Fear of Music – Highway 61 Left Alone


Desperately Clinging on to What is Left of the Past, Or Not

by Devin King

I used to live by the airport, and I would lay out in the field and watch the airplanes take off. It wasn’t symbolism or some sort of literary wankery, it was just a thing.

I remember listening to Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? and watching the airplanes overhead, though that probably never happened. Memory is parallax; sometimes those things that you fondly recall weren’t really that fond, or didn’t even happen that way. So watching the planes and listening to indie music are two things that I used to do, and whether it was this album or another under the planes is irrelevant I guess. It was an indie boom around that time, so it was all kind of the same in the end. 

So now I’m out of university and I have a job and a kid and I don’t go watch the planes anymore. And it’s hard to listen to music, let alone keep up that pace of discovering new music. I can see how people give up on things, there’s only so much time. It’s not like I’m going to ignore my baby so I can sit quietly and totally absorb that new Washed Out album. It’s just not a thing I can do anymore. He needs to be in bed at certain times to be a healthy tiny human, which means I also have to be here with him, which means it’s harder to go anywhere generally, especially if it’s going anywhere longer than a couple of hours. Time is a problem. So here I am in amber, me and Jimmy Shaw.

And it’s got to be hard for Metric, too. They’re getting older and, let’s face it, not nearly as good as they ever were. How do you deal with that, living in your own shadow? It doesn’t seem to bother the Rolling Stones, I guess.

It’s super easy to just stop paying attention to what’s happening now and cling to the fondness of your youth. I can totally see why someone like Rod Stewart is still popular. There’s tons of people who don’t just rely on the music of Rod Stewart; he keeps that tiny bit of their past alive that makes them feel like maybe – maybe – they’ll be able to feel the good old days again. Maybe all the bills and aches timetables and world problems will just go away. It will all have been a dream. They don’t need Frank Ocean. No matter how good he is, he can never fill the role that Rod Steward always will in their psyche.

“Nostalgia is death.” That’s the guy who chose to release an album of Christmas songs rather than look back on his works like Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde. In the end, he’s right. That weird, shimmery, romantic feeling I have of that time and that music is not only a strange figment, but toxic. Because like listening to that Metric song at the airfield, it didn’t happen. It’s just a strange sense of reaching back to something that I only have an approximated feeling of. And I can never go back there. No matter how hard I try. It would ruin me.

Moving forward isn’t a bad thing, and it doesn’t mean that I have to give everything up completely. But I am a different person. I have to live differently. I can’t buy every album I want, or see every show I wanted to see. It’s a strange bit of acceptance to let something that was such a huge part of my life go like that, but the reality is that I’m happier now than I was then. And I can’t, and wouldn’t, risk this to live like I did.

The desire is always there to idealize the past and to dream of going back. It’s thankful we can’t, because we’d have to remember how miserable we were anyway. That’s the good thing about idealizing the past, we don’t actually have to live out the awful bits again.

Wait. What’s that? Will I take my son to watch the airplanes? Weren’t you listening? I said it didn’t mean anything.

I’ll take him swimming or something.

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