In 1985, I was depressed.

This was to some extent the normal state of a teenager. But severe depression also runs in my family on my mother’s side – serious medication, and a suicide. I have been lucky to escape the worst of it – though I am never far from melancholy – but my 10th-grade year was the first of two semi-serious (in intensity, and duration) incidents of it in my life.

In both cases, my depression was triggered by what in hindsight was a positive change; a breaking of old habits. Since 4th grade, I had attended a school at which I was fairly unhappy. Didn’t care for most of the kids. Didn’t care for most of the teachers. And by middle school I had fallen in with the “bad” kids; “bad” in quotes, because most of the trouble we were getting into was pretty standard-issue teen stuff – cutting classes, vandalism, shoplifting/theft, sneaking a beer or a cigarette or (don’t ask me why) chewing tobacco here and there.

During my freshman year of high school an incident had occurred (nothing too dramatic, really; just one of those stupid things) that had made look at where my life was likely headed if I kept on my current path. I decided to break off contact with the crowd I had been running with. Turn my life around. Things were going to be different from now on.

Well, things were different all right.

To put it plainly, they sucked.

Because by then my reputation preceded me – it was a small school, private, very cliquish, with many rich families (my family was decidedly not rich; private financial assistance allowed me to attend). Teachers knew I was trouble, and no benefit of the doubt was extended to me (understandably, I might add). There were times when I got blamed (again, understandably) for stuff I didn’t do. As I said, I didn’t like a lot of the kids; but the ones I did like wanted nothing to do with me.

So I was depressed. I was trying to do the right thing, and I had never been lonelier in my life. Aren’t you supposed to be rewarded for making good choices?

Some depressed people sleep all the time – but my experience of it has manifested both times in terrible insomnia – no sleep, at all, for the many nighttime hours until I had to go back to school or work, exhausted, and face the disapproving eyes and walk the halls alone again, days and days on end in a blurry cycle of no past nor future.

(Does this all sound teen-melodramatic enough yet? Sorry – I am well-aware in retrospect that it probably wasn’t as bad as it seemed – and anyway, This Too Did Pass.)

One sleepless night in the long quiet hours, I was writing the same kind of navel-gazing nonsense that you’re reading now and listening to my old clock radio. I fiddled with it a bit, seeking companionship in sound, tuning it to what I later discovered was a listener-funded community station down at the left side of the dial.

It looked a lot like this.

It looked a lot like this, so it might have been the right side of the dial, but you get the idea.

And the song at the top of the post – “Cities In Dust”, by Siouxsie & The Banshees, is what I heard.

I was utterly transfixed. I had never heard anything like this in my southern suburban life. I’m not sure I breathed for four minutes; the radio was crappy, the signal weak, and I didn’t want to miss anything.

That voice, elemental and imperious; the way she sings “my friend”, somehow managing to make the words sound simultaneously sympathetic and threatening. That rubbery, sensuous groove and percussive and exotic bell-sound, set against the razor slashes of the guitar. The apocalyptic lyrical imagery, which at the time seemed to be about the looming nuclear conflagration that we all figured was coming any day.

(I would later realize the song was about Pompeii. I also took the lyrics to be metaphorically alluding to the musical apocalypse of which the Banshees and the other post-punk bands fancied themselves part; a scorched-earth kiss of death to the old music that – I thought then – just didn’t matter anymore. A disorienting paradox: future music about a distant past.)

Siouxsie & The Banshees – Dazzle (with footage from 2001: A Space Odyssey)

I went to the record store the next day to find any records by this band. I asked the clerk – an older girl, cooler than I could ever hope to be – what else was like that. She pointed me to all the usual suspects – The Cure and Bauhaus (who vectored me back toward Bowie) and Joy Division (who vectored me back toward the Pistols) etc., setting me on musical breadcrumb trails that I continue to follow backward and forward in time, to this day; all of those trails in my mental map & legend ultimately traceable to this song. I had fallen in love with songs before, but “Cities In Dust” is the first song I remember feeling like mine; like maybe it loved me back.


Below are two very different bands, The Jam and Joy Division, appearing on an easily-parodied Brit teen variety program called Something Else.

For their part, The Jam rip through “Eton Rifles”, every bit as sharp as the mods they were looking back to, valiantly attempting to rekindle the fire of The Past. It’s got a cookin’ bassline, and by the end Paul Weller is just throwing shards of sound off his guitar. It’s a great, exciting performance.

