Georgia Asphalt

By dean

So I was driving around the other day, checking out the latest FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE effort, minding my own business. Then two things suddenly hit me: 1.) the rather hot sun baking one side of my poor face, and 2.) an old idea. Which is, stupidly simply, that sometimes it gets really hot. And sometimes music sounds different when it gets this way. Yep. Stop looking at me like that.

This isn't a new theory, we know this. This isn't even a very clever one. But it does come across a tad odd that in this world of what "must" be great, and what "must" be important, and what "must" be worth listening to (although with luck, I wasn't the only one wanting to lynch Bob Geldof when he publicly attacked The Stone Roses on national television...but that contradicts my point, so I'll shut up), something like this matters. If some music is so "inherently" good, why does it feel so much different when something so stupid (so very stupid) as what the digits on the thermometer says outside? Is music really that fickle? Or is only bad music that fickle?

Well, to be a bit Romper Room, just rattle off specific experiences in one's own life to state your own case. Let's see...

For some reason, THE FREESTYLERS aren't exactly the band to blast when you're taking your possessions to the attic to avoid a flood, Dr. Octagon isn't the best musician to play after being slapped in the face by a member of the opposite sex in the middle of Death Valley, and Laid is hardly an album to listen to while getting that potato out of your tailpipe (the car kind, quick one) in the middle of May.

Easy enough, right, kids? But it's still bothersome. It implies that mother nature sometimes has just the same say on your own music than your heart. That there's some infantile form of meteorological peer pressure going on outside your wee head. You can't hear an album the "way" you want to unless the high and low pressures are behaving. You can't shut yourself completely off. You can't ignore everything. And more to the point, these such "ingredients" do indeed exist all the time for what we love as well as hate. After all: we can close ourselves off to certain bands or albums in certain times in our lives if we're hostile towards the world ("that new GENE is shit")...but we can also be frighteningly open to others if we're at a completely different point in our lives ("heeeeey, that FLAT ERIC song ain't half bad.").

Still, this basic theory fits more than just imbecilic temperature too. I told you to stop looking at me like that. Volume: JEGA sure sounds better when it's played very, VERY LOUDLY while Music Has The Right To Children seems to work pretty well if you keep the volume knob at "1."

Location: just try listening to the claustrophobic dog man star on a smooth beach on a sunny afternoon, and just try listening to "Sunny Afternoon" while watching your clothes dry in a rain-leaking laundromat. More to the point, try listening to any piece of music anywhere that seems to contradict its environment. Doesn't work like it usually does. But sometimes it just doesn't it's supposed to.

Supposed to? Now we all have our theoretical taste buds all a-tingly on how certain songs or albums are "supposed" to work. But what if these rather arbitrary definitions of experience actually have their place in a certain time or climate in our world? If "Sha La La La Lee" doesn't quite have the same effect on a young Chicora Indian as it does for a Camden-strutting teenager, it should also be a reasonable assumption that A.) listening to BLACK BOX RECORDER late at night in the dark while ominous fog rolls in outside your window and B.) listening to the same album mid-day while a heat-exhausted, crap-encrusted dog laps at your neighbour's chugging sprinkler is not the very same experience. Anybody who says otherwise is an idiot.

(okay, so maybe Luke Haines would chirp, "Actually...")

But still. Does it matter? Sure temporal, spatial, and climate experiences are all valid -- and all have their place when taking into account what a musician is trying to offer -- but how much damn importance can something like terrifying ice storms or a hot Georgia asphalt really attain? And why are some environmental conditions the ones that are "supposed" to work?

And then another idea hit me (does happen): the only thing that counts in large amounts is if one is really enjoying or really experiencing a piece of music. If one can find any time, any place (or yeah, any frickin' weather conditions) to really dig into somebody's work, there can't really be many inherent flaws to either the original creativity or the subjective ingestion of it all. As long as one loves music at any point in his or her life, more power to 'em. Decent theory, probably. So if this is true -- in other words -- the drive along Utopia Parkway actually does mean something. If music helps create, accentuate (or even eliminate) certain states of mental weather, barometrical shenanigans can also have their say. Surely they effect the way one feels about a song or an album, surely they can sometimes either be conducive or destructive. Surely, get this, everything matters on some level.

Once again, is there a nice pat answer to any part of this conclusion? Maybe (see, I'm getting better). Maybe it just solidifies the importance of personal experience and that words like "must" and "importance" can be dangerous words when applied to music (another tangent). Maybe it just helps kill the elitists out there. And simply just shows that subjectivity continually shoves itself down your own throat, and that you-you-you only have what you have to say because of where you're from, where you're at, and where you're going.

No matter what the weatherman says.