Headphones.

An introduction: Months ago the amazing Maria and I had this little chat, and like most of our chats, it started off most interestingly…

Maria Diaz: Hey…

Marco Sparks: What an interesting video. That man stabbed himself in the chest! Multiple times! That is some serious follow through.
MD: Huh? Oh, I sent you the wrong one. But i do love that song. Look at this:
🙂 and…
🙂
Marco: Oh man, that song.
MD: This one is better:
Marco: I just remember hearing it one night, late at night when I was homeless and living with a friend, and I remember loving the song. It’s a tired complaint, I know, but this was back when VH1 and MTV still played… sigh… music videos.
MD: Which one, the Nine Days one? Or Vertical Horizon?
Marco: Oh, the Nine Days one, sorry. But I think a lot part of it had to do with really thinking that the girl in the video was super duper cute.
MD: Yeah, that was probably the real reason. Especially because that Vertical Horizon song is terrible.
Marco: Part of it was also because I was really trying to win over this girl who looked like the girl in the Nine Days video and… I don’t know, maybe I felt justified in my affections by the song/video?
MD: the song is kinda cute, I think.
Marco: She was dating this ginormous drug dealer at the time. Well, not “ginormous,” neither physically not, you know, stature in the suburban drug selling racket, but… well, either way, I just couldn’t compete with the guy. And yeah, the song is fine. Probably better than fine.
MD: Awww. Yeah, drug dealers are very attractive to women. All that money. And all those drugs.
Marco: That particular Vertical Horizon song… I liked it maybe the first time I heard it, but every time after… grating.
MD: It’s the reveal at the end of the song… that HE is the one the girl doesn’t want.
Marco: Of course she doesn’t want him. (He’s hideous.) This…
“Love can be so boring.”
MD: OMG this song.
Marco: There’s a very sad, very tragic playlist of recurring songs that I listened to a lot circa 1999 – 2002ish, and this song was on it intermittently.
MD: I bet we had many of the same songs. This was definitely on mine.
Marco: I feel like I was carrying around this very shallow sense of sadness or regret… like I had lost something that should be crucial but wasn’t, not really, though you at the time you couldn’t convince me of that… and my music reflected that.
MD: Exactly.
Marco: It’s strange that you got me thinking about that cause I was really thinking about a lot of music from back then lately the first summer I moved to this shithole state I live in… I did nothing. Absolutely nothing. Ate shitty food. “Ate shitty” as in “ate terribly.” Drank beer. Lots. Laid on the couch in my huge bedroom listening to music and reading. That was it. Oh, and thought up ridiculous plots of silly Clive Cussler-esque thrillers.
…but that one U2 album, All That You Can’t Leave Behind? I associate that album so strongly, oddly enough, with Bret Easton Ellis’ first book and with Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary because I listened to that album on repeat while reading those books for the first time that summer.
MD: The first Bret Easton Ellis, that’s Less Than Zero?
Marco: Yeah, Less Than Zero.
Okay, that invisible pain I mentioned… do you want to see a really bad example of a song from that period?
MD: Of course. Always.
Marco: okay, this artist I’m about to bring up is ridiculous and you kind of knew that when she first debuted, but just how ridiculous and plastic hadn’t quite hit yet…
Anyway, her first two singles were just silly radio pop fluff, but this was her third single, I believe, and I remember hearing this song for the first time on headphones while walking somewhere late at night… and it just seemed to resonate with that tragic void living inside me…
MD: hahaha YES! I felt similarly about this song…
Marco: (Holy shit, Lizzy Caplan is in that video.)
It’s probably been so long since i’ve bought an actual CD i’m sad to say because I still like CDs, I’m still a guy who likes CDs, but I have a lot of bad pop punk CDs from that circa Avril era. I mean, I probably have 700 cds and it’s just this incredibly awesome, sexy music collection, but just figure that 30 or so of those cds are from artists like…
and
MD: Nothing to be ashamed of.
Marco: Well, maybe a little, but it was a time and a place and everything changes and you make explorations and sometimes what’s bad is good and vice versa. And blah blah blah. And anyone who doesn’t get that is an idiot, right? Plus, these tiny revelations made here are hardly the worse musical sins I’ve committed as a listener…
Though, thankfully, this was the time period in which was i also really discovering, like, The Get Up Kids, so it wasn’t all bad. And that said, I gotta tell you, I’m sorry, but I can’t join you on the Jason Mraz journey.
MD: hahahahaha.
When I was flying back from Europe with an ex, we had a HORRIBLE fight. And this is like 10+ hours of flying BTW, and I just listened to this Jason Mraz song over and over again on the airplane radio system. It was really quite sad.
Marco: I can imagine. I think I’d like the song if it was a different artist, you know?
MD: Yeah. Jason Mraz is easy to hate.
Marco: And it’s something about Mraz himself that I just despise.
Okay, so I am about to hit you with two megahits from that time period. i don’t know if you’re ready for it.
MD: I’m so fucking ready.
Marco: That is exactly what I wanted to hear. But first, let me just say… Thinking about that Unwritten Law song… I was working where I am currently already when that song was unleashed on me and it’s so vivid in my memory the girl I had a crush on then that I associate that song with… I mean, nothing ever happened with that girl. She thought I was profoundly weird without ever realizing just how right she was and yet I still think of her when I hear it. Anyways… Prepare thyself!
MD: Getting ready…
Marco: You say that but can ever truly be ready to go back to… this:
…and also this:
BOOM!
MD: OH MAN, that Lifehouse guy. Do you think he made his voice sound like that?
Marco: Ha ha. Do you remember where you were when you first said out loud, “NO WAY, THAT BIG VOICE DOES NOT SOUND LIKE THAT LITTLE GUY FROM THE CALLING.”
MD: Wow. Seriously. I had no idea this band even had a name. It was just a song that was everywhere at the time.
Marco: Like back then, as they were signing their record contract they must’ve known they would not last.
It would be so much easier if we were talking about just the 90s here…
from here.
or late 90’s fin de siècle music, but this period we’re talking about, that early 00s, was just so fucking weird. Here’s a really, really sad fact: I also recall the first mp3 I ever downloaded and while this wasn’t the very first, I believe that lifehouse single was either #2 or #3.
MD: Hmm has this song been on a lot of commercials?
Marco: Probably so very many.
MD: Here’s one for the ages:
Marco: the first comment on that video’s youtube page is:
“I paused my porn for this. (:”
Editor’s note: This was a few months ago, mind.
MD: The ultimate compliment for any music video, really.
Marco: For serious. Yeah,back then I really liked the Bleed American and Futures album, which made me go back and look up Clarity. So emotastic.
MD: yeah, all the emo kids were soooo mad when they got popular for 5 seconds.