But it’s no slam on The Jam when I say that Joy Division were unequivocally The Future. From the iconic cover art of Unknown Pleasures (an image of pulsar radio waves taken from The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy that looks a bit like a map of a mountain range) gracing their side of the stage, to the way lead singer Ian Curtis seemingly stares with haunted eyes at an event horizon that most of us thankfully can’t see, a singularity with a gravitational pull that he proved unfortunately unable to resist.

Watch his famously-jerky dance moves, alternately appearing as though he is being controlled from without, like a puppet on strings, or perhaps from within by spirit possession (he had been diagnosed with epilepsy earlier that year). He looks like he is barely suppressing the urge to panic and just run.

Starting with the insistent, electrifying pulse of Peter Hook’s staccato bassline, “Transmission” commands, not requests, a dance to the radio. Its cold rhythms are as mysterious and alien-yet-clockwork-regular as that pulsar signal on the album cover. Even Bernard Sumner’s lead guitar figure seems to be “switching”, like it’s Morse code, as it regularly cycles in a binary pattern up and down one octave.

But the signal’s integrity can only be maintained for so long. Entropy always wins in the end. Stephen Morris’ cyborg-martial drums trail off and wind down, all energy spent, returning again to absolute zero:

The Jam & Joy Division on Something Else

Joy Division seem to have taken inspiration from Wire. Wire’s “Dot Dash” single from the prior year also has a “binary” riff and some similar lyrics (Wire: “The chances smaller, the odds are slimmer” vs. JD: “Touching from a distance, further all the time”).

The “speeding/crashing cars” imagery in “Dot Dash” also prefigures JD’s “Disorder” (a word which also calls to mind entropy and signal/noise ratios, not to mention illness) – or maybe both bands are just drawing from the same Burroughs/Ballard well:

Joy Division – Disorder

Wire – Dot Dash

Wire sought to pare away and abstract punk’s back-to-basics urge to a sort of dadaistic minimalist code; rock as art installation or cryptic manifesto. Their influence stretches down both sides of the Atlantic – they sued Elastica over this one, their enigmatic songs have been covered by REM (“Strange”, on their suggestively-named breakthrough album Document) and Minor Threat (“1 2 X U”), and their no-fat approach to songwriting (16 of the 22 tracks on their lean debut Pink Flag don’t break the two-minute mark) has been cited by bands from the Minutemen to Guided by Voices.

“Map Ref. 41˚ N 93˚ W”, the catchiest song ever recorded about cartography, seems to anticipate a future in which systems both political and technological would increasingly seek to describe every last corner of our reality, making surveys and assigning GPS coordinates and laying claim not just to formerly-mysterious land, but to the unknown geography of human minds and hearts.

But the map is not the territory; messy reality doesn’t slot squarely into boxes. Like the way that the burbling 3-beat pattern of the liquid bass never quite fits into the relentlessly-ticking 4-beat grid of the drums.

And dig the way they get meta, snarking “Chorus!” when it rolls around at 1:35, their massed harmonies descending on approach to meet the word “altitude”:

Wire – Map Ref. 41˚ N 93˚ W

Interestingly, the kings of sonic abstraction in My Bloody Valentine chose to play their cover fairly straight, thereby proving that trying to out-deconstruct Wire is a fool’s errand – witness the shimmering “Kidney Bingos”, Wire’s late-80’s attempt at “pop”. A lovely gentle lilting melody, married to playfully stream-of-consciousness lyrics (I LOVE this song):

Wire – Kidney Bingos

Feel free to hold forth in comments about: Teen depression; your first musical love; temporal & spatial dislocation; signals & sonic abstraction; or whatever strikes your fancy.


Glyph is worse than some and better than others. He believes that life is just one damned thing after another, that only pop music can save us now, and that mercy is the mark of a great man (but he's just all right). Nothing he writes here should be taken as an indication that he knows anything about anything.


  1. I am sleepy and kind of sad and not looking forward to work tomorrow, so I have only time to listen to the first of these songs tonight. But I read your whole post and I really appreciated the navel-gazing portion.

    Also, depression-generated insomnia is not just teen melodrama. There’s a reason why sleep deprivation is an interrogation technique, you know? And I think sometimes that a teen depression (or worse, childhood depression) is HARDER than a similar depression would be for grown-ups because you have so much less practice at being in the world and in your own skin.

    • +1 to everything in this comment (and most of my past week has involved insomnia). A great Wednesday music post, although my day will be so busy I won’t be able to work through all the songs until tonight (which just means I’ll get to enjoy this all day).

