Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Cardigans, nostalgia and stalking old friends

When he was ten, a.m.k. used to hang out all day on music forums....

As I sit here on my balcony, realizing how F.R. Scott isn't nearly as good as the first few poems I read of his seemed, for the first time I can hear music coming from my neighbour's apartment. My building is very well-insulated for an old building, and for some reason you can hear things when you walk thru the hallways that you can't hear in your apartment. The only time I hear anyone is my neighbour below me playing saxophone sometimes, and it's not even loud at all. Except he plays the same damn song over and over. I play music all the time quite loudly and I’ve even asked neighbours if it bothers them and they say they never hear a thing. So if they do, it's not my fault for not lowering the music, is it?

Anyway, I’m sitting here on the balcony, wrists sweating like a motherfucker and she's playing the Cardigans. I first discovered the non-singles side of the Cardigans when I think I was bored one night and downloaded a bunch of songs that had corny-sounding names. I was such an emo I probably searched "kiss" and their song "And then you kissed me part II" came up, and I thought to myself, why did I never give the Cardigans a real chance? That Romeo and Juliet song was really catchy and I think they had another one that I remember liking, just not hearing enough to think of it much. And I saw their CD and I bet I was feeling rambunctious and I just bought a handful of bands I’d hear of but never thought of buying before, just in case I found a gem, as my uncle would say.

When I bought their album I was really intrigued by their sound, so I decided to give them a cautious chance. They didn't seem like a cool band to be into, if you know what I mean, they weren't "in". I don't know if it was any one song that had this effect on me, but I think I found pretty near their whole discography for cheap used on Amazon. I still get their damn newsletters because I don't know how to unsubscribe or am too lazy to scroll down and see if there's a link. I kept unsubscribing from the NRA's mailing list and fuck I still get their newsletters every few days with coupons and rally invitations. Whoever gave my email to the NRA is a cruel, cruel person.

Giving the Cardigans credit

The Cardigans have a consistent sound that has adapted a bit more with their age, I suppose. It's not that their last album, released about seven years ago, was wise or anything, it just lacked a certain rawness that their earlier stuff had. I don't actually know how I feel about it. I like it, but I like all their stuff. There are a couple albums I like worse, but they're the ones in the middle.

The point is, the Cardigans, whom I presume are bigger in Europe, never really took off in North America. They had a smash hit and a couple other small ones but no one ever talks about them. Here, they sort of used to be considered pop music, but that sound is a bit vintage to us now because 90s is hipster. Hipster fits in better with the indie, alternative type of genre. That's why Lana Del Rey gets spins on Alternative stations here and so does Gotye feat. Kimbra. But I think in Sweden, which is where I think they're from I think, they are still considered pop music. I think. I could be wrong here, but I think they are still quite popular overseas, which changes what genre they are considered. It's a small point and probably not an important one.

I'm not sure if there was any band out there who really had the Cardigans' sound at the time, and for that matter, who have had it here, that I’ve heard. They had one catchy song but you know what, that song is at the very edge of the poppiness of their sound, and their second biggest hit, "My favourite game", is their second poppiest-sounding song from pretty much their whole career. And that pattern continues thru the two or three other songs that they had that were minor hits: the bigger the hit, the more poppy the song sounded. Their best non-poppy sounding songs remained album tracks. Isn't that true of many bands?

The point here is the Cardigans were not releasing songs that weren't representative of their sound: those hit songs sounded Cardigans-esque -- it's not like they changing themselves.

But they were a band with a really unique feel to them that were hard to categorize. They had good songs that didn't get picked up too much in this market because it didn't conform to any individual genre relatively well. So the few songs they had that could pass in a pop market at the time became hits in North America.

Most bands who aren't too loud or weird can find a market in the industry to fit into with at least some of their songs. I'm not saying you can label this band within that market strictly speaking, but I think most bands will have at least one or two songs that could be classified as pop or folk or rock or R&B or something. Their radio-friendly song, if you will.

My band has one radio-friendly song that's recorded and that's also our worst song. We've been played on the radio twice. Both times it was that song.

