Gone for Worse
The most frustrating thing that comes of being passionate about independent musicians’ fierce creativity and relentless fire is that the ferocity often turns inward and the fire consumes. I can’t tell you how many bands have broken up that I wanted to see just one more time, or that – tragedy of all tragedies – I never got to see at all.
I was reminded of this fact this month as I continued to mourn the loss of Mon Frere, a band I had high hopes for. I’ve raved their two releases – the short, punchy, astounding Real Vampires EP and the slightly long-winded but impressive Blood, Sweat, and Swords LP. Contained in each is some of the tightest, dirtiest, heaviest, danciest real music there is. Call it pop, call it pop/rock, call it dance-rock, but when I hear “You Don’t Mind” and its swaggering, syncopated guitar line, I am sad that I was never able to air-guitar my way through the song in concert. When I hear the frantic, nearly deranged call-and-response that happens in the middle of “R.V.D.G.S.”, I am sad that I can’t be part of the clapping crowd that forms the backdrop to the stabbing, stomping guitar line. Yes, a band can be stabbing and stomping at the same time. Mon Frere did it.
I never saw Mon Frere live. It deeply pains me, and what’s worse is that this type of band won’t ever embark on a reunion tour. Maybe a one-off reunion show, but how am I, a true Midwesterner, going to get to Seattle on a lark? Am I that dedicated to the memory of Mon Frere? We’ll see – if the show ever surfaces.
But this ever-present sadness was exacerbated by the fact that I read a brilliant book in the 33 1/3 series titled In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, which is about the circumstances that surrounded the creation, recording, touring, and aftermath of one of my favorite albums.
Now, I feel kind of trite even mentioning this. One reason is that I hate being a hipster. Another reason is that I feel I’m about 8 years too late to be writing this. A third is that Jeff Mangum probably would prefer me to stop talking about him.
But you know what? I never got to see Neutral Milk Hotel live. After repeated listens, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea continues to excite and trouble me, especially upon hearing it on vinyl for the first time at a friend’s place. So I will lament that fact. I apologize for offending anyone, be it the reclusive genius himself or his hardcore followers who honor his memory by never wishing that he release more music (is that a paradox?). It makes me sad to know that I can never look forward to seeing NMH.
It’s just one of the things that comes with the territory – if they’re gone, they’re gone for good. Or for worse, as the case may be.