This is tough.
I know I’m supposed to look back at my high school years with disdain, with intense dislike for the choices I made, the people I hung out with, the music I listened to, etc. And I do, without a doubt, feel that way. But there’s something so intriguing in the concept of burgeoning musical ideals: At 13, you’re not quite a child anymore, but you’re a long way off from being an adult (despite having my Bar Mitzvah that year, I wasn’t exactly rushing out to vote or find an apartment). Developmentally, you’re much closer to a child than an adult – puberty’s real effects are just setting in and your brain is at least a decade away from being fully developed. You don’t have any real control over the way you think and how you create your person because you don’t know you have that ability yet. You make small gestures at that idea, though – a big one being rebellion towards all things related to your parents, which, for most people, are the ones creating and shaping your social and personal development.
Which brings me to my music taste at 13. It’s fascinating to come to these conclusions and realize that the teenage “rebellion” wasn’t that – it was just another way of finding out how to be yourself. And I did that with shitty nu-metal.
“Break Stuff” by Limp Bizkit
I’d like to think that there was meaning behind these songs, that the message of the songs had some insight into the person I was at 13. But I liked a band fronted by Fred Durst. It’s like saying your best friends are Joe Rogan and that dude who makes the “Girls Gone Wild” videos (news flash: he’s a prick.). And I really liked this band, I had all of their albums. I even, in an insanely misguided emulation, bought one of those obscenely obnoxious red Yankee hats. Sidenote: Why is Snoop Dogg in this video? He thought this was cool? If so, I’m off the hook. Double sidenote: Apparently the members of this band had no idea the name of their band was a euphemism.
“Falling Away From Me” by Korn
I will say this: Re-listening to this song after listening to the previous song, Korn has at least a modicum of musical talent, and exponentially more than any member of Limp Bizkit. But they are terrible. Though the harmonies in the bridge are actually really good – kind of like a Gregorian chant, and has a major resolve in a minor key. It’s a shame they picked this kind of music to play. The drummer is really good. The guitarists rarely solo, so it’s hard to judge them but on their songwriting (which is bad). And the singer is annoying, but not horrible. I wonder if they would be good if they had gone harder (like true metal) or not been so fucking emo.
“Roll Into The Light” by Laughing Colors
Finally, we get into the artists I still like. Being 13, you can’t really travel to see bands (I was poor, I couldn’t jet off to the coast to see a band I loved but was only stateside for one show) so you’re forced to (if you’re like us, and obsessed with music to the point of having to go see a show even if you don’t know the band) go to the local venue and see whatever you can. I happened upon this band on one of those nights, and I’ve never regretted it. They have some of the best live shows I’ve ever seen, period. I wish they were still together.
“Guerilla Radio” by Rage Against the Machine
This band started out as a rebellion band (ridiculously loud, ludicrous political ideas) but became something more. It took me a real study of this band to realize that behind all the anarchism and screeching guitars was insanely good musical talent. They can hit a groove that would make a grown man weep (not an admission) and Zach De La Rocha has real lyrical skill, despite the subject matter. But these realizations came long after I originally liked the band, so I now know that the only reasons I liked them were for the rebellious reasons (ridiculously loud and ludicrous political ideas).
“Crash Into Me” by Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds (live)
It’s weird to think of Dave Matthews as the light at the end of the tunnel, but I think that’s what it was. I first this track in Pennsylvania at a distant family member’s house for my paternal grandmother’s funeral. On face value, you would say that this has some greater meaning, that the death of a family member was enough of a shock to knock me out of my ill-advised foray into terrible, but no. I never liked my grandmother, and she didn’t like me. It wasn’t a “I’m so happy she’s dead” moment; I just didn’t feel anything. But this song struck me that night. I had certainly heard the song before (it was such a huge hit in 1996) but I hadn’t heard it stripped down like this.
But the song isn’t what’s important, it’s the change it precipitated. Somehow, getting into Dave Matthews Band pulled me back to my roots, led me back to the music I should’ve been listening to all along. I can tell you how, but you’ve already seen my posts from my music at 16, 18, and 22. I can’t tell you why, however. I can’t figure it out. (Note to Dave Matthews: It’s not a sweet song. It’s fucking creepy.)