So, I had just turned 20 and finished my second year of university, and I was quite the wreck. My mother had died months ago, but I hadn’t taken any time to process it, instead focusing on getting through the semester and drinking vodka alone in my dorm room, avoiding my family and listening to early Beck, early Pavement, and Eels. My music taste was, to put it delicately, a little pathetic. I’d long been obsessed with music (since about twelve), but I really hadn’t gotten caught up to the present yet: after spending my childhood listening to what my parents listened to and my early teen years listening to what a good angsty Canadian teen listens to, but since I’d really been caught in a fairly scattershot selection of albums, in an attempt to find myself by looking through as many doors at once as possible. So I had The Velvet Underground, Fugazi, Pavement, early R.E.M., but very little from my contemporaries in terms of both time and location.
I’ll tell this story a million times with a slightly different point: I was unemployed. I had time to sit around listening to music and drinking all day, and it was the hottest, most humid summer of my life. I was young enough that I didn’t get fat, old enough to blend into the city, and miserable enough that I didn’t have the urge to get out of bed in the morning. I’d go entire days without leaving my apartment; closing my eyes and battling hangovers until my roommates left for work and picturing paint peeling off of the walls from the heat and my brain from the aftereffects. I was on my own planet culturally; a wacky world where people listened to Pavement and Radiohead and Dead Kennedys side by side with Travis and it was timeless, and it all fell a little short of saying something to me about my life. It was all I had, though, and I loved it as much as I could, being 20 and sheltered and shellshocked and not sure how to function in the real world, which, to be fair, I wouldn’t have to enter for another few years. In lieu of the real world I don’t think I really had a world at all. I was an idiot in the classical sense and in ingenue to the things it isn’t sexy to be an ingenue about: waking up in the morning, returning phone calls, connecting the internet. In a way, this is leading to something.
So, my girlfriend at the time who listened to cooler music than me, Bonnie, gets me to take her to a show playing at Massey Hall, a downtown venue I mostly knew as a concert theatre frequented by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, where I had performed several times as part of vocal choirs. Not really a good venue for a rock show. We get in a bit late, having scalped the scalper’s last pair of tickets, and some guy is the opening act, and he’s playing on a violin and singing…and nothing else. And he’s awesome. So I ask a guy sitting down who it is, and he replies with understanding of my awe “some guy named Final Fantasy…I don’t know.” The second band is Wolf Parade. The headliners were Arcade Fire. Are you the messiah? Yes I am.
Obviously, AF were the show, and the story of my life since then would have been way more lonely without them, but Wolf Parade aren’t quite as good, but are still great, and represented more generally the new model of my new favourite genre: meaningful indie-rock by bands comprised of people like me, who grew up in the same places, with the same struggles and pressures and situations and cultural milieus. Basically, listener-avatars. And I tended to like them as much like me as possible: the best place to be from is Toronto, that way they can reference places I know. Failing that, any cold climate does the trick fairly well. No conservatives, but no god damned hippies either. Joy but not contentment. Irony above misery. Friends and not enemies, but friend-watching is even better. And for fuck’s sakes, don’t write about this stuff too often or take yourself so seriously, and read your classics and drink far too much. Romanticism and fatalism.
I don’t mean to say, of course, that Wolf Parade were the only group that moved me along in life, just that they’re a good example. It’s not to say I don’t listen to anything else these daze. Excuse me for a minute, I have to apologize to a friend for calling her “a gaping, gaping cunt” while I was drunk on Saturday. As you can see, I’ve become a very well-adjusted and likeable man.
So anyway. Indie broke as a genre back then, and it was good. Indie is a “thing” now, with Vampire Weekend debuting at #1 and all that, but at the time it was something special and awe-inspiring to suddenly see music made by earnest young men from Montreal that didn’t sound like anything I’d heard before. I forget whose quote it was (Moliere) that every generation gets to discover love for itself and think it has found something new – I’m pretty sure that was “Shine A Light” for me. And yes, I’m exaggerating, but gosh darn. “Spend boring hours / in the office tower / In a bus / on a bus back home to you.” Remember those two isms I just mentioned? And the chorus goes “You know our hearts beat time out very slowly / You know our hearts beat time / They are waiting for something that’ll never arrive” and it…never? Never! Just for an added dose of cynicism. And then the guitars pick up the already catchy riff and it’s quite fun and upbeat sounding despite how you know it is.
It’s never quite as good elsewhere, but everything here is about slowly getting used to being resigned, and fighting it off with varying degrees of success. At least that’s certainly the gestalt, and it feels warm and familiar like frost in late November. Only it’s music, so it’s great. I wonder how people like you and i avoided slipping up and becoming lonely, fat shells of human beings by now. So many people we know have done so. It’s nice to be pretentious once in a while.
Except for that one song about murdering Jews, this is a real “corker.” Also, the intro to “Fancy Claps” steals the riff from AC/DCs “Hells Bells.” Good one, paradesters. Now at last I can delete this motherfucking album off of my iPod – do you know how difficult it is to write about albums you care about and not have it turn into pretentious trash? Oh wait. Fuck.