Saturday, February 02, 2008

Heaven Knows We’ll Soon Be Dust

With regard to the new album by Nada Surf, I guess I’m officially what the doods at Blender Magazine would describe as “totally gay over” it. I don’t really remember their ‘90s MTV hit, “Popular,” which everyone seems to mention when the subject of the band comes up. I’m not inclined to hold anything against them, especially not a dash of what was probably traumatic success. I decided this band was very wise -- Robert Frost wise, Basho wise -- when Lefty put a song of theirs called “The Blizzard of ‘77" on a mix he made me years ago (it was the summer of R Kelly’s “Remix to Ignition,” as I recall).

I’m generally not much concerned with lyrics, just because I don’t expect necessarily to get my wisdom, spine-tingling insight and verbal depth from pop music. Not that it’s not there. Anyway, this song strikes me as brilliant. I think this band has a handle on loss, impermanence, joy, abandon and the basic big stuff. Here are the lyrics:

Blizzard of '77
in the blizzard of ’77
the cars were just lumps on the snow
and then later
tripping in 7-11
the shelves were stretching out of control
on a plane ride
the more it shakes
the more i have to let go
now the signals
still getting all mixed up
we’re always doing damage control
but in the middle of the night i worry
it’s blurry even without light
i know i have got a negative edge
that’s why i sharpen all the others a lot
it’s like flowers or ladybugs
pretty weeds or red beetles with dots
i miss you more than i knew

It’s simply beautiful. Deep, with a kind of drug-induced buddha mind. The song is lovely, too. You should just go buy it somewhere. What I like about Nada Surf is the way they skirt close to the edge of being too pretty, like a picture of a spectacular sunset that’s almost embarrassing. (They also have a deft way of pairing these general deep-thought observations with poetic specifics.) Just staring into the grandeur like that. We’ve developed elaborate distancing strategies of irony, ridicule, cloaking devices, and detachment to prevent us from having to deal with that shit. The emotional retina burn.
So, the new album is called Lucky, and the band is giving away this MP3 of the song “Look at These Bones,” which I think is similarly moving. The song was inspired by a trip to those catacombs in Rome where the monks leave their bones and skulls, all stacked up in a big cord-wood-style memento mori ossuary.

This past week I had one of those experiences that just shock you out of the routine. I sent Lefty this e-mail about it:

so, some crazy shit happened to me the other day, tuesday. I was rushing home early to get there in time to bring [my dauughter] to a doctor's appointment. Just around the block from the office I rear-ended a guy on a motorcycle/scooter. It was at a stop sign. It was one of those scenarios where you're behind someone who you think is going and you're looking left to make sure you have the clear, and then because you think they already went, you go. In this case I smashed into him and he went up on my hood. It was crazy, crazy. He had a helmet. And he seemed to be fine. He wasn't even really pissed. I guess we were both in shock. Anyway, it gets real Raymond Carver, he needed to get to the UPS place, which was right where we were, but he insisted he didn't want to call the police or get an ambulance or go to the hospital or anything. I basically told him it was my fault and he should do whatever he wanted to do. So then he says he just needs to get to UPS and get home. So we chain the wreck of his bike to a fence and he hops in the car with me and we drive over to UPS. He send his package and then I drive him home. On the way there we're talking about our kids, and he's saying he just wants to get his bike fixed and if I want he can give me the number of the shop he's gonna take it to, or if I want I can just give him some cash. I ask him how much he thinks it will cost, and he says probably around $300 or so (the gas tank was trashed and the back lights were smashed). So we go to an ATM and I give him $360. Meanwhile I'm kind of a wreck and I'm like driving over the parking curbs in the parking lot and he starts thinking that I'm a basket case and he starts trying to calm me down. He's like, "you should go to Dunkin Donuts and get some coffee, breathe, take it easy for a little bit." Meanwhile I just practically killed the guy and he's trying to chill me out. So I give him the money and drive home. That's that.
It kind of blew my mind in the way you can, in an instant of inattention or impatience, become that asshole who basically destroys somebody's life. Now I'm just wondering if he's gonna feel like he has whiplash a week or a year from now.

and he recommended I post it with the Nada Surf song, which I’d also sent him a link to. It seemed like a good idea, and then tonight I was reading the liner notes to the album. There’s a whole long thing written by the main guy, presumably, about the choice for the record title, sort of some funny hand-wringing basically saying that some people seem to not dig it, but that he thinks it’s the right choice. He goes on about being lucky, and how we all are – to be alive, to be sort of happy, healthy, loved, etc. It’s heavy, but not trite. Then, toward the end of the small-print mini essay he says we’re lucky ...“that red wine exists, that we’re still alive after being knocked off bicycles” ... and so I’m still feeling the psychic connection here. Wide open. Dilated.

“See These Bones” - Nada Surf


Lefty said...

What a lovely, moving post. I feel like I just read the best poem I've read in years. Veil-piercing...

Frankie Lee said...

I'm glad you & the scooter guy are okay. It's always a fine line, isn't it, and that line always seems to be moving & changing--the line between living & not, between profundity & cheap sentiment. And there are always the questions--both in life and in art--of what exactly are you feeling, and do you want to express it, and if so how can you? It ain't easy, but I think both you & the band do a pretty fine job. It does remind me of "A Small, Good Thing" (I think that's the title).
Here's a tip for everyone: Click on the picture if you can't tell what it is.

monster paperbag said...

nada surf has managed to remain interesting until now.. nifty :)..