I want to go home. But I am home.

I been through many times in which I thought I might lose it
The only thing that saved me has always been music — Beastie Boys

Whenever I feel like I’m starting to slip over the edge of reality a little more than normal, it’s always been my thing to start listening to really crazy people in an effort to convince me that everything’s still okay.

So recently, I picked up Syd Barrett’s new “best of” compilation, and I downloaded a copy of Brian Wilson’s Smile as envisioned and mixed by a particularly enthusiastic fan. As great as these artists are, I still found myself lacking the usual comfort that these types of album tend to give me. I mean, Smile would have probably been a good album, but I no longer think it would have changed the world. Songs like “Do You Like Worms” and “Vege-tables” might sound cool, but there’s not much there to really connect to. I prefer songs about girls. And Syd Barrett let me down too. He ended up sounding like Ringo Starr singing music written by the Rutles. Effervescing Elephant? Come on! These albums weren’t helping me get through my rough times at all. What’s up?

Music is my savior
I was maimed by rock and roll
I was tamed by rock and roll — Wilco

And then along came an album that rocked my world. After dealing with some seriously heavy shit lately, I was turned on to an album that lifted my spirits in a way that only truly great music can. For me. Some people feel the true presence of God when they pray. I don’t feel that. I’m happy some people do though. It gets them through tough times, and they need it.

We all do.

And the closest I can get to that peace that passeth understanding comes from listening to exactly the right music at exactly the right time. On the way home from work tonight, I stopped by my local record store and picked up the Mountain GoatsAll Hail West Texas. Then I listened to it closely as I folded laundry and cleaned the apartment. A few times I had to sit down and focus on it. I played the first song twice in a row like a teenage girl in 1986 playing “Somebody” by Depeche Mode over and over at the beach. No shit, I had to repeat the second song again after I played it too.

I thank God right now for John Darnielle and his Mountain Goats. I’ve been reading his site for several months now (thanks to Michael Goldberg), and am constantly amazed by his ability to write about bands I know I won’t ever want to listen to and still keep me interested. His own music is stripped and as lo-fi as music can be, recorded on a boom box in his central Iowa home. But it sounds perfect tonight.

And right now, it’s just what I need.

5 thoughts on “I want to go home. But I am home.”

  1. MUsic is our religion. We have our messiahs who we listen to and get a feeling of redemption when we find the perfect song. I have been more intensely moved a rock show than I’ve ever felt in a church. I found more meaning in lyrics than in any holy book. “I was saved by Rock and Roll”–Wilco

  2. Thanks, Jake – I just finished watching Quadrophenia not five minutes ago, and here I come across this post. You can’t imagine the effect that had on me (or maybe you can – I dunno). An excellent point made at the perfect time. Music lets you communicate with yourself like seeing your life through a prism – each song another facet of what’s going on around or within you. That’s what I’ve come to think recently, anyway.Just a few minutes ago (at the end of the movie) I had made note of this verse.You were under the imressionThat when you were walking forwardThat you’d end up further onwardBut things ain’t quite that simple-The Who

  3. Amen. This music addict is touring the country right now, playing one-nighters in all the backwater one-horse towns in America, making an honest wage singing, not in a rock and roll band, but in a Gershwin musical. The endless tourbus rides would be unbearable were it not for my trusty companion, Sony discman, and the gift of astonishing music which has the power to transport me further than I-90 ever could. Sometimes I just pick a CD for background music while I concentrate on other things. But there are days when the 11 hours between North Carolina and Southern Florida are defined by the music I choose. My tourmates think I’m nutty for lugging around so much music on the tour, but I’d have gone stark-raving long ago if I couln’t pop my headphones on and turn the painful day into a surreal extended music video in which reality is miraculously dulled by the world the music conjures.Music is miraculous.

  4. Throughout each day I often find myself playing a mental soundtrack in my head. During a workout it’s stuff like At The Drive Inn. While I’m struggling for sanity in a work-day meeting I often run my mind through old favorites from my embarrasing teen years. When I’m really feeling down and seriously wreaked, I love to put in Wilco’s Being there. Music can be something that mentally and spiritually lifts you up or helps you to sort things out. That’s why churches have choirs. But those hymes just ain’t as cool as Liz Phair on stage in leather pants!!!

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