Review Summary: A black mile indeed.
Imagine for a moment, if you will, that Simple Math
’s opener ‘Deer’ had an existential revelation and found the meaning of life. That’s how A Black Mile to the Surface
begins; this surge of optimism and certainty that simply can’t be dissuaded. As the verses ramp up at every turn, sounding more and more heavenly, it sets the stage for something greater than you could have imagined. Even grander than Simple Math
, and more emotional than Mean Everything to Nothing
. You’re skeptical, but you press on. The bar has been officially raised.
You come home to your wife, and there’s a positive pregnancy test sitting on the table. You glance at her inquisitively, she nods yes, and you break down in tears of joy. You attempt to keep your expectations in check, but you can’t help it. You begin to envision what it will be like with an extra chair at the dinner table. The euphoria feels limitless, and life suddenly feels more purposeful, as though this whole new dimension has been opened. ‘The Gold’ buzzes through your speakers and you can feel the band’s boisterous confidence swelling from beneath the surface. Hull, ever poignant, spits out “couldn't really love you any more, you've become my ceiling” and you choose to interpret it as not being able to love someone more than you already do. You immediately look at your spouse and echo that sentiment.
The next several weeks are a blur of excitement. There’s a sense of hopeful mystery, as you wonder just how much your life will change. It’s scored perfectly by ‘The Moth’; you can relate to the smooth, Silversun Pickups-styled production and overall mystique all too well. “Throw the man you used to be away”, Hull melodically instructs, before erupting into a nearly screamed “ahhh” with a palpable intensity that can’t quite fit into words. Black Mile
has already won your heart, and you know that it is going to be one of those albums
that stay with you forever; a byproduct of life events coinciding with its release and an uncanny relation to Hull’s lyrics.
You twist the key in the lock and exhaustedly push the front door open after a twelve hour day of work. Your wife is sitting on the couch with tears streaming down her face. You immediately rush to her despite already knowing in the back of your mind what’s wrong. No words are exchanged for several minutes and you just hold each other. You feel the entire weight of the world crashing down on your shoulders, and ‘Lead, SD' scores the giant void that opens in your chest: “This is temporary, I just heard I'm gonna be a dad, nobody knew today would be the day he loses it.” You break down, too.
The next several days are a blur of depression. You go through the motions at work, just waiting for quitting time. Your coworkers sense something is wrong but you admit nothing of the sort. You avoid confronting your inner turmoil and focus on your spouse, as the lines “I'm lost without a single clue as to where I'm headed, I look for her because without her I'm going to sink” play over and over again in your head. She’s driftwood, and you’re merely clinging on for dear life in the eye of the storm. The subtle piano notes of ‘The Alien’ feel like a self-induced calm designed to prevent you from losing your mind, while lyrical brushstrokes of “that’s alright” closing out the ever-warm “The Sunshine” feel like a reassuring hand on your shoulder. Somehow you know everything will be alright, even if you can’t bring yourself to think it at the time.
Then one morning during your commute, you completely break down during ‘The Grocery’ for no reason at all. You begin to carefully contemplate the lyrics of the song and pick yourself up, realizing how much you’ve been wallowing in self-pity. It shouldn’t take a gun in your mouth to realize how good you still have it. You take the line “I've been trying to find the right way to get out of here” and make it your mission statement. The awe-inspiring, swelling progression of the chorus to ‘The Wolf’ affirms that you’ve turned the corner. Deep down, you feel the hole in your chest beginning to heal over. You tell yourself that with more time and effort, you’ll one day regain that feeling of overwhelming hope and optimism once on display during ‘The Maze.’
You turn your thoughts decisively to the future. You spend the next several weeks feeling ashamed that you let yourself feel like the victim of something so temporarily disappointing, but let it serve as further motivation. The bare, echoed ‘The Parts’ is written as a memory from Hull’s perspective but you project his past into your own future: “give it thirteen years…both your legs up, you're crying…trying to push a life out from your belly.” You hear his Britney Spears reference and you chuckle a little bit, then realize it is the first time you’ve really smiled in almost a month. You bring flowers home to your wife, curl up on the couch, and remember how damned lucky you are to even have the opportunity to be disappointed in such a way. You find yourself almost singing aloud Hull’s touching end to ‘The Silence’ and Black Mile
as a whole: “Let me hold you above all the misery…let me open my eyes and be glad that I got here.”
Three months later, you find yourself sitting at a keyboard trying to find a way to accurately express your connection to A Black Mile to the Surface
. It’s at least the third time you’ve tried to do it, and you decide that the best way is to simply recount the memories you’ve associated with each song. As you begin to realize that it tells your story perfectly, you keep on going. It’s indulgent as hell but you don’t care, it just feels good to get it off your chest. ‘The Silence’ is in its waning moments as you finish typing and there’s this sense of resolution. You decide once and for all that it’s time to leave those memories behind and move on. A Black Mile to the Surface