My introduction to music-as-an-entity occurred between the years of 2004 and 2005. I was in first grade of elementary school, and, like any first grader, I was hopelessly addicted to television programs.
What I now understand is that, while most of the kids in the “no-parental-supervision-whatsoever-crew” spent their afternoons watching MTV’s cartoon offerings (South Park and its ilk), I very much preferred wasting my time with this same channel’s (and VH1’s) music segments.
You know the ones. One hour, maybe two, of music videos with no discernible theme or cohesive criteria to be picked by, only punctuated by commercial breaks every ten minutes or so.
I used to take this notebook with me to these musical excursions, and I would try to note down the names of songs and artists and record labels all in the frantic four seconds before the tiny white letters disappeared from the screen. Only the ones I deemed good enough, though.
I have no idea why I did that, considering that I had no access whatsoever to the internet or even money to buy the music I liked at some record store.
What I do remember is the more or less surprising fact that, even at that age, I had this thing that, perhaps closing one eye and turning one’s head to the side, resembled a Taste, with a capital t.
Of the music videos that stay in my memory to some degree, I remember not liking both the one that had the dude with the antlers, and the one with the four dudes wearing suits and dancing. About a year ago, at age 21, I discovered that those two videos were from the same band.
I despised the video with the bee-girl (too happy-sounding), loved everything Outkast, and got what could be deemed an entry-level education on the vagaries of corp-rock and pop-punk music.
Two videos, though, haunted me (in a “Casper-the-good-ghost” way, not a “read La Nausée again and my own absurdity chokes me” way).
The first one had this creepy little puppet in a hospital bed. I did not understand enough English back then to realize that the video had absolutely nothing to do with the song’s lyrics or meaning. I also did not have the necessary cultural baggage to know that music videos are seldom related to the songs they are set to.
I became enraptured by the idea that a band could make a song about the process of dying desperate, alone, and most of all, knowing both of these things while life slips out of one’s fingers. This was the most intriguing idea my suicidal six-year-old mind had ever seen.
Seven years later, transfigured into a barely-there teenager who was slipping from ragged life to pure pity distilled into a puddle of alcoholism, it came to me as if in a dream.
I googled “music video puppet hospital”, and there it was. Interpol-Evil, the video header said.
The second video was not a video, but rather two or perhaps three.
One, with the guy in a bar with dimmed lights who exerts a voodoo-like control over the rest of the bar dwellers.
The second one, a car accident, with a pretty girl and a pretty guy with terrible, sad eyes.
The third one, footage of a group of young men playing music in front of multitudes who observe them like one observes too many saviors on a cross.
I fell in love and fell in love over and over again every time one of those pieces of audiovisual conceit came on, but there was one colossal problem.
The song names were long as a river, and the name of the band was the opposite of catchy, so I kept forgetting even that. So I resigned myself to the fact that I would never, ever, know who these people were, and I would never, ever learn what those songs were even named.
The written word holds a meaning never to be captured by a friendly conversation with the wind.
Both things, the sound of a scream and the scratched musings on a bloodied paper sheet, can be thrown into a grave that is both impenetrable and inconspicuous. Writing anything down, however, speaks of a contradictory desire that combines plausible deniability with artificiality.
It is known. The someone-who-writes never commits anything to paper that he would not willingly say, perhaps to an audience of a few. The someone-who-writes writes as if someone else were proof-listening to the whole shebang.
That unbridled narcissism saponified on a mixture of pure, bilious self-hatred, is exactly what attracted me to this god-forsaken band.
To say that, by virtue of the cutesy way in which I found them, both of these bands stand on equal footing in preference is, of course, ridiculous.
Brand New, the dudes with the long song titles, went on to become my quote-unquote favorite band in the whole world, with all the trappings that tend to accompany these types of declaration of unending devotion.
I do like Interpol’s first three records.