Confessions of a music snob 2

Sometimes it seems like you really can’t outrun the mistakes of your youth. You change, you grow, and you look back and think, “Wow! Look how far I have come.” Then one day you have a conversation with someone who apparently knows you better than you know yourself. And you realize that the only thing that has changed is the date on the calendar…

A couple of weeks ago, my husband–who is affectionately nicknamed Monkey–and I were driving out to this amazing German restaurant about an hour away from Charm City. I was having a lovely time watching the green summer scenery going by and listening to the radio with my favorite companion. Somewhere along the road I began talking about the songs we were hearing. Now anyone who hangs around me for more than 20 minutes or so knows that this is quite normal for me. Most people just nod and smile until I have finished my piece and then the conversation moves on to another topic. They quickly come to realize that music is a big deal for me and they generally deal with me accordingly. But on this particular occasion, I guess I really got into serious music mode. In addition to becoming quite the critic lately, I am an avid trivia hound. So when I get going not only will I tell you why I like or dislike a particular song, I’ll also give you the artist’s entire biography (or at least as much of it as I know) and I’ll top it off with whatever memories or emotions I associate with their work. And on this night I was in fine form. After about 15 or 20 minutes of this (I wish I were kidding), my husband suddenly got really quiet. Then he looked over at me in the passenger seat and we had the following conversation (more or less):

Monkey: You know, I think you’ve gone back to the music person you were when I first met you.

Me: Aw, really? I lost some of it over the last few years? [Shock and a little sadness for losing touch with something I care so much about.]

Monkey: Yeah, but you’ve changed since starting the blog.

Me:  …So I’ve gotten it back now? [Warm fuzzies over this unexpected side effect of my creative endeavor.] That’s a good thing, right?

Monkey: [silence]

Me: Right..?

Monkey: [more silence]

Me: What’s wrong with becoming a bigger music fan again?

Monkey: [another pause, avoiding my shocked stare… or possibly just watching the road] Well, you keep talking over the music. You never actually let me just listen to it.

Me: [Stunned] Aw crap! You mean I’ve been acting like a music snob again? Why? Because of the blog?

Monkey: Honey, you blog about music. Doesn’t that automatically make you a music snob?

Me: Crap!

So there it is. My past rushing to keep up with me even after all these years. All through high school and into parts of undergrad, I was known (affectionately enough) as a music snob. I had a reputation for talking too much about what I liked (to the point of sometimes derailing conversations), making a general nuisance of myself when forced to listen to songs I didn’t like, and being… well, obsessed is a bit too strong, but something close to it. The moniker was rarely trotted out by friends, but it was made clear to me on more than one occasion that people felt it was well-deserved. It was almost an in-joke, for goodness sake! I despised this title whole-heartedly–still do, truth be told. And for the last several years, I thought I had escaped it. I grew a thicker skin, stopped making faces when country music was playing, learned to appreciate the wider and more eclectic world of music, and mastered the art of agreeing to disagree (or so I thought). I still got carried away occasionally with my little monologues, but on the whole I was a lot more easy-going and less annoying when it came to music. Well, it appears that I was only distracted by school, work, and a committed relationship. Once I got to work on this blog, I started slipping. (You can read about one of my previous lapses here.)

Not to get all whiny on you, but this is frustrating to say the least. The whole point of this blog is to explore my creative side in ways that I haven’t had the luxury to indulge in for the last several years. It’s supposed to give me a place to tell my little stories, without interrupting people or talking over the music, and (hopefully) avoid channeling the dreaded snob of my youth. Apparently I’ve still got some work to do on that count… and maybe the Internet is not the best place to avoid pretension… Crap!

Well, I refuse to give up the franchise here. I enjoy writing and can’t really imagine writing about something else with as much passion. But I do sincerely wish to be a better spokesperson for the musically-engrossed.  And there is no better time to start. They say that admitting you have a problem is the first step towards beating it. So here goes.

Hi, my name is Anna. And I am a music snob.

One of my first goals is to listen more and to let others listen as well. So now with no story, no agenda, no excuses, or explanations, here is a song I love. Just because. Enjoy (but don’t get too used to it)!

Sick of Myself by Matthew Sweet


The Origin of Angst

Sometimes I am still amazed at the way that a song can instantly transport you to a time in your life and a feeling that you thought was long gone. I find this kind of ironic, given that this sentiment is essentially the entire point of this blog. But none the less, there it is. This lesson recently was driven home for me (again) at work. I was innocently listening to satellite radio on my computer and had happened to choose the 90s grunge station. Lost in my task at hand, I hadn’t really been listening too closely to what was playing. That is, I wasn’t until a very familiar guitar riff came over my speakers. Suddenly, I was 14 years old again.

Now I was a very different person when I was 14 (who isn’t?). Aside from all the other obvious things (like  not being an adult, married, or working in the area of my chosen profession), I was barely starting to discover who I was and where I was at musically. Most friends at the time probably would have labeled me shy and innocent (although maybe not quiet… I didn’t learn volume control until years later). I was always the last one to get the simplest of dirty jokes and I never tried to take the spotlight. Romance was like a foreign country (one I’d have liked to visit, but couldn’t seem to get a Visa to) and boys had only recently begun to transition away from the role of playground torturer to that of plutonic companion or secret crush. But I was a pretty happy kid, for the most part. And yes, at 14 I was definitely still a kid (a.k.a. a late bloomer). I had a loving family, a stable home, good friends, and a very limited world view. Life was still pretty simple and my biggest problem in those days was getting through middle school in one piece (looking back that wasn’t a very big problem).

And then I discovered a little band called Soul Asylum…

Specifically, it was their 6th album that I discovered, entitled Grave Dancers Union. In 1993-94 their song Runaway Train was being played practically everywhere, even on my school bus. I had recently begun to make my first foray into the realm of alternative rock–the first time in my life where I actually picked the music I liked, not what I thought I was supposed to like–and had managed to save up my little allowance long enough to pick up the CD. I retreated to my bedroom, placed the disc in my CD boom box, and sat there in a daze while track 1 officially ushered me into my teenage years.

This was the first time I truly came face to face with that magical (and at times amusingly tragic) concept called teenage angst. The idea that you could be so lonely that you would accept any kind of attention, even negative attention, was a truly foreign notion to me. But in a strange way it appealed to me, just like it has appealed to practically every teenager produced by modern Western culture. I don’t know if it was my shyness and tendency to play supporting roles in social situations or if it was just hormones, but that jarring opening riff, Dave Pirner’s pleading/demanding lyrics, and the guitar-driven beat all resonated with thoughts and emotions I hadn’t been aware of until then. Little did I know the ride I was in for… but that’s another story.

Do you remember when you discovered your angst? What were you listening to then?