Ok, I know I am supposed to be talking about Black History Month, and somehow, by the end of this post, I will link it to the main topic. I also believe in living in the moment, and right at this moment, I have to share my thoughts on Arcade Fire...
Yesterday, I went on a long walk while listening to the Arcade Fire album "Funeral." By the time I finished my walk, practiced some yoga, and started my writing practice, I had listened to the album THREE times. I could not stop listening. Do you know that feeling of hearing an album that seems to speak right to your soul? Whatever emotional and mental processes you are going through at that moment in time comes up and is almost completely resolved by the end of the album? That was what happened to me, except it took me three listens...
I have heard reviews of Arcade Fire on NPR, and seen the hype all over the internet, but I do not pay attention to these things. Ever since I was 14, I knew the music industry was warped and controlled by profits (or is it prophets?), so I almost never pay attention to what others say about music. I try to always form my own opinions. Well, after hearing enough hype, and being emotionally pulled into a few songs, I decided to give it my undivided attention. WHOA. I get it!
There is a very deep reason why Arcade Fire is making such an impact at this moment in time. I am certain that many music nerds like myself have their own well-formulated opinions. My opinion is based on my personal experiences as a songwriter and a human, as well as my observations of the world around me. Listening to Arcade Fire brought me back to Middle School... that was the first year my family lived in the Suburbs.
"Funeral" is the first work of artistic expression I have experienced that takes me back to the odd mix of shiny new 90's "architecture" and isolation that exists in the suburbs. I remembered white kids from clean, middle class homes with giant chips on their shoulders, sporting big-puffy L.A. Raiders coats (in Florida, BTW...) and giant J'enco jeans, staring me down and saying the nastiest things you can imagine. There was a lot of pent up rage in the suburbs. It was confusing. On one hand, you would hear the rap music, that all of these suburban kids adored, on MTV playing as a soundtrack to videos shot in, frankly, scary ghettos.... Then I would go to school and see kids getting out of shiny new cars, kissing their parents goodbye, and then slinking around the school like little white gangsters...
For me, I could not relate. I liked guitars and singing and pianos and violins. And shaggy hair. So I was drawn to the Grunge scene. There were only a few of us in the neighborhood, and Arcade Fire reminds me of this time!
The song that hit me the most yesterday was "Wake Up."
"Somethin filled up my heart with nothin. Someone told me not to cry. Now that I'm older, My heart's colder, and I can see that it's a lie."
The song opens up with those totally heartfelt, honest lyrics. I relate to them. With every generation that passes, this secret becomes revealed. Boomers saw the giant facade they were forced to live in with their 1950's style game of pretend. The show "Mad Men" is such a beautiful re-enactment of that emotionally-cold time period, and if any of you have parents raised in that time period, I highly recommend it. It will most likely fill you with compassion for the ridiculous world they grew up in...
Anyway--the Boomers saw through this facade and fought with all their might with what tools they had. Gen-X pushed it along further, and I remember looking up to them and thinking they were so cool and rebellious and honest. Arcade Fire reminds me of the dilemma of Generation Y. We have already seen two generations grow up and try desperately to fight against what society tells them is "normal" yet we still struggle with our own process of getting older...
I turned 30 last year and I am married, a home owner, but still no kids... I don't want to have kids! Yet, there is still a push in the culture to do this, and I often find myself struggling to explain to others why I do not want to conform to this norm. The music of Arcade Fire seems to pour out this same mix of confidence, hesitation, frustration, confusion, and isolation. The song "Wake Up" sings:
"Children, wake up. Hold your mistake up, before they turn the summer into dust. And Children, don't grow up. Our bodies get bigger, but our hearts get torn up. We're just a million little gods causin' rain storms turnin' every good thing to rust! I guess we'll just have to adjust..."
That last line breaks my heart into a million little pieces. I know that feeling. At some point, we all finish adolescence, or our twenties or high school or college, and we realize, life is not going to be fun anymore. Reality is cold and I have to harden my heart in order to get through this existence.
Perfectly placed at the end of the album is the comforting song "Rebellion (Lies)"
"Sleeping is giving in, no matter what the time is. Sleeping is giving in, so lift those heavy eyelids. People say that you'll die, faster than without water. But we know it's just a lie, scare your son, scare your daughter. Everytime you close your eyes, lies, lies."
No matter what our age, we ALL know what that one feels like. After 10 years of fear-based media and government telling us to be on high alert and constantly afraid, we have been asleep just trying to avoid the fear of terrorism and war. I love the verse that goes like this:
"Now here's the sun, it's alright! (Lies! Lies!) Now here's the moon, it's alright! (Lies! Lies!)"
Yes! Isn't that the truth? In this moment, everything is fine. The sun is out and it is beautiful. The moon lately has been more beautiful than ever to me. My life with my husband and friends and dogs is the most peaceful it has ever been, and that has absolutely nothing to do with the world around me. Why should I live in fear when there is so much beauty around me?
"I like the peace in the backseat. I don't have to drive. I don't have to speak. I can watch the countryside, and I can fall asleep."
My mind is so active and alert sometimes, that I feel like I want to just fall asleep. This is why I meditate. There are moments when it can all get to be too much. The world is in a constant state of chaos, it seems. If you care at all, it can become quite overwhelming. Music helps me find a moment of peace. Listening to Arcade Fire pour their hearts out to me through my Marshall headphones (which I deeply love and recommend, btw) was just the retreat I needed yesterday! It's inspiring and so exciting to know about a group of musicians who are fearless enough to tell you exactly what is on their minds, no matter how vulnerable it makes them appear. We all need a lot of honesty right now to help get us through this shaky time period. Buy their albums and go to their shows. We need to support musicians like Arcade Fire.
Hmmm, how do I link this to Black History Month?
I spent about 10 minutes trying to write something that made an ounce of sense, and I couldn't do it. Please forgive me. I will write something inspiring about Black History Month tonight! Promise!