Around the beginning of this year 2009, long before I got this wild hair that has become the BSP, I was in Target, shopping with my family. I was in the magazine section and picked up Rolling Stone. [I used to be a subscriber in younger days… now (old man alert) I often don’t know who is on the cover… (Lady Gaga? really?). I try to discover new bands, and late last year, I happened upon The Gaslight Anthem, a GREAT band out of New Jersey, the home of my favorite rocker/writer, Springsteen.]
Anyway, as I flipped through the new album reviews, this caught my eye:
“The Airing of Grievances”
3.5 OF 5 STARS
Named for an obscure Shakespeare play and flaunting song titles like “Albert Camus,” this fivesome of suburban punks are proud nerds. But they know when to kick ass: “Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ” sounds like a kiss-off ballad, until the 23-year-old singer-songwriter Patrick Stickles stops short and bellows “F^ck you!” with his bandmates and they hurtle into a breakneck Celtic rocker that recalls the Pogues at their most raucous. There’s emo in the tortured lyrics and E Street Band in the arrangements, both appropriate for a Jersey crew. And the sizzling, storage-locker production makes it all sound like a cage match. Which it is — between a band and a damaged world.
So I went home and purchased the album as MP3s, and listened. It’s hard, sometimes too hard for my older sensibilities… but perfect, given their name. And that young frontman/songwriter Stickles is pretty damn good… here’s a song called My Time Outside The Womb
The first thing you see is the light.
Then, you focus on a man in a mask with a knife
as he cuts you away from everything you thought you knew about life.
Now you're in your mother's arms, wrinkled and wet.
You'll spend the rest of your life trying to hard to forget
that you met the world naked and screaming
and that's how you'll leave it.
In Riverside Hospital, on a July morning,
with a push and a pull - this is how I found out
I wasn't quite so invulnerable.
It put the fear of God in me when I heard my daddy say, "one mistake is all that it takes."
I ended up at Central School, 1993,
and met a certain kid named Sarim at the library.
He said, "they're ain't nothing about this place that's elementary."
I learned to play the guitar in the seventh grade
in order to convince everyone I was a renegade.
That's when I learned, in Glen Rock,
everybody calls a spade a spade.
I couldn't fool anyone.
I couldn't even fool myself.
I was just another book on the shelf, nothing else.
OK, so the lyrics don’t scan as poetry, but for a young writer, this is pretty strong stuff. I’d love to break down the song (and if I run out of topics this month, maybe I will later), but for now suffice to say: “with a push and a pull” is a fairly accurate depiction of the start of life.
But this play’s about the ending of it (multiple times)… and if your ears don’t bleed when you listen, then Titus Andronicus out of Glen Rock, NJ, could be the perfect background aural assault for reading Titus Andronicus from William Shakespeare.