Rewind

It’s safe to say, by now, that the first four or five years of the millennium were the New York music scene (on a national scale, of course) revival years. Better yet, a majority of the post-punk/new wave, and garage rock influenced indie-rock that came out during those years, essentially, was from New York.

Back then, as far as sublime debuts went, the NYC “revival years” were full of them. In 2001, you had the Television-influenced The Strokes with, Is This It. 2003 brought the arty-garage punk of Fever To Tell from the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s. And, in between them, there was the brooding post-punk of Interpol on Turn on the Bright Lights. That in between album is this edition of Rewind.

Turn on the Bright Lights, released in 2002, painted a melancholic and insular view of life in New York. Whether life was or wasn’t like that in New York in 2002 is beside the point. The point is: Interpol, with their impeccable style, crafted an album full of songs with jagged guitars, bleak drums, hypnotic bass-lines, and gloomy lyrics.

Songs that, in turn, had detractors focusing on one thing; their influences. Sure, the similarities between Joy Division and Interpol are there and apparent—vocal likeness, sound, and overall aesthetic. One can even go as far as saying, influences from other post-punk bands, such as; Chameleons UK, Comsat Angels, and Television.

Yet, to overanalyze Turn on the Bright Lights and its influences, is a detriment to the record and to Interpol themselves. It’s a record that should be taken for face-value. Essentially, for what it is; a classic debut album that, so far, has stood the test of time.

When I was in my early to mid teens, I spent a summer (eh, a little less than that) at my uncle’s house in Modesto. Which is to say, for the several weeks that I was there, I was extremely bored. I’m not even being sarcastic about this either. You see, Modesto, is located about ninety-something miles east of San Francisco. Which is to say, it’s far from anything that remotely resembles a “fun” city. And, if Wikipedia is to be believed, it’s number six among all California counties in farm production. Yeah, you guessed it. It’s a farmland city. Basically, if you can’t fall asleep, you’re more than likely to count chickens (or cows) instead of sheep.

But, I digress. The point is: When I first heard Grandaddy’s The Sophtware Slump, I was taken back to that dull summer and to the detached insular feeling I had when I was there. A feeling that permeated throughout the record and throughout my first experience with it. All this because, the members of Grandaddy (Modesto natives themselves) used dreamy lo-fi vocals, gauzy keyboards, and earnest lyrics to capture the isolation, and humdrum of day-to-day life in Modesto perfectly.

For instance, on “The Crystal Lake,” Jason Lytle, sings about wanting to get out; “I’ve gotta get outta here. I’ve gotta get outta here.” During that chorus, I knew exactly what he felt, or what he was trying to get at—that longing to be anywhere, but your present location. In the end, its detached lyrics, and ELO influenced neo-psychedelic pop hit a chord with me, and my psyche. Truth is, to this day, whenever a song from the Sophtware Slump comes on my iPod, I’m immediately taken back to that summer, and to the aloof, insular feeling I had (living) there. Thankfully, this time around, it’s just for a visit, and not another long and dull summer.

There are different types of a breakup. There is the mutual breakup, where both parties involved, decide it’s best to end the failing relationship amicably. This type of breakup, most of the time, is a foreseeable one. Whereas, there is one of the better known breakups, the “it’s not you, it’s me.” Which, truth be told, generally translates into “yeah, it’s you.” This is the one, that most likely, catches you off guard.  Now, as to which one of these Beck experienced before writing Sea Change is beyond me, but one thing is for certain, it hurt.

Before the release of Sea Change in 2002, Beck’s records were known for being a sort of sonic kaleidoscope—mixing pop, hip-hop, indie-rock, funk, and whatever else he decided to throw in them. But, on Sea Change, Beck dumped (no pun intended) all that and went into a full-fledged singer-songwriter mode. And, what he came out with was nothing short of a genuine masterpiece (at least to me it is).

From album opener “Golden Age” to its closer “Side of the Road,” Sea Change is a beauty. Its instrumentation—acoustic guitar, string arrangements, harmonica, keyboards, etc—is stunning. Not to mention, its heartfelt and gut-wretchingly intimate lyrics. Lyrics that, nine years after the fact, still hit with the same emotional wallop that I experienced the first time I heard them.

Suffice to say, everyone knows breakups suck. More succinctly, breakups suck when you have strong feelings, and a history with that other person. The thing is, no failing/or doomed relationship, is worth salvaging if as, Beck says in “Paper Tiger,” you’re “just holding on to nothing/to see how long nothing lasts.” It’s at that point that, there’s nothing left to do but breakup—regardless of the pain and suffering that will come.

Pain and suffering that, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m a teeny bit (trying to be nice here) glad Beck went through it, because, damn, this record wouldn’t have been this painfully beautiful otherwise.