The Cardigans had a few songs that could be considered pop songs in this market, and they were good songs, and they did okay here. One really well, but I think the popularity of Leonardo DiCaprio and daggers and true love at age twelve made that song more popular for those reasons, back when people cared about soundtracks. Music videos were also still pretty popular then, enough to justify Aaron from Waterloo using a music video clue to introduce the toss-up to every single 90's music question at that hybrid tournament that year. I should have powered "Lovefool", I know that song inside out. I’m just saying.

But there wasn't much of a market for the Cardigans hipster-type of sound at that time. Maybe the indie scene wasn't developed enough yet. In fact, I think the Cardigans were hugely influential in developing the indie rock/pop music scene. Very few of the songs from that scene, whatever scene there was, ventured into the popular music radio stream. Radio was much more important back then. Back before the popularity of the internet, which, not to sound like a nerd, really changed everything. I mean, I'm lonely without the internet and I’m not even a gamer. And fuck internet on your phone, the screen's so small you can't do half the shit and besides the internet needs my full attention.

Cornball catharsis

Anyways, fuck the Cardigans were a good band, I never heard they broke up or anything but I suspect they have. I remember in first year working at Timothy's near campus I put their most recent CD on and turned it extra loud for track four even though I know it was corny and I’m pretty sure I didn't hide that I loved the song to whoever could hear. I also played Dashboard and got ridiculed by a customer once. I think "Screaming infidelities" came on and of course I sang. When you have an eight hour shift several nights a week and have to play coffee shop-appropriate music, that just happens sometimes. Maybe I just gave less of a shit back then, god I’m old.

It's such a corny song too, track four, that is, but the voice really sweeps you away with its charm. It's called "Overload". They have a few other really good songs on there too, I’d say track eight, track one, and I think there is one or two more, but not the one that was a tiny hit from it--something about "needing fine wine" and the guy needing to be nicer--that’s only a decent song, not great.

I don't much listen to song that got me into them anymore, which isn't normal for me. Normally the song that got me into a band is the one that stays my favourite, or at least a tie for my favourite. Like with Lydia or Glassjaw. For Lydia, "This is twice now" became my favourite, but "A story for supper" is still also my favourite, and the experience I would get hearing both of those songs live the same night would produce two completely different euphoric feelings for me. With Glassjaw, they have so many songs that affect me in such different ways because they are mostly hardcore but not a really loud hardcore, and their second album has a handful of songs that are obviously influenced by jazz and New York and they have a hook element to them, even sometimes a verse chorus verse structure. Most people wouldn't give themselves up enough to listen to those songs by them or that aspect of them if they were first greeted by their truly hardcore songs, though.

There's something off-putting about enjoying listening to screaming, as much as many youth claim to be open to it because we're more open when we're younger, I think. But I am one of those true weirdoes who actually enjoys it for some sick reason. I really enjoy getting screamed at by them because it feels like I’m screaming with them. It's that cathartic feel I used to get from football in high school. I had so much more energy then, for whatever reason. I’m not even that old. It's working full-time, I’m telling you.

In real life, if someone were to scream at me, I would absolutely hate it. It would make me feel unbelievably awkward and I’d shrivel up trying to figure out what I did to set off their reaction, like some cute animal but awkward human. In real life, I certainly wouldn't feel like I was screaming with them.

So a tie for my favourite will always mention "Lovebites and Razorlines", which is basically what you'd expect lyrically. But there's still something great about it. I think that growing up, most emotional people really felt that they could relate to emotional dramatic stories, even overdone ones, thru movies, TV, books or music. So it makes sense that I would let myself fill with clich├ęs and childish feelings. Truth is I’m not sure I’m completely over that. Maybe I am young after all.

Music and being a teenager

I don't think it's a coincidence that the music that I truly connect with still is the music that I got into as a teen, mostly beginning with Glassjaw (age 13), continuing thru Lydia (peaked ages 15-18) and ending shortly after the Cardigans (ages 18-19). I gain new favourites at a much slower rate these years. I barely listen to new music, actually. I wish I had the time and energy to care enough about all the things I love to actively follow them. Somewhere along the line, music research was replaced by job searches, final papers and funny Youtube videos.

