(3) Indigo Girls, "Romeo and Juliet"
Fact is, I’d totally forgotten about this song. I mean, I remembered the idea of it, had in fact played it a whole bunch on guitar for a then-girlfriend, had in fact learned to play the guitar (not real well, I should admit) specifically to play her this song, since the Indigo Girls were a favorite of hers and of course I was in wooing mode. I only realized later that it was a cover, and that the original was by Dire Straits, a band I basically had written off as cheeseball on account of the inescapable digitally animated video in constant rotation on MTV, and I’d come later to appreciate their version. In fact the Dire Straits version had completely supplanted this one in my mind, so that I had only now a memory of this song—a sad song, to be sure, and a memory of what it sounded like, so that it was included here in the tournament kind of by default, like it’d seemed like a good song to include, and the rest of the committee had immediately agreed. And we’d seeded the tournament, and, yeah, Indigo Girls are a good band but let’s face it not a favorite in anyone’s mind, and I hadn’t actually listened to the song until this afternoon, when it finally came around on the playlist. I should be honest: I was basically avoiding the Js, because I wanted to put off listening to Joy Division, which seems to me obviously the saddest song in the tournament, until late, and hadn’t even wanted to write about it for that reason, wanted to preserve that particular pleasure, and besides, Jeff Buckley was here in the Js too, as the playlist sorted by the first name, and that’s a devastating song, and dude drowned, and so I had just kind of passed this whole section by until today on the way to work the Indigo Girls version of "Romeo and Juliet" came on and I have to say I sat there in my old ass car that they don’t even make anymore and when it fired up I felt how I used to feel, there it was, that old feeling, there’s the fire I remembered, and it went on to straight up wreck me. I was not prepared for the ferocity of the anger and the sadness and bitterness in the song and how fully felt it is, and how driven it is by that still-hot longing we get to just after the chorus, and how badly it still wants, even knowing it’s over, for it not to be, and how much it elevates the reserve of the Dire Straits version (which is still a great version, but how flat it felt this afternoon now in comparison). I mean to say that it wrecked me. It hit me with a force I was entirely unprepared for, and it left me there, and I couldn’t really listen to anything else for twenty minutes or so though I tried. I remembered then later how, right after I played it for that then-girlfriend—slowly, like you do, probably fucking it up a couple times, but mostly getting it—and I remembered the feeling of that expectant pause after the last chord, and I know that really I shouldn’t have expected anything else from this moment, and you know I was just another douchebag in college trying to play a guitar to impress a girl, and she said, well, it’s supposed to be a lot faster, isn’t it? Yes, Kathryn, yes it is.
(14) Pavement, "Gold Soundz"
The question you might be asking yourself by this point in the bracket: how do we experience sadness, exactly? Why do we feel down or feel filled with others’ articulations of suffering when we listen to a sad song? Why do we want to suffer at all? Why does it sometimes feel so good to feel so sad? Or, maybe to this song, what’s the good of sadness without catharsis? I mean, think of the way in which Sinead O’Connor’s voice surges in “Three Babies,” where the emotion fills us and we are moved by the song’s end. We don’t get that with “Gold Soundz”, do we? It’s not here to move us in the same way. Sure, it’s beautiful in its way, like a sunny day, but it offers no singalong chorus. It barely offers a personal narrative (or the apparently personal, the persona). It’s shrouded in coded conversations about nostalgia and the past (“Go back to those gold soundz / And keep my advent to your self / Because it’s nothing I don’t like / Is it a crisis or a boring change?”). It seems to be about the nostalgia we might have for songs we used to like (to give it the ultimate meta reading here). Then it gets to sentiments like “So drunk in the August sun / And you’re the kind of girl I like / Because you’re empty and I’m empty,” which point us toward a kind of near-nihilism. Someone’s surely written a paper about this song in the context of poststructuralism (well, uh yeah, there’s this), and that’s cool, since I like to use intellectualism as a tool to defuse my natural fear of sentimentality and cliché as the next geeky boy. I don’t know, man, it’s a sad enough song, but fuck it, I can’t imagine it taking down the Indigo Girls, who’ve already nuked this kind of argument from orbit (“I went to see the doctor of philosophy / with a poster of Rasputin and a beard down to his knee / he never did marry or see a B-grade movie / He graded my performance, he said he could see through me / I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind, got my paper / and I was free”). But then I’ve been wrong before—I’ve got my blind spots too—which is exactly why we put the teams on the court and play the game.