Thursday, March 12, 2009


Over the last month or so, I've been really enjoying reading some my friends' Top 25 album lists on Facebook. It never ceases to amaze me how powerful music can be to everyone, especially during those teenage years, when our scope of reference is smaller and it's so easy to live and die with every single event in our lives. So many of these lists I've read are dominated by the records, CDs, tapes, downloads, etc that were discovered during our ages between 14-24. I often find it sad that so many people lose that same intimacy with music as we grow older. I understand it, because life changes; priorities change; and the impact of singular songs or albums becomes slighter as we realize that there's not a lot that we haven't heard in some form before. Music from those years stays with us longer too.

About a month ago, I grabbed my dusty copy of the debut Pet Shop Boys CD (Please) off the shelf and threw it in the player. I hadn't listened to this album in at least 19 years. Hearing the opening drum machine of the song "Two Divided by Zero" made me realize three things: I knew every nuance of this album despite not hearing it in ages; it immediately brought back images and moments from the past into vivid detail; and finally, it sounded fresher than anything I had listened to for a long while. I suppose it makes sense that I would remember every nook and cranny of this CD, because when I bought it in 1985, I had about 20 other CDs in my fledgling collection.  Now, when I get a new CD, it has to compete with a couple of thousand, along with the endless soundtrack of songs that float through my mind - most of which I would never consider purchasing in any form. For example, I still devotedly go out and buy the latest music from the Cure, but it gets shelved quickly after a few listens and there's certainly no rush to get it. I remember driving to Salem of all places on a sunny early summer day in 1987, so I could get the Cure's Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me the day it was released. I drove straight back home (I also remember picking up a copy of that debut Concrete Blonde record along with it! Great day!)and listened to it in it's entirety - only coming out of my trance long enough to flip the records over when it was time.

Yet I realize that I still get that excited about new music. Maybe I am in a state of arrested development, but I find myself counting down the days till I can go track down the new Camera Obscura album, or the new Doves, or the second LP from Great Northern, or I find myself wondering if and when a new Lawrence Arms CD will be out. My enthusiasm is constantly being replenished by new music, or discovering new-to-me old music, or a fresh look at old favorites. Like right now, I'm listening to a song that I find myself pulling out of the archives about once a year on a sunny day, when I need a boost, or if I want to maintain some positive momentum, or when I decide to do some Spring cleaning: "Breakout" by Swing Out Sister. Today, I need a boost and this old 12" single is providing it. What could be better?


  1. Breakout is such a great song. I actually first heard it when I was in the UK Dec 86 - Jan fact, I think I bought it there, and was so happy when it came over to the states. Another one from that same stay was the Communards remake of Don't Leave Me This Way. I think I still have that tape, actually!

  2. I love that our brains store information with all these different triggers so that we can conjure up memories in different ways. Smells, textures, sounds. There just aren't many things that are as powerful as music and I don't think you're in some kind of arrested development at all. I will never forget the first time I heard Rodrigo y Gabriela's album for the first time and I was in my late thirties. It still makes me want to dance.