Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Song to Download Now: Ozma- "Baseball"

When I made some emo cracks a few days ago, it got me thinking of the heartfelt appreciation I had for it at an earlier point in my life. My senior year of high school was a baldly emotional time filled with lust for girls I couldn't have, fear for starting a new chapter in my life, and over-processed discomfort with everything else. Things haven't changed much.

Through hours and hours of listening to music, I've learned the quality that attracts me the most is contradiction. Music is boring to me if it doesn't contain some underlying tension that makes it more complex than it might seem superficially. It's why I don't like Dave Matthews Band and do like rap. If I'm going to have fun listening to music, I at least want to feel bad about it in my ivory tower.

And emo resonated with me because of its tension. It's a genre marked by confusion in theory but distinguished by forcefulness in presentation. Emo is prideful of its inspirations and legacy but hesitant to define itself. Emo screams because expression is its only salvation, but it mumbles when asked to repeat itself because it knows it's damned.

To reconcile these tensions, I cried a lot and wrote mostly bad poetry.

Chances are, if you're on Kung Fu Records, you have to wait for rides.

I associate the band you're hopefully listening to, Ozma, with accidents and near-misses. Their claim to fame--or more accurately, their claim to most people having never heard of them--is that they sound exactly like Weezer. This cannot be denied. In fact, back in the day, I was trying to download some Weezer b-sides on Kazaa and accidentally paced this mis-labeled Ozma song. The confusion is understandable: the hearty crunch of the guitars, the solos aping the main melodic line, the over-worked harmonies, and the brooding vocals are vintage Weez.

The difference is that when Ozma released its album Rock 'N Roll Part III in the summer of '01, they were producing the heartsick, earnest, and ultimately cheerful rock that Weezer had abandoned for self-aware bullshit like "Hash Pipe." Ozma had surpassed its biggest inspiration, even though that inspiration was supposedly still in its prime. In a way, the success of Ozma's watershed album, which contains four other legit bangers besides "Baseball,"* stands as an example of the breakneck pace at which emo grew; followers seemed to replace their heroes before you could say Blake Schwarzenbach.

"Baseball" is certainly a nostalgic record, but there's something more than warm memory at work here. The desire to stop time is a theme that's been around as long as the romantic period, but it's rarely as rueful as it is here. The speaker doesn't just ache to spend summers playing baseball again, to return to that time. He knew he never wanted to leave in the first place.

The chant of the epic bridge accomplishes this tone by introducing the person connected in the memory: "Every time I think I've finished being young/I catch myself having fun/But the moment passes as the sun moves on/So I turn myself back to you." Turning back to that person is a consolation, a replacement for something else that can't be returned. Instead of living with that person, the speaker is living through [presumably] her. With her, he can find out more about that lost time, whereas most songs would detail finding out more about the girl through the memory. Additionally, the phrasing of the lyrics is so much more tragic by implying that having fun, such an intrinsic part of childhood, is forbidden and foreign to adulthood.

At the height of my interest in Ozma, they toured in support of their album Spending Time on the Borderline. I planned on seeing them at the Shim-Sham Club in New Orleans, but the club was shut down the week before they were scheduled to come. It was another miss of a band that never made it to the big time, and it's a time to which I wish I could return.

*- "Apple Trees," "Natalie Portman," "If I Only Had a Heart," "Battle Scars"

1 comment:

nicholas said...

Great album, one which I still enjoy for the clarity of the memories it prompts. While getting caught up last week with some new releases, I realized how sharply those albums from my senior year of high school and our freshman year at Scholar's have been etched into my memory. So much of my enjoyment of music stems from the added layers of context & personal memory, and I'm grateful when I notice a new album picking up that emotional patina.