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Lately, and for whatever reason, I've been in a weird mood.
Maybe it's been a lingering cold (I'm blaming the 50 degree weather
and rain — in June — on that), but I've been susceptible to the sad
songs lately. Perhaps it's just the pendulum swing away from the Stooges and Eagles of Death Metal, maybe it's
the humidity, but over the past few days I feel myself nearly stop in my tracks at the sound of guitar licks and
lyrics I've heard a hundred times before.
Still on a Pearl Jam buzz, I popped their Mansfield show from July 11, 2003, in my car stereo recently. The
concert eventually gets to "Better Man," where the crowd overtakes Eddie Vedder and sings the first two verses
and the first chorus in perfect pitch, word for word, note for note. Vedder doesn't even get a word out until the third
verse, and if memory serves, was smiling the entire time.
And... damn it, that got to me. The memory, the sound, the car, the highway... it was moving. I almost pulled over.
I wasn't sure what I felt or how to describe it, but it was somehow life-affirming.
|Jeff Tweedy has been giving me fits lately.
The cynic in me is not enjoying this, by the way. My head is
telling me that I'm being a sentimental pansy, and so would
many of my friends, I imagine, were I to tell them. I’m feeling
sappy at the drop of a hat — what’s going on?
The "Better Man" incident was the first, but it's kept happening.
Most significantly, during a spin of Wilco's A Ghost is Born.
It's a melancholy album on the whole, spiced with tougher
moments like "I'm a Wheel" and "Spiders (Kidsmoke)." But the
opening notes of "At Least That's What You Said" hit
particularly hard. There was something deeper in Jeff
Tweedy's voice that felt extra resonant as he sang, "Maybe all
you mean is 'leave me alone,' at least that's what you said."
Maybe it was the way the last note carries off after "said" into
the crunching, uncomfortable guitar break.
"Hell is Chrome," "Muzzle of Bees" and "Less Than You Think"
all had their moments like that. The music, coupled with the
mood, a frustrating cold and the intimacy of headphones all
worked together to strike a chord that hadn't been hit in some
It came to a head, though, in the middle. Namely, "Wishful
Sad songs and the fits they cause
Starting off with distorted guitar rumblings against a dreamy organ and quietly crashing symbols, it lends a
feeling of discomfort immediately. An acoustic guitar rises above the chaos, giving the song order, and Tweedy
delivers a song about quiet personal resentment.
|"Fill up your mind with all it can know
Don't forget that your body will let it all go
Fill up your mind with all it can know
What would we be without wishful thinking..."
Maybe he's singing to a friend, or maybe he's singing to himself. He's singing, though. He's delivering a story
with an ambiguous plot, no beginning and no end. He's telling a story of personal fear, of redemption, of
awakening. He's sending feelings flying by the dozen through the speakers into my ears, and I'm left stopped in
|"I shook down those lines
To shine up the streets
I got up off my hands and knees
To thank my lucky stars that you're not me..."
This song had never done this to me before. I started to wonder how long I'd been missing out on this. I started
to wonder how long I'd been overlooking it.
Have I been overlooking everything? Have I been ignoring those around me? Feelings? Life?
Or ... am I just in a weird mood lately?
It's likely a combination of everything. Weird mood, maybe. But it helped me discover a song that I'd only enjoyed
in passing before. In 4 minutes and 41 seconds, it made me question every aspect of my life, my past and my
future. Plenty of songs make you think, but this song, on this particular night, roughly two years since I first heard
it, slammed me to the ground and made me rethink everything I knew.
Maybe it's just a weird mood. Or, maybe, it's the thrill of finally discovering an amazing song and appreciating its
I'm going with the thrill.
|"The turntable sizzles
Casting the spells
The pressure devices
Hell in a nutshell
Is any song worth singing
If it doesn't help..."