Monday, March 23, 2009

Ten: A Retrospective, Part 2

If you missed Part 1 of the Ten retrospective you can find it here:

I realized that I probably should have included Jeremy with part 1 and started part 2 with Oceans because based on talking to people that are more "casual" fans or even non-fans, the 1st 6 tracks are the more popular, accessible songs that get mainstream play, whereas the last five are lesser known and seem to be adored mostly be more "serious" fans of the band. Alas. I suppose that I can edit them to put Jeremy in Part 1, but then this paragraph won't make any sense, so I won't do that.

Anyway, on to Part 2...

Jeremy: Anyone who is even a casual fan of the band probably knows the story behind Jeremy, the 15 year old boy who shot himself in front of a classroom, as depicted in the legendary, award-winning music video. The more personal part of the song is the second verse, where Eddie connects Jeremy's story to that of a kid he went to school with that he had had some altercations with and who ended up shooting up a classroom of students. However, while the song is titled after Jeremy, I think it is more about the other kids in the classroom and, by extension, us than about him. It is easy to psychoanalyze Jeremy: he was no longer able to cope with being teased and picked on at school and whatever emotional abuse he suffered at home, and rather than tackle those issues head on and really get to the root of them, he took the easy way out and killed himself. The larger point is that the kids (and us) did (and do) the same thing: when something tragic happens we "try to forget this, try to erase this." We take a few moments to think about what happened, but then ultimately we move on, because life goes on. I'm not sure this is necessarily a bad thing, it's just a symptom of reality and human nature that we can easily see in Jeremy but we don't always see in ourselves. (Special bonus: you can watch the original, lesser known music video of Jeremy here.)

Oceans: A truly beautiful song using water as an extended metaphor to symbolize his love as well as the practical obstacle to being with the person he loves. Given Eddie's love for surfing, this water/ocean metaphor is hardly surprising. I don't think this is about a past love or lost love as much as current love interest from whom he is currently apart. Contrasted to Black or Porch the speaker here is much more optimistic and forward looking and awaits being reunited with the one he loves.

Porch: I think this is about someone left behind by a person they cared about, not because of any one's choice but rather because of circumstances beyond their control. Death comes to mind as a possibility because the notion that he wishes he could have "learned your voice one last time" implies that this happening in the future is no longer a possibility as he knows that he will not not hold or feel the person, "never again." Instead, he is left behind to deal with the monotony and mundane existence that is everyday life: paying bills, taking care of shit. Sometimes the malaise that follows the deep depression, where you just go through the motions of life instead of actually living and experiencing it, can be worse than the depression itself. Ultimately though, to break out of it, one has to realize that you can't stay stuck in neutral, stuck in the middle, because eventually "there ain't gonna be any middle any more." Instead, the goal is to wake up every day with the attitude that "this could be the day." And if it's not, maybe tomorrow will be.

Garden: The opening verse of this song is one of the most perfectly ever written: "The direction of the eye, so misleading/ The defection of the soul, nauseously quick/ I don't question, our existence/ I just question, our modern needs." The contrast between the eyes and the soul - between the things in life that we think we want and the things that are actually good for us - is striking. A commentary on modern society and our modern "needs" that reminds me of David Foster Wallace's comment that those who worship tangible things will eventually come to be enslaved by those things. (It should be noted that the short musical piece that plays at the beginning and end of the album is called "Master/Slave." Interesting? Maybe.) They will subject themselves to things that will never be able to satisfy them as they spend their entire lives walking "with my hands bound...into your garden of stone," and spend the rest of eternity 6 feet under, finally realizing that they weren't able to bring any of those things along with them.

Deep: A truly dismal portrait of a man so consumed with depression and a lack of self-worth that he is on the edge, contemplating suicide. He ponders his existence and his own will but believes that to the "street below" and the "sky above," to the people around him, "he just ain't nothin." Rather than looking harder inside himself he looks outside to other people and projects his problems on to them, blaming society for the way he is. Rather than trying to break free from these issues, he sinks himself deeper into them, transforming into a murderer and rapist, viewing his victims in the same way he believes others see him.

Release: To Ed, this song may have been about his tumultuous relationship with his stepfather or his non-existent relationship with his real father, but for me, this song is more so about the relationship many of us have with our Father, with a capital F - this song is about religion. I would be hard pressed to come up with better imagery to describe god sitting upon his heavenly throne than a "rocking horse of time." Anyone who has ever seriously contemplated god's existence and tried to reconcile faith with their own sense of logic and intuition can relate to the sleepless nights of deep thought, as one lies there waiting for someone, anyone to "speak to me." This struggle can be likened to chains of bondage that are so debilitating that they leave the subject trapped, crying out and begging, "release me!" (The 7 minute clip of the live performance at night 2 at the Garden this year was probably the most spiritual experience of my life.)

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