I was still growing up when I got into the Cardigans. First year, living on your own can really change you. You know it will change you when the time comes, and for some reason that's embarrassing, like you went on and proved your parents right for something that they said you would do cuz you were just a kid. Maybe parents use that as a cop-out when they know they're wrong but want to keep a strong front.

You don't want to admit that it's changing you while it's happening. I think you need that degree of separation that a year without school will do when you're in that time of life. Young adulthood, I guess, or emerging. I get called young man a lot; I don't really know what that means. I mean I do and I don't. Anyway.

It's a weird spot to be in, but then again aren't they all weird spots to be in. I couldn't imagine being forty-five or thirteen again. That's just crazy, so much has happened and should happen before then. But I think when you're in school and going out with your friends most nights, especially if you are out on your own cuz they're essentially your new family and best friends after a few years, but that has its problems too, cuz you know you move away after university, plus the job market's shit so I don't know what we're all going to do, we have to move and I will too soon enough. But soon it becomes like your friends back home, only these friends you've only known a few years even though you spent a lot of time together, but those friends where you grew up in many cases you knew for much, much longer.

I think out of all the friends I keep in touch with from time to time to this day, I became close with Pat first. He was probably my first true friend in school when I was in grade eight, though he wasn't necessarily the first person I became friends with, just Kathleen thought I was super weird and probably was told by her mom to be nice to me and I’m glad she was. I was pretty awkward and still pretty much am but Kathleen introduced me to the girls and they made the boys be nice to me, prolly cuz they felt bad but that was okay with me and I took solace in that.

I don't think Pat was one of the friends they picked out for me, I remember Lawrence was and Josh was really popular, and for awhile I was more just his friend than anything, but I didn't mind that too much even though I didn't really like it either. Pat was nice to me without being asked to be, even though most people were nice enough, so I will always remember being friends with Pat because I never felt like anyone was trying to convince him to be my friend. He just wanted to be. And I know we've changed and have different lives but I will for sure always remember that bond as a special one. I don't know if we were ever really best friends -- maybe for a short time -- but we were close enough for sleepovers for several years. Josh might have been my first true best friend, I’m not sure, it didn't hurt that he lived on the same street. Very easy to hang out. I remember one time when I got mad at him for going to a party that I wasn't invited to and I even got other people to back me up. They must of felt bad for me, I did some crazy shit. I'm not quite like that now, though, I think I've gotten most of my weirdness out, and what's left can be called quirkiness cuz I'm an adult now. Or maybe I'm still the same, fuck.

All this from the Cardigans. Sometimes I think when we have something on our mind we just need a gateway to introduce us to those thoughts. Music is a great gateway cuz it's associated with emotions, largely cuz music is usually closest to us emotionally when teens, like anything we're attached to. Personality is largely set by age eighteen. I love incorporating psychology into writing; it makes me feel like I am really doing something with that double-major after all. Goddamn I had better win the lottery.

Anyway, while I'm over here crying about the beauty of friendship and for some reason addressing Pat an uncomfortable number of times on this blog for someone who I don't talk to every day, you're all like "I thought this was about the Cardigans? I don't give a shit about your childhood". And it is about the Cardigans. Sort of.

I was thinking of Pat the other day too when I was listening to Glassjaw: the first time I listened to their album we were driving home from the mall, and we played the album while his dad was driving. We tried to warm his dad up to the screaming in music, but his dad wasn't having much of it. He wouldn't make us turn it off, though, he was just cross. He was a nice dad; you can tell he cares about his kids. But enough about Pat -- I swear I’m not sitting outside your window right now watching you in those heart boxers.