      • I’m a bad/light sleeper at the best of times, so a day or two of insomnia here and there is pretty common for me. But these periods were much, much longer, and yeah, it really does start to seriously mess with you after the first few days (in fact, extensively prolonged sleeplessness can kill you.)

  2. setting me on musical breadcrumb trails that I continue to follow

    This is an interesting comment. There are a lot of bands that I can trace back to a band that I listened to a lot in high school, though they really are not my type of thing anymore. The band was a gothic/death/doom metal band, My Dying Bride. I was on an email discussion list for the band, and I found out about many other metal bands from that. One of those bands was Opeth, which led to Porcupine Tree ->Steven Wilson->Blackfield.

    In an interview with the lead singer of My Dying Bride, he mentioned that two of the influences for his singing style were Michael Gira of Swans and Nick Cave.

    Swans lead to Angels of Light, but I also found several artists through Michael Gira’s label: Akron/Family, Calla, James Blackshaw.

    Nick Cave lead to Einsterzende Nebauten. On a forum I used to visit, someone compared David Eugene Edwards to Nick Cave, leading me to 16 Horsepower and Wovenhand. 16 Horsepower introduced me to the Denver sound of Glasseye, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, and others. It also led me to alt-country, Lucero, Whiskeytown/Ryan Adams, Uncle Tupelo, etc.

    This is not an all-inclusive list, but it provides pretty good coverage. I think the most interesting thing is the range of styles that it led to, and how far they are from the original seed. It could probably make a fairly interesting family tree type graphic.

    • I think it’s interesting that the bulk of the “pushers” who steered you towards new stuff were actual people, on an e-mail list or forum. In 1985, it was also all word-of-mouth (record store clerks & customers), people writing magazines and zines, etc.

      Even in my initial case, there was an unpaid volunteer DJ working the graveyard shift that was excited enough about this record by this weirdly-named British band that he played it, propagating that out.

      I wonder about the ability of Pandora and other “algorithm”-type software recommenders to produce the same kinds of “Eureka!” moments.

      • most of my pushers were either accidents, following a label chain, picking out random ads in magazines for labels, or – eventually – people on email lists. oddly enough, lists for throbbing gristle and dj shadow.

        • The discovery algorithm was still human/random. It wasn’t software saying, “you like TG? Then you’ll also like EN”. I’m not sure software recommendation processes, even if iterative, can make the same kinds of leaps that humans do, either intentionally or accidentally.

          • I’ve discovered a lot of music I like through Pandora. I was able to discover that music through Pandora because people had pointed me to the bands that I created Pandora stations for.

          • granted, though the ecosystems tend to be somewhat self contained, at least back then. on the plus side, industrial was a subculture that came with its own required reading list, which is something i think will probably never happen again. a lot of it was schlock, but not all of it by a long shot.

          • I keep thinking Industrial is due for a revival any day now.

          • Thinking about this some more, it seems like software, no matter how well-designed, cannot easily account for human boredom/dissatisfaction with status quo/history which pushes things forward, and the countervailing nostalgia that causes us to say, “remember how great THAT was? Why does no one do that anymore? Let’s bring that back!”

          • “I keep thinking Industrial is due for a revival any day now.”

            well, it never died in terms of the german oontz oontz velvet acid christ thing, and arguably it was already revived by the 3rd wave brooklyn noise acts who brought a lot of structure and a lot of tg/coil/cab volt to the party along with the japanese acts.

          • Just read it now. Interesting, and not entirely wrong, but not a new critique either. The brain-dead lock-step conformity and musical conservatism of the whole thing was being criticized even as it was being created (see Wire above – they were somehow post-punk DURING punk).

            I still think there was value in having a good fire to clear out the old overgrowth. Just saying “No” isn’t alone sufficient; but it is necessary before proceeding in a new direction. I love a lot of the punk bands (as the SW article notes, I love them BECAUSE they are, at heart, rock bands, and I love rock music). But I love a lot of the postpunks more. Again, see Joy Division above – where’s the precedent for that? Maybe some Bowie, some Kraftwerk, but that’s about it.

            And to pooh-pooh punk’s importance to the current DIY culture is just asinine, sorry. Sure, DIY’s how every entrepreneur or pioneer starts out. But that doesn’t mean, again, that the system had not grown too large/unwieldy/sclerotic for there not to be benefit in people rediscovering that lesson, unless we think culture would be better without the SSTs and Merges and Warps etc.

