Saturday, May 02, 2009
#13 Song of the Decade- "I'll Believe in Anything"
#13- Wolf Parade- "I'll Believe in Anything"
People tend to place too much importance on music. I cringe whenever I hear someone say "punk saved my life," for example. I'm guilty of this hyperbole myself, of course, presenting my opinions on the timelessness or profundity or brilliance of pop music, even trying to make a career out of it. All too often, the truth is that I fish for that meaning in whatever's playing in the background. Increasingly, my own effort is incongruous with the amount of effort put into the music I'm analyzing. More than I'd like to admit, I feel silly for how committed I am to this stuff.
Still, there's a transmutative quality to music that touches everyone. I have this conversation with my dad a lot, how the perfect song at the perfect moment can magically take you back to another time of your life. It's the reason twenty-five-year-old Journey songs are still the most popular soundtrack of a bar, as well as the reason I can overlook the more troublesome aspects of rap music. That's what was playing the first time I kissed a girl; sorry if it has the f-word in it.
Songs may have come and gone without changing my life, but they can have a knack for transporting me to another more interesting and exciting time in my life.
One such song is by the Montreal quartet Wolf Parade, who were born in that strange indie rock period of the mid-aughts, when there were as many bands with "Wolf" in their name as there are swine flu stories on the news tonight. As I've mentioned before, I hosted a radio show in college, and I became very attached to their debut full-length Apologies to the Queen Mary, putting three of its songs into the station's heavy rotation. (Those canucks probably owe me some money.) Over time, however, I signed off every show with the first single, "I'll Believe in Anything," without even knowing why at first.
That's another thing music can do: tap into your subconscious. At the time I was graduating college with as little an idea of what I wanted to do as when I started, and I was simultaneously clinging to and rejecting any sense of routine. I felt suffocated by my long-term girlfriend and acted on that by flirting with a freshman at the station. In addition to that, I was getting my first batch of rejection letters from M.F.A. writing programs. I craved adventure, even though I wasn't doing anything to exact that desire, and that's a big part of what the song is about--wanting, even deserving, but not working for whatever you want. Insisting "Give me your eyes/I need sunshine," the song's speaker is needy, but at every turn--"I could take away the shaking knees/And I could give you all the olive trees"--he presents only empty promises. The more I played the song, the more I associated with its deceptively simple style--the backbeat of the verses is just a kickdrum--and the almost whiny tone yelped by the beautifully ugly voice of Spencer Krug.
For the second half of the song, the rhythm really catches hold over a few different key changes. It's a rollicking sort of feel, as if the band is in over its own head, trying to catch up to itself. Week after week, I played the song for my Friday afternoon listenership, and it was a great way to close my own pithy, canned dialogue, as I promised what I couldn't deliver. There's a quality of the song that is redemptive despite itself. Without a doubt, it's the most uplifting song to inform you, "Nobody knows you/And nobody gives a damn." There's something freeing in that line, that same mixture of anxiety and energy accompanying a big change in your life. In a way, the song said what I couldn't, and I used it to find a way to make peace with the ghosts of college and the challenges of my future. I played this song because it broadcasted all the self-deprecating and the grandstanding and the romantic whimsy for me. It purged me of whatever I wanted to say but probably shouldn't have, of what I wanted to do but probably shouldn't have.
A song might not have saved my life, but it may have stopped me from ruining it.