Day: August 18, 2003

True Faith

If someone asked me what kind of music I listen to, I would struggle to give an answer. I’m not sure if there are any hard and fast definitions for music today. I listen to some pop music, but nothing that’s in the league of Britney and Justina. Is there really such a thing as alternative anymore? And when does something cross from alternative and become mainstream? Is it defined by sales? Airplay? Number of commercials it is featured in?

A lot of you would probably say that I’m into 80s music. While that’s true on some levels, it’s not entirely accurate. Do I appreciate the occasional Flock of Seagulls song? Absolutely. Do I blast “Don’t Lose My Number” by Phil Collins? Never. As the era has passed on, the music I listen to has been consolidated into the all-encompassing genre of New Wave. If you have the Music Choice channels, flip to the New Wave channel some night and take a listen. You’ll hear the original punk bands later releases and the bands that were spawned from them (Big Audio Dynamite, Public Image Ltd). You’ll hear the New Romantics. Some stuff we recognize as pure pop now but was ignored at the time (Marshall Crenshaw). Everything that was considered New Wave at the time is mixed in as well. It’s all good stuff, and I think it’s safe to say that the majority of the music I listen to is either of that period, or can be directly traced back to those artists.

In the days of the 80s trivia list, I used to argue that the 1980s ended when New Order’s “True Faith” was released. It was the last great song that was clearly of the New Wave movement. Like all great songs, it encompassed all that was great of the existing era, while at the same time looked forward to a new era. Although New Wave had been petering out for several years, “True Faith” was one last blast that reminded everyone how great the genre was when at its best.

I made that assessment just by placing the song in its proper chronological perspective. The remainder of the 80s were dominated by Def Leppard, Guns n’ Roses, and the hair bands. If any of the New Wave icons were left, their releases failed to have the impact they had in the first half of the decade. But now, when I sit down and really consider “True Faith”, I see that both literally and figuratively, the song sums up what the 80s were largely about. “True Faith” is a dark representation of all the worst of life in the 80s, and an uncertain look to the future.

At the most basic level, “True Faith” is a phenomenal dance song. One of the all-time great bass lines bumps throughout. The layered synthesizers propel the song forward. The very 80s electronic drums ring through like shots. Bernard Sumner’s voice rides across the music perfectly. The song is boisterous and celebratory. It was custom made for a party. I always thought of a club somewhere in New York, packed with people on the verge of dance-induced insanity. Then the DJ throws “True Faith” on and they tear the roof off of the place. I doubt whether any of the people in that club would be listening to the lyrics, though. It was still the go-go 80s, people were living it up, nuclear winter was just 20 minutes away, and there wasn’t time for people in America to sit down and contemplate what some thoughtful Brit might be saying over the best damn dance beat they’d ever heard. Luckily, I’m here to take care of that for them, 17 years later.
Let’s throw out the historical significance and examine the lyrics of “True Faith”. When I fit them into my “end of the 80s” prism, I see a stockbroker the night the market crashed in 1987. Still in his 20s, he made it big fast on the Street. Designer suits, willing women, and trendy drugs were his life. He never really knew how much money he had, he just knew he paid his AmEx balance each month his bank account always had money for his endless weekend nights. Then, the unthinkable. The bottom dropped out and the market fell further than at any point in its history. Just like he didn’t know how much money he had that morning, he has no idea how much money he lost that afternoon. He just knows it’s probably all gone. One last night at the disco. One last cocaine binge. One last night with a woman he’ll know for only a few hours. In the morning he can take stock of what’s left and try to figure out what comes next.

The lyrics do a great job painting this picture (Especially since they were written well before the market crash. No doubt, as with most songs, they’re about something very different. But historical context sometimes trumps the goal of the artist.). You sense the desperation of someone on the edge, not knowing what the next day can bring. You feel the rush of cocaine hitting the bloodstream, heart racing to the redline. You feel the abandon of letting everything go: troubles, fears, success, possessions. Everything is flung aside for one last night of pleasure.

Since I don’t want to get sued by the RIAA, here’s a link to lyrics:

http://www.obscure.org/~vlad/lyrics/newo/substance.html

Adding to this image is the cinematic context of “True Faith”. 1988’s Bright Lights, Big City featured the song prominently, as did 2000’s American Psycho. Both were about the big success, fast living, and emotionally bankrupt lifestyles so many people lived in the late 80s. The song is a perfect musical match for critiquing or satirizing that lifestyle and those times.