            I take the point that “punk as religion” is stupid, but it always was; and the original punks told us that.

            The smart ones, anyway.


          • i think his big – and rightful, by my view – objection is to haigiography, of which there’s a ton going around. a lot of the rest of it is his own personal uh black mass as it were. (and his band is terrible but that’s neither here nor there)

            but it is sort of a blank label at this point, a reference about social stance without any weight behind it. “punk” is about as useful as “modern” in terms of specificity, though it still seems to resonate tremendously to people. i would argue that resonance, especially to anyone born after 1985, is more memetic engineering than direct linkage, but there’s also absolutely nothing wrong with that. beyond the amateur musicologist battles it’s a meaningless gesture.

            jd was extremely unique, on that i think we can all agree.

          • I’d say even ’85 is too late a cutoff. I wasn’t buying Pistols 7-inches in my Yoda footie jammies. I backtracked to that stuff.

            Yeah, hagiography is silly, but I don’t think it’s fair to lay that at the feet of the bands; plenty of them were from the beginning saying “Kill Yr Idols”, and the smartest/best of them quickly jumped past any sort of musical conservatism (Lydon with PIL; the Banshees; even though the Clash were more about utilizing and synthesizing various extant forms than inventing new ones, they weren’t particularly doctrinaire, and were in fact pretty musically ambitious, as Sandinista! showed).

            If he’s just targeting the people who continue to build their own identity around some nebulous idea of “punk”, I get that.

            But at the same time and without delving into politics, just like “America” is an idea as much as it is a place, so it is with “punk as f**k”.

          • If I ever meet Al, I am so asking him about With Sympathy. He reliably gets PO’d whenever anyone does.

      • I like Pandora for ease of use, but I do not think I have gotten any really great new ideas from it. Most of the music from a seed tends to be very similar, whereas the Eureka! connections were very different from their parents.

        Just a recent example, putting Tomahawk into Pandora gets me Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Fantomas, Took, A Perfect Circle, The Melvins, and Primus. Most of those bands are projects by Tomahawk members, but none of them are really far removed from the style.

        On the other hand, the happy, hippy psych-folk of Akron/Family (http://vimeo.com/19568537) is the complete opposite of the depressing, loud, pounding sound of Swans (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krw03hVF1RQ). Even the more folk influenced stuff from The Burning World tended toward the suicidal (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jpVtYQIols).

        I really do not think any algorithm will make those connections.

        Now I have Wednesday posts here to help me find stuff I would never hear otherwise.

        • This is not a criticism, because I quite liked it, but that second Swans track sounds like Leonard Cohen with marbles in his mouth.

          • i see a pretty deep style connection between akron family and swans, and not just because they were a backing band for angels of light for a while. definitely different, content-wise though.

  3. I like Siouxsie and the Banshees, I like Joy Division, I like the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs (though I missed them at SXSW), and I can listen to The Smiths, though I wouldn’t call myself a fan, but I have a deep, viscerally-experienced hatred for The Cure. Does this make me a bad person?

    I don’t think my hatred for The Cure is strictly based on the quality of their music. It’s probably more that something about their music rubbed me the wrong way early on, and I’ve just never been able to get over that. But man, I really hate them.

    • Well, and it’s possible Cure FANS rubbed you the wrong way (and admittedly, his voice is idiosyncratic enough that if you hate it, you hate it, and not much to be done about that.)

      But there are few bands in that same timeframe that covered as much stylistic ground as they did. Started with spindly, skeletal, mildly-psychedelic punk; moved to gloomy, dense, metallic dirges; dabbled in synthpop/dance music; did Spanish & Eastern-flavored stuff; funk (!); and straight-up pop music.

      If the fans and voice aren’t insurmountable hurdles, it seems like there should be *some* facet of the band that works for you.

      EDITED TO ADD: they even dabbled once or twice in jazzy pop, on “Love Cats” and “Speak My Language”. Just a really versatile songwriter.

      • Like I said, it’s probably an irrational initial reaction that’s difficult to overcome.

        I was actually friends with a lot of die hard Cure fans in the early-to-mid 90s, so I don’t think it was the fans. I don’t think it’s strictly the voice, either, though that doesn’t help now that I associate that voice with the visceral hate.

        • If you had said the Smiths, I’d be right there with you.

          • Hey now! They had a great guitarist, a great bassist, a semi-competent drummer, and a wholly-original frontman!

