Belly up to the Clouds

OK, fine: the iPod was on shuffle while I was making dinner, a Dashboard Confessional song came on, and I had a serious moment of thinking, My god, Chris Carrabba just nails it, like, every time.

Does this put me in league with legions of teenagers? Yes. (Does the fact that I unabashedly drool over CC also put me in league with legions of teenagers? Yes.) But regardless, though I'm about five years late in twigging to this, allow me to state here that if I were forced to choose one musical genre to listen to for the rest of my life, it would be Canadian pop or whatever genre we might use these days to classify Neko Case's solo stuff--but my second choice would be emo, no question.

Original credit for this must go to G (yes), who fed me a fairly steady diet of Dashboard Confessional, Saves the Day, Promise Ring, and so on for a few years running. But it was one thing to fall in love with "Hands Down" and "This Is Not an Exit" and another thing altogether to go stupidly nuts for "Stop Playing Guitar" and "As Your Ghost Takes Flight" and "Rapid Hope Loss." Those were mine.

I get the sense that emo is supposed to be a guilty pleasure for some reason, but why? Because kids relate to it? Because of its shoegazer associations? Because of that live recording of "Hands Down" where Carrabba doesn't even bother to sing the chorus because hundreds of young (largely female) voices sing it for him? I don't know.

But I also don't really care, because, hey, those hundreds of voices are onto something: that song encapsulates the sense of a giddy young crush better than anything I've heard before or since. And "As Your Ghost Takes Flight" is precisely the sort of thing you'd write after someone ripped your heart out and your sadness and anger gelled into a sharp and specific bitterness. And "This Is Not an Exit" is the perfect antidote. And "Stop Playing Guitar" is all about...something. Kind of hard to say. But it's soaring and amazing and utterly delightful nonetheless.

So here's to never being enough of a music snob and to never being so jaded that, say, "...Exit" can't knock your socks off (or at least make them slouch a bit).

Tonight will be
the night that we
begin to ease
the plugs out of the dam.
And we will stand
knee deep in the flow,
the undertow
will grab our heels and won't let go.
And while we hold,
our legs quivering,
the water rises now
to our teeth
when we just let go
and sail belly up to the clouds,
the rocks scraping our backs.
To breath in the air will be
the only thing that we have
and all the wasted nights
and empty moments
in our lives flushed away
as we sway with the rhythm
of the waves bobbing us up.
Crests fall to troughs we feel our gills open up.

And sail belly up to the clouds,
the rocks scraping our backs.
To breath in the air will be
the only thing that we have
and if the hook sets in
the bottom of our lungs,
we'll rip it out and lick the blood off with our tongues.

The despair can ravage you
if you turn your head around to look down the path
that's led you here,
cause what can you change?
You're a vessel now
floating down the waterways.
You can take your rudder
and aim your ship,
just don't bother with the things left in your wake.
Just sail belly up to the clouds,
the rocks scraping your back.
To breathe in the air will be
the only thing that you have
and your love will be warm nights
with pockets of moonlight
spotlighting you as you drift,
the actor in this play.
And you walk across the stage,
take a bow, hear the applause,
and as the curtain falls,
just know you did it all
the best that you knew how
and you can hear them cheering now.
So let a smile out and show your teeth
cause you know you lived it well.