' ' Cinema Romantico: A Digression: Saying Hello To An Old Friend

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Digression: Saying Hello To An Old Friend

In the midst of trying to pay off my credit-paid plane ticket to Hawaii (turns out they're expensive - who would've thought?!) I have not purchased a new CD in (the following fact is not made up or embellished) four months. You cannot even begin to comprehend my agony. Imagine an alcoholic chain smoker who decides to quit drinking and cigarettes at the same time. That's kinda how I've been feeling. (Note: I will be buying the new Tift Merritt album on June 1, so help me God, and, thus, then this little CD detox will conclude.)

I've been able to survive mainly because my eight month infatuation with Lady Gaga still has not swayed even in the slightest (if anything, I'm getting more obsessed, which is great for me and bad for my friends & family & everyone who reads this blog) and I can listen to the first five tracks of "The Fame Monster" over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over....but you get the point. Still, a guy like me needs new music every now and then and recently, in a fit of complete desperation, I broke out The Box. The Box, if you don't know (and why would you?), is an ex-cuisinart box which contains well over a hundred CDs of music I used to adore and stopped listening to long ago or albums I purchased on an insane whim, did not like and never listened to again. Perusing the box one Saturday morning over coffee in search of something, anything, to quench my cravings, I happened upon all my old No Doubt albums.

Before continuing I should probably explain that I once loved No Doubt. I mean, I loved No Doubt. A lot. I loved No Doubt so much I once spent $35 on a No Doubt live import. I loved No Doubt so much I would get actively enraged with people who claimed I only liked them because Gwen Stefani was hot (not that she isn't because she most certainly is but people who think her hotness means she can't also be talented infuriate me). I loved No Doubt so much that during my brief tenure at the University of Iowa when my R.A. asked everyone on our floor at a meeting to name our favorite band I proudly said "No Doubt" which resulted in everyone - all of whom I recall giving answers of either Pantera or Snoop Dogg - sending me strange, judgemental looks (in retrospect that was probably a poor idea). I loved No Doubt so much that once when I saw my best friend's first college roommate for the first time in, like, two years he didn't open our conversation with "How have you been?", he opened it with: "So what do you think of the new No Doubt album?"

I came to them after the release of "Tragic Kingdom", between the time when "Just A Girl" broke and when "Spiderwebs" was about to break. And you know what? I loved the holy hell outta those songs. I don't care what anyone thinks. I think they are pop music perfection. And I loved "You Can Do It" (which I still contend should have been the hit "Don't Speak" was) and I loved "The Beacon Street Collection" (the album before "Tragic Kingdom") which despite its grabbag recording nature, was actually more cohesive than its mega-successful follower and I liked bits and pieces of their eventual beginning-of-the-new-decade follow-ups "Return of Saturn" (i.e. The Gavin Rossdale Album, i.e. Gwen Approaches 30 And Has A Massive Freak Out) and "Rock Steady" (i.e. No Doubt goes dancehall, kind of).

No Doubt was once my favorite band. You only have a very few favorite bands during your life. Not bands that were a passing fancy - or an extended passing fancy - or bands that you really liked and/or loved or even bands upon whom your world turned but bands that defined you for periods of your life. That's the critical distinction of a "favorite" band: defintion. The following are the only bands (or artists) I can honestly say have been "my favorite."

-Bruce Springsteen (duh).
-A Tribe Called Quest.
-No Doubt.
-The Arcade Fire.
-Lady Gaga (currently).

That's it. All the bands listed after Bruce Springsteen are bands that I can say for specific periods of time I have liked more than Bruce Springsteen. (For reference, even when I was going through, say, my most intense Lucinda Williams and Wilco obsessions I don't think I could have honestly said I liked either of them more than Bruce Springsteen.) And from the ages of 18-20 No Doubt was my favorite band. They ruled my world. They defined me. I was really happy at that time in my life and I think No Doubt was a reflection of it. Their sound is just so giddy. If Keith Richards' guitar is drenched in bourbon then Tom Dumont's guitar is drenched in chocolate from the Chocolate Factory. It's like being at the most bitchin' Rose Bowl Parade ever grand marshaled by Cyndi Lauper fronting Fishbone. Even during the songs that purport to be sad you can't help but feel happy. No, I didn't identify with most of Gwen's lyrics but sometimes the lyric isn't as crucial as how it's sung and I dig how Gwen sings - it's ecstatic angst. Consider the way she shrieks the word "parents" in "Different People" or her titillating vociferation of "Oooooh" at the end of "Spiderwebs."

It's not that I ever decided they sucked or turned against them, I just stopped listening. I moved on to other things. Heck, I'm a proud owner of both Gwen Stefani solo CDs. "Serious", if you ask me, is seriously good. But I had not busted out my No Doubt albums in years.

But then that Saturday morning it was as if "Tragic Kingdom" was a port in a gale. I put it on and it was like we never broke up. I played "Excuse Me Mr." and even though I hadn't heard it since I was probably 23 I still knew every word and could play every fake guitar chord (I'm not sure how - I think it was muscle memory). It was like I was back on my road trip with Jacob and Kris and I was driving the motor home at 5 in the morning through eastern Colorado keeping myself awake with Jolt and "Tragic Kingdom". It was like I just finished my shift at the movie theater and cued up "Open the Gate" as I turned onto venerable Hickman Road. It was like that 4th of July party where I was playing the version of "Spiderwebs" off a bootleg where it opened with the horn section playing the "Imperial March" and me expounding on its awesomeness as everyone fled the room. But there was one thing it wasn't like.

"Sunday Morning" had been a single (peaking at #35 according to "trustworthy" wikipedia) but I never dug that one so much. I'm not sure why. I really don't remember. Perhaps it just didn't strike me the right way or perhaps I didn't give it a proper chance. Who knows, but what I do know is that it never got played during my make-like-Hugh-Grant-dancing-to-The-Pointer-Sisters-in-"Love-Actually" No Doubt sessions. But listening to it now....it slams me over the head.

This might simply be that no real nostalgia hangs over "Sunday Morning". This sudden re-infatuation with No Doubt makes me very worried I'm having a second early mid-life crisis. But since I never listened to "Sunday Morning" when No Doubt was my favorite band I hear it now and don't have the "boy, this takes me back" context. Maybe that's it. Or maybe it's just that I had to wait 15 years to appreciate it. Or maybe the universe knew I was going to need it now and held it back from me then. I'm leaning toward the third one but of course I am. Whatever the reason, it's been nice. "Sunday Morning" has been racking up the plays on my Ipod like nobody's business. Joyful, joyful, I adore thee.

To borrow a few of Gwen's lyrics: "I thought of you again today/Reminded me how with time I've changed/If you only knew what you gave to me." This is my way of telling them. I missed these guys. They used to make me so happy and it turns out they still do.


Wretched Genius said...

When you said hello to your old friend, did your old friend respond "Hey baby, hey baby, hey.?"

Castor said...

I used to be a big No Doubt fan myself! I also enjoyed their earlier Tragic Kingdom and Return of Saturn albums much more than the two that came after. Don't judge me lol but I liked Don't Speak, Sunday Morning, A Single Kind of Life, and numerous others. Ok time to listen to some No Doubt again!

Jacob said...

ok, i have a couple things to say about this. 1) i, being your roommate for your abbreviated tenure at iowa, was also in attendance at that floor meeting and did not say Snoop or Pantera, just for the record. 2)i believe that there are 2 bands missing from your favorite band list. Public Enemy (come one you flat out wanted to be Chuck D) and DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. was 5th grade so long ago that it doesn't count?