Thursday, February 07, 2008

lost in what we keep

First, and really, without even bothering to read any further, you would be best served checking out this from Ben at Moistworks, all about one of my favorite songs of all time.

His post is about belonging, but it's also about knowing whether something is working or not working. The next time someone asks me why I am single, I may just send them a link to that post.

This week's song, you know, now that it's almost the end of the week and time for a new one, was a little tongue-in-cheek about the crushing Superbowl loss. But that's not why this song resides on my playlist, of course.

There's a kind of crescendo happening with this song right from the opening bars. It swells, the tambourine keeping it from ever really sinking. And the vocals are without abandon, without affectation. It's not necessarily pretty all the time. And it's almost like being over someone. You know, you're over someone, but that doesn't mean you don't still have that itch.

That itch is not really about wanting them back. It's not about regret, or disappointment, or even really sadness. It's not that stage of weeping, of hand-wringing, of wondering if it's really over. There's a kind of frenzy in this song that is familiar to anyone who has, really, had their heart broken.

Because at some point, you realize that it's not that it was meant to be any other way. You can see that it was not supposed to work out, and that it's better, the two of you apart. But there's some accounting to be done. There's a score to be settled. It's not necessarily vengeance. It's the recording of history. It is a little pathetic and embarrassing, ultimately, and yet, you want it to be known: you broke my heart. Because you're over it, sure, you're over it and you're over the other person, but that doesn't mean they should get a free pass. Something in you wants them to know, needs them to live with the notion that they hurt someone in a specific, acute, piercing manner. Something in you needs for it to be noted, because otherwise it becomes too meaningless to bear, and somehow that is worse than heartbreak itself.

But then the song shifts, as does the swell. Louder and louder, clankier and more fervent, a kind of religion creeping into it. When it gets to that peak, when the song starts to really lose all abandon, it's not even about a heart getting broken, but actually about the defiance required to thumb your nose at that heartbreak. I always have this visual, which is not particularly pleasant, of a heart ripped out and tossed in the mud, damaged, weak, dying. And you pick it up, dust it off, and hold it up defiantly, stick it back in your chest and say, go ahead, try it again. And that's what I take from this song when the tambourine and piano and vocals suddenly crash together like a deafening set of cymbals.

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