Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tuesday Tune: "Sometime Around Midnight" by The Airborne Toxic Event

I'm a sucker for unrequited-love ballads, the kind you put on endless repeat in the days and months after getting turned down for a date by the pretty-but-unattainable girl in homeroom.  I'm not talking country-western twang-and-lament here ("Get Your Tongue Outta My Mouth 'Cause I'm Kissing You Goodbye," anybody?).  These are the kind of songs that make you writhe on the floor with recognition and self-pity.  "That's me in the song," you moan.  "I'm the guy who has an ad in the Yellow Pages under 'Rejection.'"

Or maybe that's just me.  Maybe you were the one who dated the homecoming queen.  If so, I want you know I'm not bitter anymore.  It all worked out in the end because I met and married the perfect woman for me and we're still living happily ever after.

But that came later.  During my teenage years, "Love Hurts" was my theme song and there were plenty of nights when Nazareth had me writhing on the floor of my bedroom.  By song's end, I was curled in a fetal ball, catatonic with misery and crushed puppy love.

*cough*   Maybe that's too much information.  *cough*

Two years ago, I found another tune which, if I'd heard it three decades ago, would have been my theme song.  What I like most about Airborne Toxic Event's* "Sometime Around Midnight" is the way it builds, starting with that burst of strings, then coming back with the subdued beat of the guitar and cymbal, until Mikel Jollett** begins with:
And it starts, sometime around midnight.
Or at least that’s when you lose yourself
for a minute or two.
As you stand, under the bar lights.
And the band plays some song
about forgetting yourself for a while.
And the piano’s this melancholy soundtrack to her smile.
And that white dress she’s wearing
you haven’t seen her for a while.

Yes, the song is a little creepy in a stalker sort of way, but it's the visceral longing for an ex-girlfriend that overwhelms me in the course of its five minutes.  It reaches its peak when Jollett wrings out a hoarse cry of pain in this stanza:
Then she leaves, with someone you don’t know.
But she makes sure you saw her.
She looks right at you and bolts.
As she walks out the door,
your blood boiling
your stomach in ropes.
Oh and when your friends say,
“What is it? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
That last line never fails to hit me in the solar plexus.

"Sometime Around Midnight" is a triumphant marriage of beat, lyrics, and melody.  You might think otherwise.  But then again, you're probably the one who married the prom queen.

If you'd like to buy the mp3 song from Amazon, click these links:  "Sometime Around Midnight" from the album The Airborne Toxic Event 

*Literary Influence Alert:  The band takes its name from a phrase in Don DeLillo's White Noise.
**Jollett is a writer who's been published in McSweeney's and was working on a novel at the time his mother died of cancer and an autoimmune disorder nearly wrecked his vocal cords--two life-changing events which caused him to set the novel aside for songwriting.

1 comment:

  1. This has long been a favorite of mine; I never get tired of listening to it; perhaps love's sad satiety.