My Month in the Doldrums — Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

Continuing with the theme of recognised genre classics, I want to talk about my continued obsession with a classic of pitchfork-rock, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. This isn’t the first time I’ve written about this album (if this lazy ***** rating counts), and I am very likely to write about it again. It’s just the love talking.

(Please buy the album or stream it, e.g. here. If you don’t want to, click on the YT links in the article, but if you like it after, consider doing the other thing.)

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart

I remember a home-and-away corniche tiled to the brim with sand. The stars were 7:30 pm, haunted, flickering. A W-shaped building stood intimidatingly to my left. Fatso jogging. I remember my ears flooding with glockenspiel (I think?) sounds. Maybe it was a xylophone.

I know every word to this song. It’s one of those songs that I assumed would someday make less sense to me. That, I thought, would be the tell-tale sign of my new-found maturity. That day hasn’t come yet.

I did not really like this album minus its first two songs in my first tens of attempts, when I was in my late teens. I assumed it’s because I wasn’t American. Then I ‘got it’ when I was 25. It isn’t like you have to ‘get it’, it’s built on rock-n-roll idiom, the songs are catchy, there are moments of great relatability, there’s several instances of the word ‘love’.

Kamera

But that’s not it. Turns out my not liking it had nothing to do with my nationality. It probably had nothing to do with maturity one way or an other either. Turns out, as a great man once said in a sample, I must recognise that ‘music is music’, not a nod to everything that’s important to me personally.

The pace picked up as I walked down the joggers’ track, the W-shaped building passing slowly by, the sea to my right. I’m sure as the glockenspiel hit again I must have be walking faster. I’m sure my pace of walking correlates to the tempo of the music I’m listening to. Surely this can’t be a glockenspiel if that first one was; they both sound so different.

Radio Cure

I’d like to cheer up. I’m sure there’s something wrong with me.

Enough of the whining.

Speaking of maturity, more of that sort of tough love from April on.

The oldies-but-goldies were right, the mind is a terrible master. I refused to listen to their grey-haired advice, and have learnt this the hard way, on my knees, tied and gagged, a muslin bag over my head, crying out please let me go, please let me go, I don’t want to these (shiny, shiny) shiny boots of leather.

The mind is a terrible master. It’s also a terrible thing to taste.

If distance has no way of making love understandable, neither does time, I remember thinking, as this major-key dirge closed.

War on War

I don’t think I’ll understand how I was so foolish just a couple of years ago, throwing everything away because of some phantom la-la-land concept. Fool.

In context, though, I’m lucky. Most of the couple of people who will read this are lucky too. Mostly because none of us was born in Syria in 2004 (likely). Spending time in the middle east, and considering it home-ish at the very least makes you realise exactly how much people who have never traveled there presume about its people, I remember thinking. Everybody wants to condescend somebody. Liberals, conservative, men, women, boys, girls, everybody wants to think themselves better than somebody else so they can get themselves a big, throbbing, veiny headache.

Idiots.

Jesus, etc.

I was playing a role there. Just playing a part. Speaking of a part, jokes apart, it doesn’t make sense to paint the Middle East with a broad brushstroke, just as it makes no sense to paint all of North America with a single brushstroke. I can think of tens of major differences between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and they’re just two major cities of the UAE, and situated less than just a couple of hours away from each other. What does that Middle East have in common with the Middle East of Syria? The Middle East of Saudi Arabia? The Middle East of Kurdistan? The Middle East of Israel?

I think the best way to really say which of the two cities (any two cities, really) you would prefer living in is to answer the question — in which of the two cities in question would you rather be hit by a car?

Ashes of American Flags

Well sure, you’d have to answer more than just a single question for you to arrive at anything reasonable. Otherwise companies like Zillow and Housing and 99acres would be put out of business by mathematical induction.

As I continued my walk down the promenade, I started to get overwhelmed with emotion. I realised as I turned to see the W-shaped building behind me that this section of the album has become my favourite. Back in my ‘I don’t get this album because I’m not American’ phase, this song was the cause of my idiotic misconception.

All this sort of thinking is the sort of stupid logicless thinking all humans occasionally indulge in, while fools like me continue to wishfully think themselves intellectually superior to ‘those dumb americans’. No one country has a monopoly on stupidity

Heavy Metal Drummer

No one person has a monopoly on condescension. We use a different phrase these days. It’s called being a dick.

I took a detour, walking past aromas of sajj, zaatar, beefburgers, donuts, and coffee. I impressed myself by not buying coffee. Ten kilometres of walking in, dehydration isn’t the best idea, I rationalised. It never occurred to sedentary old me, that maybe, ten kilometres in, it wouldn’t be the best idea to keep walking.

I’m the Man Who Loves You

If I was anywhere near a coffee shop when the distortion kicked in, I would have let myself go. I would have run to embrace an americano, belting out ‘I’m the man who loves you!’ as racially ambiguous strangers would stare at racially homogenous me, flabbergasted. Loneliness is a self-esteem killer. I’m sure you understand.

Everything about this song, everything about this album rewards repeat listening. That night, at 8-whatever pm, as this song hit, I had to start jogging just to keep myself from collapsing under the weight of all the new emotions this album was evoking in me on this my whatever-hundredth listen.

Pot Kettle Black

When it comes to music, I tend to oversell. But I also tend to get over-emotional when I listen to music. I feel weird. I feel like it’s ok to be weird. Of course it is. It’s just objectively better not to be.

I had turned back a couple of minutes ago. The beach was now to my left, the W-shaped building in front of me. And every moment’s a little bit later (more on moments soon).

Poor Places

My legs started to give. Where until a few moments ago I was hoping I wouldn’t get a call asking me to stop with my shenanigans, I was now hoping I’d get that call, so I could escape the clutches of this great album.

Sometimes great music needs to be escaped. If this sounds like exaggeration, think of listening to good music when alone in bed at 3 am, knowing you’ve got to get to work tomorrow. Imagined? Now shut up. Don’t call me weird. Don’t call anybody weird, for that matter. Words hurt oldies-but-trolledies as much as they do young ‘uns.

Don’t ask us what we’re doing, why we walk or run for miles when it’s hot outside, why we stay indoors when everybody else is outside partying, why we won’t stop making fun of ourselves. It’s because of you. And from what I’ve heard from the gang, we’ve had enough of your bullying.

I found the strength to continue walking, but slowly, and the fortitude to cut my shenanigans myself as the distortion picked up. Hello, I said.

Reservations

I’m ready to be normal. I’m ready to do the normal thing normal people do at 8-something. I’m ready to get dinner. I’m ready to talk about normal things. And I’m thankful there’s people who’d like to be normal wth me.

I’m not always grateful. I’m not always ready. I often have reservations. I did that evening. I didn’t a month before it. But the mind is a terrible master. Just the word ‘master’ is a terrible word.

I can now see peace-time is here. War-time is behind. I’m so cavalier when using terms like ‘peace’ and ‘war’, in a way that only someone who has never seen war can be. I don’t think a Syrian refugee would refer to a personal crisis as ‘my personal war’, or a resolution of temporary doubt as ‘peace-time’. That’s the sort of luxury only healthy adults in peaceful nations have. That said, I want to read the copy of Art of War my dad got me.

I sat in the car with my mum. We headed out for dinner. Being on vacation is good.

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