Creativity and not being a teenager anymore

I'm re-applying for my MFA and boy how time passes. I won't be the youngest in that program when I finally get in like I would've been if I got in right away out of undergrad. I'm used to being the youngest person. I graduated at 21 which I guess is pretty young. I don't want to have kids when I’m old and I don't want to have kids when I'm in school. Well, maybe I guess. But I’d be fucked if I couldn't get a job when I finished, and I hate working at the jobs I’ve worked at for mostly my whole life, so I don't want to keep getting rejected and spending all this money and time each year into getting my dreams ripped apart. I don't dwell on it much at all, but those rejection letters really do suck when you let it sink in, even if you were expecting them to flood in. Even though I expected them I still hoped I'd get in.

Truth is I’m getting restless. I've finally decided what I want to do and I want to get on with it. The waiting is stressful. I don't know where I will end up, if anywhere. I am upping the odds this year, but even if you have a decent shot and the odds aren't as ridiculous it doesn't meant you'll get in. I almost did last year, but no funding. Another wait list. Story of my life. It's fine, though, logic would dictate that I am a better writer one year older, and at the very least I have more content to choose from. I never used to share private thoughts publicly for people who felt like reading it, for example. Someone pay me to write for them, please, working in an office sucks big time, like in that weird Adam Sandler movie that I watched with Justin a few months ago, Punch drunk love. But you know maybe he didn't hate his job so much, I think the point was just that he was weird and you know he played the part pretty well, I’ll give him that. Better than those awful sports comedies. Not bad in Funny people and pretty decent in 50 first dates, though I think Drew’s performance had more staying power for most people.

Can you believe how we're this old? It's ridiculous. I used to write notes to myself when I was a kid to open in three years, but I stopped reading them or writing new ones when I moved away. I only wrote them on New Year’s. No resolutions, though, I'm a lazy bastard. I should read the ones I never opened. It's too disappointing. I look back at myself and I was so goddamn lame about everything, and I realize that I probably still am now. But I know for sure that I was super lame then, now.

I wrote poems when I was a kid, too. They're not very good, I know that. But that doesn't instil much confidence into anything I write now being good, because I didn't know how to evaluate myself then, and I don't know how to now. I guess you just grow up, but do you get better? Who knows how to measure that? People say you can't learn talent. I don't know if I believe that, though: it seems unfair. I want more talent in a lot of things; people think nice things of you when you're talented. I truly don't think I’m talented at much of anything and I wonder if anyone really thinks they're talented. They might. Actually, what am I talking about, a lot of people think they are talented and awesome and that you should be lucky to know them. I'm not really like that, to be honest. I might be musically talented. If I had to pick one thing, I’d say that's the one thing that I’m at least marginally good at that I put the least amount of effort in. If someone asked me what I'm good at, I would probably say playing the drums or just understanding music. I was good at it before I tried, or perhaps it came from obsessing over it for several years leading up to high school. I don't know if I can say that about anything else. I guess I used to be good at math but those days are long gone, believe me.

You can feel music without thinking too much about it. It can do its work subconsciously while you're focussing on something that requires more attention. Music blends in with our experience of our lives. We all have a soundtrack of thoughts in our heads at all times, I think at least. Or maybe just the buzz of an air conditioner.

The Cardigans remind me of times that aren't the most nostalgic memories I have cuz they're from mostly Ottawa, but they definitely are memories now, for the most part. I still visit Timothy's on Laurier occasionally, and it's the same building but not the same to me. Nothing ever is. I suppose it's a bit the same because it looks mostly the same, but the people are mostly different. A few the same. A lot of flux in a neighbourhood like Sandy Hill, near a university, the student ghetto.

Maybe I’ll pop on their album Emmerdale and pretend like I’m on a vacation to Sweden until work tomorrow and again the next day and the next day after that.

a.m.k. has grown into an actual writer and even a pretty good drummer, here in his twenties.

1 comment:

  1. I WAS originally nice to you due to my mother's demands, but also because you once saved me from going down the wrong aisle when we were alter servers. And for the record, you did grow on me and I was nice to you after the first few weeks of Grade 8 because I wanted to be. And you were one of 4 consistent friends. And you got the whole-Catholic-family-life.

    Oh and, why do I remember Pat having heart boxers?! Weird.