Finding High Fidelity
I’ve since shed many of the things that identified me throughout high school, like my “You wouldn’t understand, mom” haircut, but I’ve held dear to Explosions in the Sky. If you’re unfamiliar, Explosions is a post-rock group from Texas that plays purely instrumental music. When I was a freshman in high school, they were drastically removed from the rest of my favorite artists: there’s no crooning singer waxing poetic about any number of girls that he did or did not love, there’s no bass being dropped, there’s no pretense. They never hid behind the guise of irony or jadedness. They faced the unknowable abyss of human emotion with a stony resolve and a kind of sincerity that I had never yet experienced in music.
Punk was about disaffection, but I loved it with unfettered and unironic enthusiasm. Every band had something distinctive to listen to, and every band was amazing for it. It was during this manic stage of exploration that I discovered the Dictators, a short-lived group of Noo Yawk punks who cheerfully endorsed hamburgers, cheesy pop hits, and the suburban lifestyle. Fourteen years after they broke up, I was born, and fourteen years after that I discovered and soon fell in love with their debut album, “Go Girl Crazy.”
“Franks Wild Years” did not even make it into the top hundred. It is subtitled “Un Operachi Romantico in Two Acts” and grew out of a fairly unsuccessful play Waits staged at Chicago’s Briar Street Theatre in 1986. It gained a small bump in popularity after the song “Way Down in the Hole” was used as the theme for the HBO series “The Wire,” but apart from that the album for the most part has slipped into obscurity.
I grew up. I gave my 15-member caterpillar family to a younger cousin. My old cats died, and new cats took their places. I cut my hair and grew it out again, only to dye it red a few years later. I bought baggy camouflage jeans to mimic Avril Lavigne and eventually traded them in for a distressed pair from Abercrombie. An iPod replaced my Walkman, running replaced gymnastics, I had a negligible growth spurt, and I kept my nose to the grindstone. I went to college. And along the way, I lost Emmylou.