had not made it all the way to the end of Handwritten then, because there’s this song called “National Anthem.” Here, listen to it:
I could have used that song about four years ago. The first verse pretty much defines a certain period of my life. And the second verse…
Now everybody lately is living up in space
Flying through transmissions on invisible airwaves
With everything discovered
Just waiting to be known
What’s left for god to teach from his throne?
And who will forgive us when he’s gone?
I like music. I’ve defined my life, or at least parts of my life, through and by music. I like writing about music. I also tend to really, really despise people who write about music. I don’t think people should write about music.
This is awkward.
In order to get me into the proper mood for this post I set up a randomized playlist consisting of exactly six albums: Sons of Bills’ A Far Cry From Freedom, My Hometown, and Sirens and The Gaslight Anthems’ American Slang, The ’59 Sound, and Handwritten.
The randomizer just went from Gaslight’s “National Anthem” to SoB’s “Roll on Jordan.” This is how “Roll on Jordan” starts:
Yeah, in this sad world we live in
The government bought all the trains
And there’s a lot of lonely people
And they’re all flying aeroplanes
And they think they’re closer to heaven
Lord but that is far from true
You gotta take that ride on the
River of Jordan
See what a boy from Galilee can do
The second verse of “National Anthem” makes me think of the first verse of “Roll on Jordan.”
The problem with people who write about music is that they generally write about music to let you know how much smarter they are than you. Or they write about music to let you know that they’re not nearly as dumb as you think they are. It kind of seems to depend on what they’re writing about. If it’s some indie band like, say, Sons of Bill or The Gaslight Anthem it’s probably the former. If it’s Taylor Swift it’s probably the latter.
Here’s the thing: I don’t care what you think of me for writing about Sons of Bill. I like them. Don’t get me wrong, I want you to like them, too. I think that they’re one of the ten best bands in the world right now, and that’s a list that includes the reconstituted Soundgarden, two different Scott Lucas projects, Mike Doughty, Flogging Molly, Matt Nathanson, and Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers. I also genuinely don’t give a shit whether you actually do like them or not. Music, like all art, is completely subjective. My appreciation for a particular band or song shouldn’t have any impact on your appreciation of the same thing. It doesn’t fucking matter.
I took Amy to exactly one concert. It was a Local H show at Durty Nellie’s in Palatine. I couldn’t go to Local H shows or listen to Local H songs without thinking about that night for a long time after we stopped talking. That included the time I saw Local H in Houston and Fort Worth when I was in Texas and desperate for anything that reminded me of home.
It sucked. It’s weird, too, the memories that come from moments like that. I was driving my old Cavalier at the time and I’d just installed a new Clarion head unit. It was a pretty high-end unit and I was proud of it. As I drove home from the Local H show she pointed out that the colors weren’t lined up correctly with the rest of the dials on the dash of the car.
At least she knew to be happy for me about the fact that I had a cool head unit. I’d installed a pretty cool Pioneer unit in an earlier car and the girl I was dating at the time had only pointed out that my radio presets were suspiciously secular in their musical content. I think I’d told Amy that story. So she might have gotten the message already.
I was at a party a couple weeks ago. While I was there I met this really cute blonde. I walked her back to her car, which required a detour to my car for…y’know…reasons. It was really cold, so I turned the car on to get the heater going. I reached over to turn the sound down on the stereo and she told me to leave it on. She wanted to know what I was listening to.
As it turns out it was one of many CDs I’ve been obsessively working on of late. I keep trying to come up with the greatest randomized driving compilation. It contained everything that mattered: Veruca Salt, Letters to Cleo, Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Local H, Scott Lucas & the Married Men, Sons of Bill, Garbage, the Wheeler Brothers, and Mike Doughty.
I reached over to turn the music off and she said she wanted to hear what I was listening to. She didn't seem to realize that she might as well have asked to see me naked.
Right after I moved back from Texas I went on a couple dates with this one woman. After the first date I was walking back to my car with Sons of Bills’ “So Much for the Blues” running through my head. It was right then that I knew it wouldn’t work out.
That’s the thing about writing about music. I don’t have to justify any of it to anyone else. If you, as the reader of this blog post, listen to Sons of Bill and don’t like them it doesn’t negate my memories. If you, as the reader of this blog post, listen to Sons of Bill and love them it doesn’t make me like them more.
Too many people who write about music don’t get that, though. They think that your appreciation levels somehow impact their lives. It doesn’t. Or, at least, it shouldn’t. If you’re the sort of person who thinks that the opinions of others somehow invalidates or reinforces yours then, well, you’re just a sad, pathetic person.
The thing about music, though, is that you can’t get more personal than a song. You also can’t get less personal than a song. I love Sons of Bill. I’m coming to love Gaslight Anthem. I want you to love both bands as well.
Please. Go. Love them both. But know that if you decide that they’re not your cup of tea that I just don’t care.
Why should I? You don’t think about the same things that I think about when you hear them, after all.
For the record, Taylor Swift sucks. It’s not because her music is trite and overcommercialized, which it is. It’s not because she seems to think that fucking other people over to fuel her next number 1 hit is a good business decision, which seems to be the case. It’s because SHE CAN’T FUCKING SING. That’s my main gripe. Listen to her sing live. She doesn’t get within the same ZIP code as the appropriate key.