Take This to Your Grave, Track Five: “Homesick at Space Camp”
Ah, yes. The first song on the album I can’t say I’m into, to which I had not formed an unbreakable bond, the first song which I have not pounded so deeply into my brain, when my mind-grapes ferment into the sweet wine of memory, even the truest connoisseur won’t be able to detect any notes. Is that how wine works? I wouldn’t know. Anyway, this song. It also has notes. I said when I had nothing, we would admit as such, deliver some of that hot Tuesday content, and deliver some Song We Actually Like punch with the next hit. My computer decided, after I finished last week’s post, to stop performing computering functions, such as “accessing the Internet.” I didn’t have a computer with Internet access until Monday, and Monday, we spent setting up the computer and realizing we did not need such a fancy system. I have a 23" screen. I didn’t know how big that would be. I can now more efficiently make lists. I am not going to optimize the potential of a real computer, I fear, but you did not come here to read my excuses, you are here to read my opinions on Fall Out Boy songs.
Save for the times when I don’t so much have opinions on Fall Out Boy songs as I have angst over a misspent youth, as well as angst over an adulthood currently being misspent. You come here for those, too. Tell me you come here for those. I need to believe you are here for those, as well.
Anyhoo, Fall Out Boy! They made this song, which is the fifth track off Take This to Your Grave. It’s not quite a vitriolic break-up song, nor is it quite a shout-out to all the dreamers in Chicago circa 2003. It’s somewhere between the two, it could be a song about missing an ex, or it could be a song about missing a good friend who also believes in this music. Or, hey, we’ve all heard that Mike Birbiglia joke, maybe it’s one of those sneak attack Christian songs. “I can’t forget your style or your cynicism.” According to certain sects of Christianity, God believes us all to be sinners. That’s pretty cynical. “Somehow it was like you were the first to listen to every word we say.” They just ganked that lyric from dc Talk. “New friends are golden.” OK. OK, this theory doesn’t hold water anymore, I vaguely recall something about golden idols not being chill with lords or Lords or whathaveyou. But what’s important here is, we told jokes, and we inched ever-closer to the point in the word count that I feel comfortable sending this content to an eagerly waiting audience of my Facebook friends with Medium accounts. It is important to pad out the word count, especially when we don’t feel the song.
(This ends up being the longest post of the blog so far. Maybe I should edit these paragraphs? But: what if: I didn’t?: adventure!)
All albums have moments like this, though. You hear amazing song after amazing song, the music takes you to these amazing places you always wanted music could take you, you’re feeling great, and then it gives you a break with a solid B-. It’s not that these songs are bad. I didn’t come here to besmirch “Stained Glass Ceilings” or “LA Hallucinations” or “Ova Da Wudz.” Songs like this, taken individually, are pretty alright, three and a half minutes each I’d never regret. The only times I hear those songs, though, since I don’t listen to THE ENTIRETY OF MY LIBRARY on shuffle much these days, is in the context of the albums, and in that context, they are the worst song. They are the worst part of these things I love.
Let’s talk about shuffle, I think this is a good time to talk about shuffle. I used to ride the bus to and from school. On this ride, I would grab a CD and stick it in my Phillips-brand portable CD player, but, since the bus ride wouldn’t last long enough for me to listen to the full album, I would always hit shuffle. I don’t know if this is the justification I used in the day, or if I’m only putting thought into my LMFAOesque philosophy all these years later, but either way I came up with something. It’s certainly not the best way to listen to an album, but albums are generally 40–45 minutes long, and the bus ride on a bad day was 30.
(A brief story about the bus and being a teen: the bus driver noticed people were writing on his seats. In response to the outbreak of vandalism, the bus driver declared he was creating assigned seats. He handed off a seating chart, instructing us to write our names on this seating chart, and then instead of watching us sign our names, he went back to driving us to school. As a (perhaps the) vandal, I could not believe our (my) good fortune. He was going to create a seating chart to more closely monitor passenger behavior, but he was not going to monitor the creation of the seating chart. The chart made its way to me. I wrote Jesus Christ in the space where my seat was and passed the chart along. Strangely, despite sitting in this seat every day, I never got in trouble, either for vandalism or making a mockery of the seating chart. I think the dude just looked at the seating chart, saw what I’m sure was a cavalcade of fake names, and accepted shit wasn’t gonna go his way at this job.)
