This started out to be a record review, but I got sidetracked. See, sometimes, when I’m alone and tired and not feeling quite right for any reason, or for no reason, I get these little flashes of mortality. Like, today at work, I was walking down the five flights of stairs from my corporate cubicle to the corporate cafeteria for my thirty minutes of mid-day pseudo-freedom. As I walked, I was eating a chocolate something or other that one of my coworkers had brought from home—the leftovers from some family celebration—and carrying Chuck Palahniuk’s Diary under my left arm, not thinking about anything in particular. For just a half a second this bit of dry crumb from the chocolate something or other started to drift toward the back of my throat at exactly the same instant that my foot landed a bit awkwardly on the edge of the next step. For that half second I had this vision of choking and coughing violently while falling down this flight of steel stairs surrounded by concrete blocks, with no one likely to find me for who knows how long, since the vast majority of my co-workers insist on taking the claustrophobic elevator instead of the stairs, even if they’re only going one flight in either direction. For that half second I imagined that I would stumble and fall, unable to catch a breath or regain my balance, until my head smashed into the concrete block wall and I fell to the floor, blood pooling around my head. And the twisted part is that it didn’t seem like such a bad fate. I was almost disappointed when it didn’t happen, when my foot righted itself and the crumb stayed on my tongue instead of sliding down my throat.
This kind of thing happens to me all the time. Sometimes it’s when I’m driving and I imagine the cars in the other lane drifting over to my side of the road and smashing into me, head on. Or I’m riding the train and I have a crystal clear vision of the engine slipping the rails and tumbling down the embankment, rolling over and over until it lands in the abandoned lot behind the abandoned warehouse covered with graffiti.
I explained this stuff to my ex-therapist one time, and she didn’t seem to think it was all that significant. It’s not like I’m looking for ways to kill myself, or even that I’m wishing to die. These flashes just come upon me unbidden and unlooked for. I think it’s got as much to do with interrupting the tedium and boredom of my dreary life. Now, you might be wondering what all this has to do with music, or with anything else that you, dear reader, might be interested in. And that’s a fair question.
The answer is, “I don’t honestly know.” I do know that I’m pretty crazy about this CD I got from Emily Grogan called At Sea, released by One Way Productions out of Somerville, MA. The pictures of Emily on both the front and back of the package show her floating in some murky, green water. She looks really peaceful, just lying there on the surface of the water. It doesn’t look like she’s swimming or trying to move in any particular direction, just floating, going with the current, if there is one. By contrast, the music is focused and intelligent and passionate and full of drive and a sense of purpose…if that makes any sense.
Maybe I’m projecting. Regardless, it’s a damn good record, with soaring vocals by this generation’s version of Kate Bush, only if Kate Bush wasn’t a flighty mystical weirdo. Or maybe she’s this generation’s Marianne Faithful, if Marianne Faithful didn’t smoke so much that she ended up sounding like those guys who walk around Wal-Mart attached to oxygen tanks. Then again, maybe she’s this generation’s Joni Mitchell without the cocaine and the Neil Young connection and without being an unrepentant hippie. Maybe this whole column is just one long rambling cry for help. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s a call to arms, urging you to take a chance and buy a CD that has absolutely nothing to do with “punk.” You can just float along through your life, taking whatever comes your way, whether it’s a fractured skull in a lonely stairwell or a deliciously greasy hot dog in the company cafeteria or yet another Ramones-sound-a-like band from West Bumfuk…or you can make a decision, take a leap, grasp control of your life and your stereo. Get At Sea by Emily Grogan from One Way Productions, http://www.onewayproductions.com/, and make a statement about yourself.
Let the universe know that you are in charge of you, that things like fate and tradition and habit and destiny and peer pressure have no power over you. Stand up and shout at the top of your lungs, “I’m bored as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore! I’m not going to limit myself to listening only to records from Douchemaster and Deadbeat and TKO.” Not that you shouldn’t listen to anything from those venerable punk/garage labels we’ve come to know and love or that you should throw away your old Boys records. I’m just saying you should allow yourself the opportunity to check out some other underground music. Let yourself believe in the possibility that a drop dead gorgeous woman with an acoustic guitar and an IQ way higher than yours could make music that would touch you and change you, music that will make you feel and make you think at the same time.