Saturday, October 16, 2010

Breakup Music: The Soundtrack to the End of an Era

Last concert together: The National at House of Blues in Dallas this past Friday.

There really is no nail in the coffin for a relationship that's just ended quite like opening up Words With Friends on the good ol' iPhone to see that your ex has just resigned the game you were in the middle of playing.  This is especially true of my ultra-competitive ex who has always been quite principled about resigning WWF matches because "you should never quit because you never know what might happen".  Those words hang in the air with a myriad of meanings to me as I begin writing this--as I'm sure a series of flashbacks will begin to hang around my head over the next several weeks and maybe months as I mourn the loss of my relationship.  We were actually playing two games and I was ahead in both (in one for sure, the other I can't remember but I know it was close!), by the way--which for those who know how bad-ass of a WWF player my lovely ex is, they'd know that that's no small feat.  Figures.

But life is all about contingencies and coping mechanisms, right?  That's why I'm suddenly blessing you all with this entry.  That's also why in my oh so "High Fidelity" sort of way, I plan to dive head first in to my record collection.  I'll also pray and I'll also probably have an extra drink or two and then I'll get up and go to work because that's just what you do.  But as it was before, the soundtrack to the end of one era and the beginning of a transitional one is noteworthy to me.  And whether it is noteworthy to any of you isn't really the point.  The point is that when major relationships end for all of us, we all have certain signposts in that wounded little brain of ours--the last place you had dinner together, the last time you kissed, the last 100+ point word you played against them (QUILTED, in case you were wondering).  For me, there are notable music moments I'll always associate with "us"--both in good times and in bad.  These aren't so much the bad times as much as they are the end times (that sounds a bit apocalyptic, eh?).  And this music will always be associated with this time no matter what happens next.  But in the same way that I was able to keep listening to Ryan Adams, Morrissey, and Juliana Hatfield after my ex-fiancee and I broke up, I have no doubt that I'll be able to listen to this music fondly again.  If I believed that great music could be somehow ruined forever for me, it would almost be like saying that a huge part of me was ruined forever.  And I'm not that emo.

Last concert together: The National.  House of Blues, Dallas.  Saturday, October 9th.

This concert came just days after "The Big Fight" and preceded "The Last Fight" of last night.  Wounds were still fresh, but we had both had time to make enough peace to drive to Dallas and make this show.  I credit her, because my initial inclination was to cancel this trip and she insisted we go.  She was right, as she often was, and we went and I'm glad we did.  We both love The National and they didn't disappoint.  They played almost every one of my favorite songs--the sad, beautiful, frustrated songs that are indicative of their catalog.  But also the songs she and I both knew and had heard together so many times.  The songs that bonded us just a bit.  At one point, she leaned over and remarked that The National was the first band she'd heard me play that she was unfamiliar with that she actually liked.  I leaned over and spoke in her ear (since it was pretty loud in there), "You're welcome."  I kissed her on the cheek and at that moment I had hope for us.  It was our last tender moment--but what a great last moment.  A great last concert.  The band finished their encore with an a capella, sing-a-long version of "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks".  I felt at that moment that we were all a part of something so unique--that rare feeling of camaraderie where you feel like you're a part of something no one has been or ever will again be a part of.  Magic.  For one night.  I'll store this one away as one of our best moments and will remember it fondly no matter what.  I hope.  I mean, if I can, that shows maturity or something, right?

Last Record I Listened to Before the Breakup: Brighten the Corners by Pavement

This is my favorite Pavement record.  Album opener "Stereo" starts buzzing and blistering and exploding so soon after the needle hits the vinyl and I am suddenly a teenager again.  And it is good.  About the halfway point of side one, she calls and we begin--I believe unbeknownst to us both at the time--"The Last Fight".  I was just about to step in the shower and I almost didn't answer the phone.  But I did.  And such is the way of fate and related things.  This is not to say that we wouldn't have eventually broken up, but it's the little moments like this and all the little decisions you made or didn't make that find a way to nip at your heels as you try to escape all of this madness.  One minute, it's this.  And the next...  You all know what I mean, I think.  "Brighten the Corners" is an amazing album on many levels, but the irony of it being Pavement's last great album before the band collapsed under the weight of internal disagreements, fights, bickering, etc. is not lost on me.  A band responsible for so much good was susceptible to the same mistakes, the same harsh words, the same actions that destroy so many human relationships.  It's sad and a tragedy on some level, but go on we must.  They did.  And I will.  After this weekend, at least.

First Record I Listened to After the Breakup: Girls Can Tell by Spoon

Armed and/or burdened with a night of sleep and a little time to digest it all, I chose this record to listen to around 7 AM this morning.  This is not to say that I gave much thought to the selection of this album at the time.  I was barely awake and I just knew I was looking for one of my "comfort records"--one of those "old standbys" that you listen to because you know it and it knows you and is like a great friend, a comfortable pair of shoes, or your favorite single malt scotch that warms your chest and might be a good idea or a bad idea depending on what time of day you decide to drink because you're not an alcoholic and you don't want to fall in to using liquor as a primary coping device--but I digress.  As I listened to it and took that shower I never ended up taking yesterday because I was too busy answering a certain phone call and dealing with the aftermath, a realization related to the aforementioned "Brighten the Corners" came to me.  Just as that album represented the last great moments of a band barreling down the path of dissolution, "Girls Can Tell" was Spoon's first truly great album--their third album and the one that solidified them as a band and as a unit capable of doing great things.  It took some time, but they found greatness in their work and ran with it.  And I can, nay must, believe the same thing for myself.  And I'm not talking about finding some great girl.  My ex IS a great girl, but like many things in life it apparently wasn't meant to be.  No, I'm talking about putting it all (back) together and coming out stronger and moving on and moving forward, and blah blah, etc.  And today isn't really the day to ask me why that's important or what I envision moving forward in my life.  I just know there's no other choice but to move on.  

For me, I have faith God is watching out for me.  I have the same faith that my friends and family are there.  And for these reasons, I am truly blessed.  For all of you, it may be the same or something different based on your perspective.  Either way, the music will prompt thought, reflection, relief, and release.  It'll always be there in the background.  Another one of those constants I don't have to reach too high to grasp.  It's one of the things I can count on.  And most of us don't count too high when it comes to the number of things we can count on.  As Morrissey once said, "There is a light that never goes out."  Mine's a little low, but it is still lit.  It is still lit.

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