This did engender some bad habits in me, though, specifically: when I finally gave in to culture and bought an iPod, I guess I considered shuffle the purest way to take in music. There were albums I would listen to all the way through in their original order, most notably and perhaps only Say Anything’s …Is a Real Boy, but when I went to school, I hit shuffle, and when I put discs into my 5-disc changer, I hit shuffle, and when I got Soulja Pod Tell’em 1.0, I hit shuffle on my entire library of music, would let the songs bubble in the pop-o-matic until it spat out some random thing for me to listen to or skip. Except, it wasn’t my entire library of music, because as I was importing my collection to iTunes, I wouldn’t upload every song. Space was limited, I figured. I wanted room for other albums, which meant there was no time for bad songs. This makes sense, for some albums. I had little use for AFI’s Sing the Sorrow from the moment I took the CD out of the plastic wrap and made it mine forever. I did not need to carry that album everywhere I went for the rest of my life.
This was something that worked when I first got the iPod. I had spent much time with what I owned, and was able to make a somewhat fair assessment of what I would want in the mix. And in some ways, listening to every song I ever owned was good for some of the songs like “Homesick at Space Camp.” Instead of being the songs I liked which filled the space between the songs I adored that became my life, they were the highlight, they were standouts between the cavalcade of average-ish alternative/rock bands. I can name a few songs I wouldn’t have noticed at first, but that I did notice when they came on shuffle. I spent years of my life not thinking about Lola Ray’s “Slave,” and then one day, oh, well how ‘bout this, this is dope, I’ve had this thing for years and never thought about it! How do ya do!
Where this became problematic was when I began listening to albums with the intention of culling the weaker offerings. I settled into a routine where I’d listen to an album in full twice, once on any of the CD players I still kept around, and again on iTunes to render a final judgement on which songs were worthy enough to join such modern classics as Train’s “Train,” off the album Train, as I went to all the places I needed to go, such as school, work, and home. This is bad. I don’t mean to come here to preach the sanctity of the full album as the purest way of music consumption. Not every song is essential, this is the reality of the world, not every song deserves a
/jumps out the draft for a hot second
1400-word-and-counting diary entry about what it means to you. Remember those evenings out with Fall Out Boy’s Fall Out Boy’s Evening out with Your Girlfriend? We are all too aware that some songs you can live without. But expecting songs to be inessential is no way to listen to songs. When I was creating the index of every album I’ve ever listened to, except Sum 41’s Chuck because once I add Chuck to the thing I’ll have to relisten to it because I don’t remember it at all, and I’m just not looking forward to that. I digress. As I was making the index, I found that 2008 was not a notably good music-purchasing year for B!-Dubs. It looked like I was buying things I knew I wasn’t going to like just to buy them. But 2008 is also the first full year of my life I spent with an iPod. Perhaps the reason I don’t have much connection to those albums is because I never made an effort to connect. I was looking for reasons not to listen, arguing before I even took the CD case out of the plastic wrap that I was expecting 3–4 songs to waste my time.
That’s not a great way to take in an album. You want to think about it critically, you want to figure out what works and what doesn’t and why things do and don’t work, but approaching an album saying “STUFF ON THIS IS GONNA BE BLEH” isn’t critical thinking, it’s rendering an experience joyless before you’ve even had it. “Homesick at Space Camp” isn’t a great song, but it’s not horrible, it just sort of exists. But “Homesick at Space Camp” isn’t the thing to remember about Take This to Your Grave. It’s a nice song that blends in with a great album. There are worse things a song could be. Best not to dwell on it too long.