            A friend of mine only fairly recently got into Smiths. He was a skatepunk kid growing up, so, you know, all the stupid factions that used to exist kept him from them:


            But yeah, he gets it now (even my wife has been on a bit of a run with them, and she used to be tepid on them). He can’t believe how consistent/unique/prolific they were. It was really exciting waiting for the next perfect single.

            I still kick myself for missing them on their last US tour. I had other commitments that night, and was sure they’d be back around again.


          • Morissey is intolerable. There are peer reviewed papers proving it.

          • One of the saddest things about the Smiths breakup was that people still liked Morrisy, and almost no one knew who Johnny Marr was.

          • That’s ’cause Marr is a consummate pro. Doesn’t go around saying stupid stuff, or getting caught in any scandals (HELLO PETER MURPHY), just keeps on playing that guitar with other bands (Pretenders, The The, Electronic, Modest Mouse).

            Still, I think he’s pretty well-respected as a player and a songwriter (doesn’t mean I am gonna pick up that solo album, though).

    • And the first time I heard YYY’s, all I could think was, “man, this chick wants to be Siouxsie SO BAD.” They are a good band though, and she’s a great singer/performer. The heartbreaking “Maps” & “Modern Romance” convinced me she wasn’t a one-trick pony.

      • The first time I heard “Maps,” I was really impressed, but I wasn’t sure they were a good band, just that they had an interesting song. Then I saw them live, and realized they were actually a good band. And fun. And sexy.

        • I actually feel the same way about “Down Boy,” the song I linked. Plus, the guitar is really fun in that song. Their performance of it on Letterman was really nice too.

    • I do not hate The Cure, but they are definitely a band I have never been able to really get into. For me, they fit square into the “Meh” category.

        • Pornography was the album that I liked most, and maybe if I revisited their discography today I would find more to like. I never thought they were a bad band, but I have never found myself thinking “man, I really want to listen to The Cure right now.”

          • I don’t listen to Pornography very frequently anymore, it’s just too relentless in its downbeat mood (I feel the same way about Afghan Whigs’ Gentlemen).

            I mean, the first line on the album is “It doesn’t matter if we all die”, and it never really lightens up from there.

            If you ever decide to give them another shot, the singles comp or Kiss Me x3 might be good ways in; there’s wide-enough variety on those that you could see if any of their styles work for you, then get the albums that work that style.

  4. In 1985, I was depressed

    In 1985, I was born!!! Now doesn’t that make you feel more depressed?

    • Dude, thanks a lot. Now I am depressed all over again 😉

      • About a year ago, I realized that most new college graduates were born after every single event referenced in We Didn’t Start the Fire. I realized shortly thereafter that this was also true of every new paralegal I was working with.

        • Heh… I remember my junior high social studies teacher using We Didn’t Start The Fire to teach us about recent history. She gave us each a printout of the lyrics, and we went through every event in the song. Good times… good times…

          • Man, that is some *efficient* teaching right there. What did you guys do with the rest of the year?

            (I’m just kidding. I can imagine that actually might’ve worked to keep kids interested; at least junior high kids at that time.)

          • I think ever single one of us saw it as a joke, and not just because we were disinclined to like Billy Joel. Well, except for a friend of mine who thought that “Piano Man” was the greatest piece of music ever written.

          • Hey, Chris, aren’t you a Kentucky fan?

            Can I laugh at you for a while? (It eases the pain of my Boilermakers not even getting invited to the NIT.)

          • James, you can. However, you can also go ahead and congratulate Kentucky on their 2014 national championship. With 3-4 returning starters, and today signing their 6th… yes, that’s not a typo, 6th… McDonald’s All-American for next year’s freshman class, including ESPN’s 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 11th, and 18th ranked players (Kentucky remains in the hunt for the class’ #1 player, who remains uncommitted), a class that makes the Fab 5 look like the recruiting class of, say, Robert Morris, I think it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion.

          • Games are won on the court, Chris. Half those kids may have flunked out by next spring. The only good thing about Calipari is he’s doing yeoman’s work demonstrating how bad the one and done rule is for college hoops. It’s almost as though the NBA is purposely trying to kill it, hoping that maybe people will actually start watching the NBDL.

          • People who get mad that the NCAA doesn’t pay its players (I can’t recall if you’re in that camp, James, so this is a general argument) should applaud 1-and-done. In fact, should argue for zero-and-done!

          • I have a hard time believing that it’s legal for the NBA to require a one-year unpaid internship before they’ll hire somebody.

