Music is an important part of my fiction. Characters and stories develop from songs I hear and from their I create a soundtrack to moments of their lives. When a song strikes me so deeply, that’s where my mind goes, into a fugue of imagination and curiosity about the possible lives one might live. Fantasy comes smashing into a brain that probably needs to focus on other, more pertinent and adult things, like getting a real job and perhaps buying my own house or retiring to Port Angles, Washington, a place I have never been but whose waters still call to me.
When I first heard “Thinning,” the opening track on Baltimore dream pop trio’s Habit, I was instantly hit. My brain went cold, put on a hoody, slipped headphones in and felt the moisture not just on a face, but wetting feet as well as cold breath was exhaled. It reminded me, once I came too, of the frigid mornings in Virginia that I would walk to school, the twilight of dusk breaking down under the weight of a rising sun. And considering I was a angsty teenager in the 90’s what better sounds and words to remind me of those mismatched days.
Since the heyday of indie rock when that phrase actually described an ethic rather than a commercial aesthetic, the dream pop trio has kind of faded away. And while people want their Fugazi, Nirvana and Jawbox worship, I always wondered when Velocity Girl, Unrest and Edsel were going to get their due. Finally I found it in Snail Mail with dreamy guitars accompanied by mid-tone bass and understated but excellent drumming. That kinda shit was just as jarring and punk and life affirming as Superchunk but we were left with Shellac and Indie Rock(TM) became a product that watered down the rock aspects and overstated the introspective lonely boy poet to disgusting lengths.
And make no mistake, principle songwriter Lindsey Jordan goes deep inside. She’s ill, she’s love struck, she’s bored, she’s alone in her room staring at the ceiling, dreaming her days away. All of this however is delivered not with a feigned modesty saturated in woo-is-me self loathing, but with the kind of aside you would expect from a teenager wiser beyond her peers but stuck with the same suburban experiences. Unlike the chorus of 1,000 sad boys to afraid to make a move, Jordan is fearless against the apathy and tiredness that seems to overcome her in every song. You might think she was resigned, but then of course if she just sunk into the lulls she sings about she never would have wrote such somber and beautiful tunes. If she gave up we wouldn’t have gotten the half punctured guitar solo on the title track that could give J Mascis a run for his melancholy money.
If the education system doesn’t collapse I might become a teacher, standing in front of a room full of teenagers like Jordan who were born into a world whose chaos is no longer contained and try as the powers that be might cannot be covered up. Bullshit leaks through the pores of Baby Boomers and the Generation X guard of which I am a part of (and generally disgusted with). The anger is not punctuated in today’s youth, so far as my old ass can see. It is resigned, not to the adopted apathy of the grunge era, but to the dismissal of generations that let shit slide. With the world at their fingertips, today’s kids are a full fledged middle finger, and that’s probably the best stance they can take. So, if this is going to be material in the bridge I used to get across to them, rather than even the echoes of Cobain or Corgan or Deal, than so be it. This is the good shit. Don’t sleep on it.