It’s amazing how much can change about you from one injury.
By Scott Mason
The past half year has been a time full of things I’d have considered to only be possible far off into the future up until now. I’m not talking about how Trump became the 2nd most voted for candidate in history. I saw that coming. I’m talking about my own capabilities as a fairly healthy 32-year-old-male. I thought it would be decades before I had trouble opening most jars. I didn’t think I’d spill most of my beverages until much further down the line. The biggest surprise was that I never thought I’d get too tired emotionally to listen to the vast majority of my own music taste. That…is not like me.
It’s amazing what low morale can do to even the most minuscule aspects of a person’s quality of living. Enjoying your life in certain ways doesn’t just take effort. It takes focus and fortitude. It never occurred to me that the vast majority of my music taste actually might require more than most others. It tends to be active, imposing or sudden sometimes to the point of jarring. It can even be calm but there just needs to be something there that is moving other than a vocalist. Even beats can count if the producer is creative. Most of it all suddenly became too much effort. I’m glad that particular part of my recovery is over. Here are a few songs and why they weren’t too much partway through it.
1. “The Regulator” by Clutch
This is the band I will want to see once concerts start happening again. If you are familiar with this amalgamation of the styles of Black Sabbath, ZZ Top and desert rock bands like Kyuss, it might not make sense for me to put a Clutch song anywhere on this list. They tend to have swagger, which takes a certain amount of enthusiasm to digest. They certainly aren’t quiet but this song certainly is unique for a number of reasons. It’s trippy and distant with the electric guitar. It has a loose, dusty acoustic guitar for the verses. The drums never get too explosive. They get partially drowned in the mirage-like haze and soulful vocals. The chorus nearly pushed past my capacity as a drained listener but it doesn’t become too much to give me a headache by zeroing in and trying to enjoy the sound.
2. Illumination by Gogol Bordello
The opening chords and the eventual bass are the hardest parts to get through this song in an exhausted state. Again, this culture punk song might be surprising. The opening choppy acoustic guitar hits you as if you’re a nail until you get used to it. Then whenever it transitions to another part of the song, it’s always smooth and melodic. Even when the rest of the band joins in, it’s surprisingly gentle for a genre that is built on hyperactivity of sound or of mind. As for vocals, this is an unusually calm performance in a gypsy punk band.
3. “Six-Forty-Five” by Firewater
You know how I previously mentioned that culture punk bands tend to be drunk on parties and fun? Firewater is one notable exception. If the last year of Kurt Cobain’s life was given one sound, sent overseas and created using Klezmer, gypsy and Turkish folk instruments, it would probably sound like Firewater. Despite their frequently raucous tendencies, they occasionally have odes to self-destruction that remain stripped down, stay disturbingly soothing and lull you into a state where you can be humorously at peace with your own suffering. “Six-Forty-Five” sounds like a day at the beach where you are somehow the victim of a hit and run collision on the sand.
4. “All Along the Watchtower” by Bob Dylan
The vast majority of my favorite Bob Dylan songs are chaotic. Some of which include “Hurricane” and “Highway 61 Revisited.” However, a softer ballad is one brilliant work of his that is actually perfect for my situation. “All Along the Watchtower” is one of my definitions of a well written song. It doesn’t matter who’s performing it. Even with Jimi Hendrix, TSOL, The Dave Matthews Band even that I’m not a fan of, like U2, it still never loses its tone. The sense of imminent global doom, yet the fortitude to face it. You can even sometimes get a sense of what kind of end the singer is looking down the barrel of. A plague, a nuke, Reaganite totalitarianism or pure sadness and even a goth punk band can’t fully shake off the last gasp of determination that is inherently imbedded into the song. Everything from the chords to the lyrics contribute to the same rough situation and the same way it will be met. With weakened, yet still unbroken, courage.
5. “Tonight’s the Night” by Neil Young
The 60s and 70s sounds have not been ones that I could endure while healing up from my two ulnar tunnel release surgeries and my ulnar nerve transfer. Barring classical and romantic composers, it all began for me with “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix and “Paint It Black” by The Rolling Stones. None of the above, within the item on this list, were options for what I could listen to. This song almost sounds like nobody else is there. As if Neil Young and Crazy Horse are playing purely for the pleasure of their lost friends and colleagues, given that it’s a tribute to their roadie and their former guitarist. I also find that Young’s distinct warble is easier to appreciate during sickness, rather than during health. He just has that way of making the sadness, pain and dread in all our lives less crippling with. The best way I can some that up is that his music doesn’t use it’s sound to provoke a particular response. It usually comes a lot closer to asking for one.