Saturday, August 06, 2011

The Suburbs (self-indulgence)

The Arcade Fire's last album took a lot longer for me to get than their first two.

The first thing I heard by the Arcade Fire (didn't they used to have a "the" in their name?) was a poorly recorded live album. At the time, I was getting really bored of indie rock, but I could tell that something exciting was going on. Although I could barely make out the melodies behind the garbled sound, the music had an emotional intensity that I needed more of. When I finally tracked down Funeral and a CBC Radio EP, it was even better. Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) told the story of lovers meeting in the freezing tunnels beneath their city and forgetting their families with music that reminded me of Angelo Badalamenti's Twin Peaks soundtrack. Neighborhood #2 (Laika) pulled me through my depression following one of the most horrible events in my life:
Come on, Alex,
You can do it.
Come on, Alex,
There's nothing to it.
I couldn't do much of anything back then. I spent my evenings drinking bottles of cheap bourbon, playing Super Mario Brothers 3, and listening to this. I was a withered blade of grass in my philosophy of science classes and while trying to regurgitate garbage about containing China in debate rounds.

But I lived through it. The followup, Neon Bible, came out at another opportune time. I was far from academia, living with my girlfriend, and doing data entry for a horrible health insurance company. The work was mindless and consisted of typing numbered codes all day long. The codes referred to human beings, many of whom were probably being denied things like chemotherapy due to preexisting conditions. Those people were alienated from me and all I had was the syntax. The codes had to work out according to the system's axioms, but what they actually represented didn't matter to me.

But at least I could do the work while listening to music. We didn't have TV or Internet back then, but I got a copy of Neon Bible off the wireless at Perkins or something. It seemed to encapsulate a lot of what I was going through then: growing further away from my friends and the worlds of philosophy and debate that had defined me.
Don't wanna work in a building downtown
No, I don't wanna see it when the planes hit the ground
The Bush administration was near the peak of its excesses despite the 2006 election and we were mired in an Iraqi quagmire:
No place to hide
You were fighting as a soldier on their side
You're still a soldier in your mind
Though nothing's on the line

You say it's money that we need
As if we're only mouths to feed
I know no matter what you say
There are some debts you'll never pay

Working for the Church while your family dies
You take what they give you and you keep it inside
Every spark of friendship and love will die without a home
Hear the solider groan, "We'll go at it alone"
And now I'm working my first real job and am afraid of losing myself and The Suburbs finally hits me:
You never trust a millionaire quoting the sermon on the mount
I used to think I was not like them but I'm beginning to have my doubts
My doubts about it

When you're hiding underground
The rain can't get you wet
But do you think your righteousness could pay the interest on your debt?
I have my doubts about it

I feel like I've been living in
A city with no children in it
A garden left for ruin by a billionaire inside of a private prison
I was one of those silly rubes who went to law school to change the world. But here I am, not freeing the innocent from prison or overseeing refugee flows in a foreign nation, but drafting trusts. A baby is on the way and, despite the multimillionaires and right wing ideologues I serve every day, I'm more broke than I've ever been. We can't get out from under all of this medical debt (and the credit card debt that paid for our food while the rest of my financial aid was going to creditors) and are resorting to what the American legal system considers the last resort for the financially destitute. Thank goodness debtors' prisons are illegal in this state.

During the day I rearrange symbols and documents to further the privilege of economic elites. But at night I'm still trying to listen to music and read things that I enjoy. I'm not gone yet.

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