I got one of those "remember when" text messages the other night when Neal checked in to ask if I remembered an ill-fated late night bike ride to try and get a new Dave Matthews album in college. It's worth pointing out that we had no really solid idea of where the Best Buy was in Green Bay, my bike and fitness levels should have precluded me from trying this and it was the middle of the night when we started out (midnight CD release). Neal got it right when he concluded, "We're lucky we're not dead after that."
He has a totally valid point.
It's interesting to look back now and see just how determined we were to be the first kids in our dorm to grab the new album (Before These Crowded Streets, for the record). I have two, maybe three DMB songs on my iPod right now and really, I can't think of many reasons to be anywhere at midnight any more, aside from on my couch watching a movie or playing video games. That's just the hard driving rock and roll lifestyle I now lead.
The piece I've really been rolling around for some time now (that's where I was in the 18 months since the last post here!) is just how much your perception shifts as you get older and have the pleasure (or displeasure) of hanging around with musicians.
There's a definite point where it hits you that your buddy's band, which means so very much to at least a handful of people, is very likely full of shit. A few seconds pass and it hits you that your favorite bands are likely similarly full of shit.
Let me explain.
You get a new album and you furiously tear the plastic off and (if you're like me) cram that sucker into your car's CD player as fast as you can, sometimes with those stupid security stickers still attached to the CD itself. Then, you wait for something to grab you.
I normally don't know songs word for word when I buy a CD anymore, but I track down the songs that appeal to me musically, then start figuring out just what the hell they're singing about. It's an odd little afterthought in most cases.
Rarely do I pore over music like I used to, finding meaning in the lyrics that will give me clues about how to deal with a girlfriend or make it through the week or effectively fight the man. In short, I'm a little let down that music doesn't hit me like it used to. Granted, it hits me differently now, so I'm not a total robot, but I no longer turn to recording artists to explain my life to me or offer glimpses as to what it all means.
This is for the better, as hours spent in the company of musicians has taught me that they're by no means any wiser to the mysteries of the world and humanity than I am in most cases (in some cases, they are much, much dumber). It stops me just short of feeling sheepish for giving the idols of my teenage years so much credibility in my own mind, but I now find it oddly soothing when I catch a lyric or verse that makes me feel accepted or vindicated.
In short, I've gone from listening to albums for the answers to listening to them for the echoes.
Songs can now remind me of times in my life, specific people or trips or moments that we try to hold onto. "That's the song I listened to a lot when I drove to the hospital to see my son when he was born (Roger Clyne, Contraband). That's the song that reminds me of so-and-so's failed marriage (The Bottle Rockets, Gravity Fails). That's the song Neal played when he was showing me his new Harman Kardon speakers (Norah Jones, Don't Know Why)."
Again, not having any more or less insight than anyone else, I know I'm not the first to privately marvel at music's ability to serve as a cheap time machine, but the shift in how I interact with music has been something I'm cognizant of lately. The lyrics are still important, but are no longer the gospel I once assumed they were.
It's like Oasis sang when they said, "Don't put your life in the hands / of a rock and roll band / Who'll throw it all away."
Or something like that. I have a hard time keeping track these days.
(Image from: Metal-rules.com)