If I could go back in time, and have an End of the 80s party, New Order’s “True Faith” would be the song I played at 11:55 PM, just before the ball dropped. It brought to a close a fantastic era for pop music. It told the story of the end of an economic era as well. It spoke to the emptiness that many living in the 80s felt, and of how the dreamland they thought they lived in was letting them down. No longer could their curled, stained copies of The Preppie Handbook get them through the problems they faced on a daily basis. For the first time, they had to face the real world, and confront the problems in their lives.

One final, ironic note. One of the first big newsworthy events of the New Wave era came with the suicide of Ian Curtis, lead singer of Joy Division, in 1980. Joy Division had just released the single “Love Will Tear Us Apart” that would later become a classic of the genre. A year later, members of Joy Division reconvened, began recording, and released an album under the name New Order. The band that helped open the book on the 1980s with a tragic death, helped to close the door with a fitting tribute to both the music and the times in which the music was made

Dome

As I mentioned Friday, I’ve never been in a domed stadium. Nor have I ever been to an NFL preseason game. In fact, I haven’t been to an NFL game period in nine years. Courtesy of a friend who fell into some free tickets, I was able to attend the Colts-Seahawks game at the RCA Dome Friday night. Since I was paying exactly $0 of the $55 face value of the tickets, I was more than happy to tag along.

First, a couple notes from the place we ate dinner near the dome. A little hole in the wall called the Hard Times Café. It was next to Houlihan’s, Sean Murray’s favorite barbecue place, so I figured it had to be good. It was decent, if unspectacular. What was spectacular was the guy standing between our table and the bar. He was doing the stand on one leg, place the other foot up on a barstool lean thing. White polo shirt, navy blue Dockers, white socks, white boat shoes. I couldn’t take my eyes off this guy’s socks, they were driving me crazy. These were plain tube socks, not some fancy, wanna-be stylish Ralph Lauren white socks. This guy was about 55, clearly old enough, in my opinion, to know how to dress himself. I imagine if it had been about 20 degrees cooler, the Member’s Only jacket would have come out for the night too. The only thing that could distract me was the flag above his head. Yep, I’ve finally seen a Texas Tech – IU flag. You’ve seen those flags that are half KU, half K-State, or whatever two local rivals so that married couples that attended both schools can be cute and put them up. I’ve marveled at the number of Texas Tech shirts and hats available at Galyan’s here, but now I can say I’ve seen it all. As I told the guys I was eating with, you’ll never see me with a KU-UNC flag. They readily agreed it was idiotic, but they’re both Purdue alums so what else would they say?

On to the dome. I pretty much got knocked on my ass as soon as I walked in. They had the pregame music cranked to about 21, forget about 11. It was so loud that you couldn’t hear the person right next to you talking. Ridiculous. I was seated in the upper deck, five rows up, around the ten yard line. Not bad seats, but I’ll be damned if they we worth $55. That probably explains why they dome was maybe 1/3 full. It was a tiny, tiny crowd. I will give the people who showed up this, though: they were loud when they had a chance. Seattle had a third and short on their first possession, and people we as frenzied as if it was a playoff game. The 18,000 or so who were there made it loud enough to again make conversations difficult. I can only imagine how loud it gets in there when the place is full. In fact, I’m not sure I’m interested in finding out.

All night I wondered where I would have sat if I had come to the 1991 Final Four. I tried to imagine sitting in these same seats and trying to watch basketball instead of football. I decided it was wise of me to stay in Lawrence that weekend. The Colts defense looked decent, forcing some turnovers, the offense took advantage, and it was 14-0 Indy at halftime. We were then treated to a show by those wacky Frisbee chasing dogs. Always interesting to watch. I also got to watch Seneca Wallace get chased around the field. I was a little disappointed the Indy corners didn’t have better hands, otherwise Seneca might have tossed three picks before we left.

Since it was a preseason game, we did get in for free, and I had a 6:30 tee time the next morning, we ducked out at halftime. It was impressive to see Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison in action. I enjoyed being in a dome for a while. I also enjoyed the one Mellencamp song per quarter quota there appeared to be. There’s apparently no distancing from local idols here. All in all it was a nice way to spend the night, certainly better than over at Victory Field as the Indians played a double header that lasted until 3:00 AM (Is there no curfew in minor league ball?). But, unless I’m offered free tickets again, I believe I’ll be saving my money for when the Celtics, Magic, Bulls, or Sonics come to Conseco next winter.

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