It's November 27, 2005 and the trees on the road outside my window are anorexic in the dying glow of an orange streetlight; it's hard to make them out properly through the lashing rain that's blurred the pane. I'm lying on my bed, staring at the ceiling and getting lost in the retina burns that float through my vision but never stay long enough for me to pin them down. Downstairs, my parents are arguing again, always nearly divorced about something and never really decided on anything. My bedroom door's closed, but not for the shouting; it's always shut at this time of year, whichever side of it I'm on. It helps to cordon off a place you can escape to that you know hasn't let the storm in while you were out at college. In the far corner of the room, on a chest of drawers littered with CDs and t-shirts, a single light on a HiFi glows yellow-green, and the picked opening guitar of a song called Tautou drowns out absolutely everything: the teenage confusion, the slamming of doors, the storm at the window... everything.
In the last 5 days, it's dawned that the end of school is just a shadow of the start of something that never really ends. It's a bittersweet revelation, because the start of the academic year has been enjoyable and fresh, just peppered with the same difficult, awkward uncertainty that you'd have to assume sticks around forever. But the nights throwing punches at the dividing wall between my brother's room and mine are long gone; this is more of a deliberated, downbeat mindset. And I still get angry from time to time, it just manifests itself differently. But at the same instant, the things that have happened in the last half a decade add up to a ragged patchwork tapestry of learning how to tell when people - me included - aren't telling the whole truth. And the back roads of this removed village where I've lived my whole life, they're just starting to lead somewhere. Great nights in great friends' garages sipping Smirnoff from the bottle and gambling away our inhibitions have opened up lists on lists of places where could go from here. Most of us to uni, I guess, but that's a lifetime away now.
And where do you start with music? Deja Entendu, spinning through the darkness at me as Lacey sings: "Nobody wants to be half the world away at times like these." I think sometimes you do, though; isn't it fine, when you're a teenager, to drift away at points? However much nights like these are coated - soaked, even - with the difficulties of growing up, Lacey says it best: "Keep the blood in your head, and keep your feet on the ground." If you can manage that, what's the harm in letting yourself get lost once in a while? For me, that escape takes the form of music; nights that resemble The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot are a lot easier to understand when they're so beautifully stated atop an acoustic guitar. And there's no better way to get lost than screaming along to the hook of Quiet Things, grinning and ready to take on all comers. So much of the music I listen to regularly does the same, but Brand New do it every single time.
Rough edges allowed, the last 4 years have been exciting. Granted, these days and nights take a while to kick into action, but when they do that doesn't detract from the way you connect with the things you see and hear. We're just kids, still, really, learning what works and mostly what doesn't, and what it takes to understand that is this string of passionate, sometimes painful, always exciting house parties and drawn-out evenings. It's weird to keep coming back to it, but Play Crack The Sky's just started, and I love this acoustic guitar. "What they call love is a risk, 'cause you will always get hit, out of nowhere by some wave." It kinda makes the nonsense you can't help feeling a little bit easier. It's like standing on the front row of a Roman legion with no shield; if you look sideways, and realise that nobody else does either, you get a fire in your eyes. You know how I said I close my door as the nights get darker because it feels safer? I think I might go open my window a crack. Let some fresh air in.
I tried to make this not like lots of the other concept reviews I've read on this site at as many junctures as possible, made slightly easier by the fact you can talk about a 17 year old's life with the inclusion of music quite easily, but I didn't want it to come across as a forced/arbitrary discussion of what dial number Jesse's distortion pedal is turned to. What I wanted was to capture the record's value in terms of atmosphere and abstract ideas, obviously as well as its overall importance.
As I said, though, I have no idea how it worked. Cheers for the responses.
this is very good. you should have probably snuck in more about what the album means to you and stuff rather than just kinda slipping in how you would listen to it back in the day and tell as story, but literary-wise this is very very good.
not but seriously, adam, great review. the only advice i have is i thought the first paragraph paled in comparison to the latter ones, mainly because it seemed (especially with the first few sentences) that you were trying too hard to be "lit'ry," all the adjectives sort of make it sound very high school, but maybe you were trying to go for that.
but then i read everything else and it was awesome (particularly the 3rd paragraph love it)