Editor’s note: I then told MD again about the 600ish page political novel that Benjamin Light and I started writing back during the time period being covered in this music discussion. (Separate editor’s note: Those 600 pages ended up only being probably 1/8the the novel’s probable length had it lived past its infancy. Jesus.) Anyway, about 75 pages of that book were written to Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity album. -Marco.

Marco: Wow, the neural pathways of memory and musical taste progression that this trip and fall down memory lane is opening up for me…
MD: That’s what it’s supposed to do!
Marco: I remember there was a period where I went to Burger King for lunch every day – ugh – and I’d order my food and sit myself in the corner, with my back to the TV and so I could see everyone there and I’d listen to music on headphones and eat and read articles from the internet I had printed out earlier in the day at work and just write. I was working on so many things back then and I had downloaded the Wicker Park soundtrack of all soundtracks because I had heard it was “hip.” And on it was this song:
MD: Very interesting that the video you found is a fandom vid for The Office.
Marco: …and that begat me downloading their album at the time and I would listen to that Snow Patrol album all the time during that period and write and, of course, it’s strongly associated with a girl at the time and all that blah blah blah. Words and music and women… funny how they’re all so strongly tied together in my head.
And yeah, I thought that was funny too, re: The Office video. I guess Pam/Roy was someone’s OTP at the time?
But anyway, that Snow Patrol thing… I think that was the start of me pushing into a new aeon on musical interests, as far as cruising on the surface of mainstream “alternative rock”ish type music for the masses, and enjoying something about the generic nothingness there.
And that strange sadness that belonged to nothing real in my life? I really think that perhaps it died when I first heard this song…
MD: Ah, such a lovely song…
Marco: I remember listening to this song on headphones on a lunchbreak at work and just breaking down into tears. I had to call in to my job from 100 yards away and tell them I’d be late and I just walked around, listening to this over and over again and feeling terrible, and wonderful, and terrible and sad and wounded, and it was like somewhere around then I stopped feeling sad about nothing and it was like the real regrets and misery entered my life.
MD: Like catharsis, like a breakthrough of sorts.
Marco: Yeah, exactly. I mean, like everyone, I have things that happened when I was younger that I carried the pain of those things with me, but I was always too shallow to really be affected by them properly, I think. I was suffering from a different kind of pain, I think, as my early 20s were crystallizing around me, and with that song… It was like the end of something more innocent and silly in my emotional dealings with the world, and the start of me experiencing real world sadness and hurt? Perhaps.
If all of this right now was a part of a documentary about my sad dealings with music at the dawn of my 20s, then the song that would be playing over the end credits sequence would be this:
MD: Ha ha, nice. And what does the hero learn at the end?
Marco: Nothing. Nothing is ever really learned.
And that end titles sequence, also, would just be sitting on the sidelines of a Quinceañera, watching young Spanish girls in pretty dresses dancing around with their family.
MD: You know, that sounds oddly hopeful.
Marco: Le Sigh. Remember when everything was just so simple and innocent and… BRITPOP?
MD: And it’s probably right there when i realized that this whole conversation would a blog post.
Marco: Yeah, sorry about that, but I think you’re right… Or maybe it’ll even be two!
Editor’s note: TO BE CONTINUED!
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2 responses to “Headphones.

  1. i really like this post guys! its been a little while since you two have teamed up, and the music just makes it that much better. unless its to do with vertical horizon and all. seriously, bald guys just shouldn’t lead a band, ever. why no love for jason mraz?? he was kinda nerdy in a way, but his lyrics at times were surprisingly clever!
    avril, you’ve really got it bad for her. although i will say “i’m with you” is the only song of hers that i ever really liked. and not in a passing way, but one of those heavy “cry in your car driving home at midnight because things went very wrong with someone” kind of way.

    • That is a not terrible song at all. Whoever her songwriters were on that song, they did good. And I have to say that whoever the marketing genius specializing in image that came up with her and molded and shaped and concocted the idea of the virginal pop punk princess as a means of scooping up just a little more cash from an all too willing market… well, good for them.

      Her second album was funnier, just for teaming up with the guy from Our Lady Peace and Chantal Kreviazuk, probably for just the slightest stab at “authenticity,” and a gentle to reminder to the homefront that she was CANADIAN.

      Oh well, for less than ten years ago it feels like a time long gone. I wasn’t exactly fond of the 90s as they were happening but of course I feel nostalgia for that time and can still smell the idenity of it, but as for the early 00s, or just any part of that decade… Eh.

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