          • I’m not in that camp. I think it’s clear D1 college athletes are paid. And the claim they don’t get paid a fair share of what colleges earn off their labor doesn’t cut any ice with me, since that’s not how business works anyway. The only problem I have is with injured athletes getting cut loose without being adequately taken care of.

          • Mike, good point, and one I didn’t know anything about, but here’s what I found.

            The one and done rule is the term for the age and amateur experience requirements contained in the NBA Players Association Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”). Technically, the rule does not require that a player go to college at all. However, the rule that determines a player’s eligibility is most easily satisfied when the player is or will be nineteen years old in the year of the draft, at least one NBA season has elapsed since the year of his high school class’ graduation, and the player declares himself an early entry….

            In 2004, the Second Circuit, addressing whether age and amateur experience requirements are permissible for National Football League draft prospects, found that a players association could limit draft eligibility in a collective bargaining agreement. The court held that: “[b]ecause the NFL players have unionized and have selected the NFLPA as its exclusive bargaining representative, labor law prohibits [the player] from negotiating directly the terms and conditions of his employment with any NFL club. . . . The terms and conditions of [the player’s] employment are instead committed to the collective bargaining table and are reserved to the NFL and the players union’s selected representative to negotiate.”

            So it’s liberals’ fault for being pro-union! (Heh, heh, heh). But seriously, seeing it through labor law/collective bargaining does make it more understandable, I think.

          • Thanks for that, James. Here’s another one I don’t know:

            It is possible for a college to have a policy of converting their injured athletes to some other form of scholarship (it’s clearly not feasible to have them take up one of the fixed number of athletic scholarships), or would the NCAA consider that an illegal recruiting inducement?

          • I don’t actually know, but I can’t see how it could be banned, since colleges can give scholarships for almost anything. My college, for example, has art scholarships, music scholarships, and foreign student scholarships (helps recruit DIII hockey and lacrosse players when you can’t actually give athletic scholarships).

          • My suspicion is that, since what a college can offer in scholarship is very closely controlled, the usual package plus the guarantee of another scholarship in case of injury would be against the rules.

          • Mike, my understanding is that some colleges do actually offer that. Googling it, I’ve seen a couple examples of the University of Texas doing so.

            They do scrutinize what scholarships an athlete can get besides a football scholarship, to prevent them from getting bogus academic scholarships for example. A basketball player on my school’s basketball team is trying to get an academic scholarship to free up an athletic one, which is how I know about that. But I don’t think there are any barriers if you are not on the roster (and thus not subject to the NCAA) anymore.

          • Calipari himself hates the 1 year rule. He’s just very good at taking advantage of it.

            Also, do not be surprised if, in the next decade to decade and a half, as we transition to 4 superconferences, you see those conferences break from the NCAA and start paying their players (over the table).

        • I have learned to never, ever, ever make cultural references to the clerical staff in my office. A couple are close enough to my age to sometimes catch what I’m saying, but they look too much like others who are too young to know what the hell I’m talking about. It’s best not to risk it at all if I want to avoid polite but blank stares.

          And I imagine a young listener now hearing Billy Joel sing and wondering what fire he’s even talking about.

      • I work at a university.

        A few years ago, the incoming freshman class were all born the year I started college (2007… they were all born in 1989). Then a few years after that, the incoming freshman class were all born the year I *graduated* college.

  5. Oh, I meant to say something about the depression thing. I’ve struggled with depression for the bulk of my adult life (it also runs in my mother’s side of the family, with a suicide, though dude did have coalworker’s pneumoconiosis, so it’s hard to blame him), and I’ve found that the music that moves me during a major depressive episode sticks with me, holds a great deal of sentimental value, and influences my musical taste long after the episode is over (perhaps for as long as I’m around). My hypothesis is that anything that can penetrate the numbness that results from severe depression is bound to produce a profound, lasting, and perhaps taste-shaping impression.

    • Chris, sorry to hear that. It was my grandfather, and he was an alcoholic. Whether the alcoholism was a cause or a symptom (an attempt at self-medication) of his depression is, as always, up for debate. Probably both. Booze is a helluva drug and the older I get the more I think that at some point I may drop it altogether.

      I think I’ve seen studies that say mild-to-moderate depression can be helpful in decision-making processes; cuts out the undue optimism, and forces realistic assessment of the situation. I wonder if that plays into the creation of great art (knowing what to cut, and what to leave in as true and necessary) as well as the reception of it, per your theory.

