God is in the radio

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Note: I wrote this long before the news that Roe was being overthrown but I think it’s important that I go back and add a simple fact that has nothing to do with the rest of this article. Thereby ? A woman’s body is nobody’s business but hers. Fuck all of you “keep the government out of my life” assholes who somehow think this intervention is an acceptable exception, especially when you’re just pro-life when it comes of the unborn child but you wouldn’t lift a finger to help a sick child, a homeless person or anyone else that Christ was hanging out with in that book you keep telling everything the world you fucking love so much.

I tend to try to have a casual conversation when meeting “normal” people for the first time, especially in a professional setting. Trying to explain what or what I do is a fucking chore and I’m sure at least a few of you reading this will understand what I’m saying. So when I had a conversation with one of my new hires a few years ago, one of those “getting to know you in the workspace” type discussions, she asked me what my desert island record. When I told her it was probably stone age queensit is songs for the deaf she told me i was full of shit and i was just naming something i thought she heard about.

I tend to be a great hiring manager, as in the example of a new employee calling what sounded like my bluff. And, under most normal circumstances, she would have been right, but I was completely sincere. I had two other choices (Mark Lanegan Blues funeral or the self-titled Killing Joke record from 2003 – all three having a tangential connection to Dave Grohl) and although they are both at the top of my list, I realized that twenty years after I took it for the first time songs for the deaf is my favorite record of all time.

At least for twenty years.

songs for the deaf is the very definition of someone capturing lightning in a bottle (I promise this is the last time I’ve used this shot for at least a few months). It would be Grohl’s only full appearance with the band, and the last major contributions from Mark Lanegan and Nick Oliveri, with Oliveri subsequently getting fired and Lanegan (also “fired”) stepping back to offer only minor appearances during future records. It’s in the middle of an incredible three-album series (with To classify and the underrated and fucking morose Lullabies to paralyze like bookends) all of which capture a unique emotion and are all, in my eyes, perfect records. These are also records that once the weather gets even a little warmer, it comes down to a heavy spin in my life, regardless of what I’m going through or how I’m feeling.

I first heard the record in late summer 2002. The previous few months had been a time of profound musical and spiritual growth after my doctor put me on the first (of many) antidepressants. It would be the last full year that I experienced youthful exuberance towards anything, before falling into years of incurable depression and drug addiction that I would not recover from for years. In a sense songs for the deaf can be considered the absolute end point of innocence in my life.

I don’t know what really made me hold on songs for the deaf. The combination of the songs’ gender fluidity or the fact that the lyrics were both witty and profound was fascinating. There was (is) just something about this record that captivates me no matter how many times I listened to it, which is probably in the fucking hundreds (if not thousands) now. Even the radio sketch intros work to make this record its own little under-content world, a feat that’s quite difficult even for most bands that make it their MO to build sonic experiences. When it came out it didn’t really fit into any established space in terms of listening habits, but 2002 was about finding records like this for me, quite an uncomfortable journey to be honest. At the beginning of 2003, I submitted to this record anyone who spent a minimum of time with me, including intensively during the recording of Krieg’s The black house and a later festival where we stayed in the same house as Black Witchery (which introduced me Basement as a countermeasure). It became a record that I spent hours with my (then) girlfriend talking about or listening to when we were riding. It was towards the end of the good times and I went into a long downhill period of mental illness and drug abuse. Imagine a dramatic fade to black.

I wrote that the summer of 2011 was a pivotal time to pull myself out of the emotional mess that my life had been the previous seven or eight years. It was the summer that Mark Lanegan Chewing gum helped bring me back to life. One thing that made me dive headfirst into Lanegan’s discography was songs of the deafis back in heavy rotation. I worked at a record store on the Ocean City boardwalk so it didn’t seem like the greatest idea to play death metal or black metal since half the store was filled with kitschy surf shop and, frankly , especially after the last year, I really needed something else to soothe the rawness of my emotional and mental state. It ended up being the triumvirate of Queens records I wrote about a few thousand words ago, Lanegan’s solo work and Nick Oliveri’s 2nd and 3rd Mondo Generator records. All the music done by well-adjusted, standing gentlemen, but it did the trick. However, this time, I mostly focused on the lyrics. And through them, I found a whole new meaning to this record that I had already spent a decade with. These were the words of someone who had fallen but was dusting themselves off and getting back up.

The blind man can go get fucked… lie down by the ditch… that halo around my neck… ripped all the stitches out of me…

The titular song concludes the record with the most perfect song on what I consider to be a perfect album, playing on each member’s individual strengths and the last time they would come together in a recording under this configuration. I can only dream of creating a musical statement like this.

I could go tell you all the other times that record was important to me, but I think you get the fucking picture. My most recent significant memory of this record was that my one-year-old selflessly sat on the lap of a poor fucker in a bunny costume and made sure to play the whole record for him from the beginning. at the end on the record, talking to her the whole time about it in an effort to prepare her for men talking to her about records she doesn’t care about later in life. It will be a memory I will cherish and one to file under songs for the deaf. So yes, Claire, I wasn’t bullshitting when I said it was my favorite record.

RIP Mark Lanegan. This video is probably the best version of “A Song For the Dead” I’ve heard. We’ll see each other again when I talk about two bands that took forever to make new records. I’m sure you’re delighted.

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