Maybe I’d be mid-conversation, or checking and re-checking my phone for salvation in the form of a text message sent one now two now three hours late, or maybe I’d be idly paging through whatever textbook’d been left on the counter, gruesome accounts of trench warfare in World War Two helping along with that first bit of whiskey to put my own situation into cheap perspective, i.e. ‘I might be terminally lonely but at least my chances of being fatally pierced by stray shrapnel are (relatively) low.’ Our Friday nights were democratic back then: You placed your song on the Grooveshark playlist and you waited. I never had to add the one song I always wanted to hear, because one of us always would. That song’d sound out from our shitty speakers with the same inevitability as the National Anthem at a football game, or a legally questionable facsimile of a popular indie rock song in a car commercial: Titus Andronicus’ “Theme From Cheers” was, is, the “Wagon Wheel” for those who use the word bro ironically. All it took was that opening drum fill and that conversation would be dropped, that unreturned text (briefly) forgotten about, that French foot solider left trembling on the Maginot line while I rushed to the room’s center where for five minutes we would hold each other up, clasp or jump on shoulders, scream: “I’m sorry mama, but I’ve been drinkin’ again…”
Why do we—and here I kick down the walls of my old college house and extend an arm to all the boys and girls of America drunk enough to sing “Nights of Wine and Roses” in the face of rock’s increasing cultural irrelevancy—cling to acts that dramatize getting drunk w/ the fervency that we do? I am talking here in particular about Titus Andronicus and Japandroids, which embarrasses me slightly, as neither band has released new material in the last four days and probably I could’ve more productively spent my time developing an opinion on Frank Ocean more complex than “I enjoy this.” But then again this isn’t really a blog about opinions; I’m not smart enough to have any interesting ones, anyway. For the rest of this paragraph, at least, I will be stating facts. So: Titus Andronicus and Japandroids are popular indie rock bands that sing songs about getting drunk. Fans of both or either band tend towards the intense. Drinking is fun, a lot of the time, and can in small doses help those pre-disposed to self-conscious nervousness make new friends, or have sad one night stands.
But drinking is also waking up in a sweat at six am, remembering that words were exchanged but staying fuzzy on the words. It’s spending Sunday morning reading and re-reading the same sentence of a newspaper article, something about people dead in a part of the world you can’t visualize, because all your imaginative energies are now focused on trying somehow to mentally will your headache away. And you feel selfish, pathetic, a failure. You could’ve stopped this from happening, or at the very least worked on your grad school application, but instead elected to kill brain cells in a half-stranger’s apartment because someone decided that this is what we do, we spend our Saturday nights downing cheap drinks insted of saving the world or at least trying to learn how those parts of it that you don’t deign to drink in operate, so there you are, you miserable, solipsistic shit, clinging to a piece of toast you can barely stomach like a shield that might protect you from all those you’ve alienated in the preceding twenty-four hours.
They’re a hangover cure, then, bands like Titus and Japandroids—aspirin for the aching morning-after psyche. These songs suggest that we are all of us fuck-ups fighting a tough but necessary battle against malaise, the night, “them.” And so getting fucked up with your friends is described in terms of “surrender,” heaven and hell, Satan “chugging a beer and grabbing his balls”; suddenly vomiting out some passenger seat window is a noble contribution to The Struggle, except of course this is a Struggle short on scenes of high drama—no soldiers wailing over their comrades’ charred remains here; mostly its action involves people undramatically texting or talking in bars and apartments and then maybe waking up regretting that last drink. Drinking songs then are just particularly good at doing what all pop music does—it makes your life, a lot of which you or at least I spend sitting behind a desk, or browsing the internet, or sometimes even doing both at the same time—seem somehow high-stakes and exciting. And listen I’m bad at endings, so in keeping with this not exactly revolutionary idea that we cling to the songs we love b/c they provide the structure/drama/emotion that our day-to-day lives—with their bus rides and traffic lights and unusually long waits for sandwiches at restaurants that are generally pretty fast, service-wise—generally lack, I’ll just if you don’t mind end this blog post at the end of this sentence without trying to artificially construct the sort of tidy ending foreign to lived life.