      I also think there are (and maybe you are alluding to this too) real chemical aspects to it. I discussed once with James a memory from depressive episode I had. I’ve never seen neon lights at night look so beautiful (I cried); all things had a soft glow, not completely unlike certain drug experiences (so I’m told).

      There’s a ton of songs about “lights”.


      • Glyph, I was a little kid, and the guy was ancient (Italian immigrant, coal miner for like 30 years, and a drunk).

        And while I know a bit about the neurochemical effects of depression, I really don’t know what it is that produces the rare, but intense and profound sensory experiences during a depressive episode. My guess really is that it has something to do with the contrast between your base level of arousal (which, while depressed, is like 0.0) and the sudden stimulation caused by a song, or a movie, or maybe just some neon lights. I do know that depression is thought to affect the transition of memories from short term to long term memory (through its effects on things like neurogenesis in the hippocampus), and this fits with my experience of having a difficult time remember much from times of serious depression, but when I do remember something, it’s often a very vivid and intense memory.

        Also, depression makes me get tattoos.

        • a difficult time remember much from times of serious depression, but when I do remember something, it’s often a very vivid and intense memory.

          Exactly, this is what I was trying to get at in the OP. I remember what that goddamn crappy radio looked like. That was a long time ago.

          I also wanted to settle once and for all the question of, “was I depressed because I was listening to depressing music, or did I listen to depressing music because I was depressed?” 😉

          Also, depression makes me get tattoos.

          Endorphins? Dopamine?

          Depression is nothing to sneeze at, I know people it’s killed, and people it’s tried to kill; but it’s weird to think that it can also be behind the creation of great art and profound human experiences.

          A little of it, every once in a while, is maybe a good thing.

          • Yeah, I assume the tattoo-getting is just my brain saying, “I want to feel something other than this dull pain in pit of my stomach that’s gnawing at my soul,” and endorphines will help with that.

            It is undoubtedly true that depression has resulted in some wonderful art, but all it’s produced through me is some really bad poetry.

          • I also wanted to settle once and for all the question of, “was I depressed because I was listening to depressing music, or did I listen to depressing music because I was depressed?”

            Depressing music does not make one depressed. I listen to copious amounts of depressing music, but I am a very happy person.

            As someone who does not suffer from depression, I would speculate that it might be possible for depressing music to cause a depressive episode in someone who does.

          • I have also written plenty of bad poetry in my time. That does not require depression, either. Run of the mill teen angst can also be the inspiration.

          • RR, I think it can affect my mood. Not always, but yeah, if I’m headed to a dark place already, it seems to be able to help me along to get there. But as I hope the OP made clear, it also has helped pull me out.

            In general, I have learned to identify certain thought patterns or loops that appear to herald or trigger depression’s onset; and generally speaking, if I notice them in time, it is often possible to change course. Hard work. Exercise. Distraction; think of something else. Eat better. Sleep better. Break the causal chain.

            I have never had cognitive behavioral therapy, but in the brief online perusal I have made of it, it seems like that is its basic premise, so I guess I just stumbled on the same solution myself.

            And to be clear, what (usually) works for me mightn’t work at all for someone else – I know that I got off easy in this regard, compared to some of my family & friends.

          • In general, I have learned to identify certain thought patterns or loops that appear to herald or trigger depression’s onset; and generally speaking, if I notice them in time, it is often possible to change course.

            This is true for me, as well. With age comes wisdom, I guess.

    • By the way, this is one of the songs that got me during my first major depressive episode (10 years after yours), and under similar circumstances. It was my second semester, and I’d dumped my first semester friends because I wasn’t going to make it out of college (perhaps make it out of college alive) if I continued to hung out with the drunken lot of ’em, so I was friendless on a college campus with more people than the entire population of my hometown, and therefore extremely lonely. In the main UK dorm complex, there was a cafeteria with a video juke box system hooked up to two TVs hung high on the side walls. Someone played that song, and it just blew me away at the time. I’d had and kind of liked Pablo Honey, but this was before The Bends had come out, and not only did that sound like nothing on Pablo Honey, it didn’t quite sound like anything I knew at the time. That’s the actual video I saw, too. I can remember it very well.

      • I must be just a year or two older than you then, it was my junior or senior year that the Iron Lung EP came out, before Bends, and got us really excited (though I am one of the rare defenders of Pablo Honey, which is far better than its reputation suggests). Don’t know if you still like the band (I have cooled a bit on them) but if so, see if you can find that EP. It’s good.

        • I still like The Bends, and still listen to it occasionally. I also listen to the Airbag/How Am I Driving EP (I owned, but don’t know if I still own, the Iron Lung EP). This is how I like my Radiohead.

          I didn’t, until just now, notice the Pavement in the post. I also didn’t notice The Knife song either. I dig The Knife. Rapid musical free association: when I think of The Knife, I think of this song (which might be on my desert island playlist), which makes me think of this cover, which is by a dude of whom I learned in an after-show conversation with this dude, who was of course the front man in this band, who I’d gone to see on the night I met the first woman I ever loved.

          We are all in some way or another going to Reseda one way or another, to die.

          • I’m not sure how this happened, because I had a friend/roommate who was really into Soul Coughing, but I don’t think I have ever heard their music until just now. Pretty good!

            I know it predates it, but it reminds me for some reason of the whole cLOUDDEAD/Subtle/Doseone axis (basically, hip hop that sounds like a collaboration between Cypress Hill & Beta Band):


          • I was a big Soul Coughing fan, though as much for sentimental reasons (as you might have noticed) as for their music. Their first album was, genuinely, a great album, intense, fun, weird, and unique. Their second album was good, and their third album was good but listening to it you could tell the energy was gone. Sadly, it was the 3rd album that got them some radio play (though they’d had a song that was on the X-Files movie soundtrack that was somewhat popular at the time, prior to that). The last time I saw them live, which was just after moving to go to grad school, was seriously depressing because it was so clear that they hated each other and would rather have been doing just about anything else.

            Doughty published a book last year, or in ’11, which basically shows a.) that he’s a complete asshole when not on drugs, and b.) yeah, they really hated each other at the end.

        • I like Pablo Honey. Still Thinking About You is one of my favorites.

          • Every once in a while, I’ll get the chorus, “I wanna be wanna be wanna be wanna be Jim Morrison” stuck in my head, for whatever reason.

          • “Prove Yourself – I Can’t – Lurgee”, toward the end, are as good a triptych of guitar rock songs as any that came out that year, bridging the gloominess of the UK 80’s post-punks like Bunnymen, with the contemporary shoegazers like Ride et al, and some of the American underground of the time.

            Honestly, “Ripcord”, “Vegetable”, and to a lesser extent “Blow-Out” are the only weak tracks; of the three the only one I have to skip is “Vegetable”.

            Yeah, it’s derivative in spots (the Lydon imitation in “How Do You” is pretty funny) but the songs and textures are good.

      • (Also, I don’t know if you noticed the hidden Pavement track in the post.)

  6. I’m late to this thread. Sorry for my tardiness.

    I really like Siouxsie and the Banshees (as I believe we’ve discussed), but I didn’t discover them until well past their heyday. I liked them more for their sound than because I felt some kind of affinity for the ethos.

    The band that occupied the same kind of space in my life as Siouxise and the Banshees et al seemed to occupy in yours was (as I’ve also mentioned roughly a million times already) the B-52s. Between “Roam” and “Deadbeat Club” and “Channel Z” I was able to see out of my deeply repressed little corner of the world and see a happier one.

    And “Peek-a-boo” played on the radio this morning on my way into work, so I knew I had to comment.

    • Hey Doc, some would argue they were passing their heyday when I got to ’em. 🙂

      And in my case I don’t think it was an affinity for any “ethos”; the initial draw was just pure delirious confusion/sensation; like falling in love (a disorienting sensation or “hit”, incidentally, that I think I’ve never stopped trying to recapture in the musical sphere).

      It was the epiphany that there were other, bigger, stranger worlds out there.

      And, the Peek-A-Boo video (love the backwards rhythm track, particularly when it gets to the drum fills):


      • “Ethos” was my clumsy attempt to find a word that matched “represented in band form the epiphany that there were other, bigger, stranger worlds out there.”

        And since my favorite song of theirs remains “Kiss Them for Me,” which came out in 1991 (and I also like “Face to Face” from “Batman Returns”), as far as I’m concerned 1985 was still mid-heyday.

        • I had never heard “Face to Face” before just now. I had no idea they had a song on the Batman soundtrack.

          Dunno if you ever listened to The Creatures (Siouxsie & Budgie – still sad those two didn’t make it). They tended to be more percussive/exotica (due to Budgie):


    • I’m even later than you, Doc.
      I didn’t even know it was Wednesday until I saw the Thursday Night Bar Fight.

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