It’s a hot Saturday in early October. I’m just finishing a joint, reading the second volume of Night Vale scripts, legs sprawled out on the thick shag carpet under the low table in front of the couch.
From maybe a block away strikes up this loud 80s song: a laid-back, spare beat and debatably cheesy synth horn loop. Possibly steel drum. Some of those presets, it’s hard to tell.
Would Tori Amos like this? I reflexively ask myself. Would my dad? I think about my dad’s taste in music a lot. Tori Amos is close-lipped about her taste in music, apart from her obvious influences.
I think I like it. I think I like this mystery eighties song. It seems like the same four bars over and over. I wonder if maybe a local band is rehearsing. Some group of cool dads, or their sons in their old work jackets.
Then right on cue, sirens, and, I shit you not, a chainsaw. The neighborhood gives itself over to this thrumming cacophony, and I can’t hear the song anymore. The sirens go on and on, and I say a little prayer like I always do. The chainsaw doesn’t stay on for too long. Guess they didn’t have to saw that much.
The air feels bereft. I can’t sense the song anymore after the sirens die down. No – there it is. Did it just get quieter? Or is this a hallucination?
When I walk out of the room when a song I know is playing, I like it play it in my head and see if I’m in the right place when I come back. I’m pretty good at it. Not perfect, but good. I’m a pretty musical person, but I guess not especially rhythmic.
Is this that? The song is gone now, it must be. Did they stop playing when the noise started up? Are they drinking beers in the garage now, or taking a piss and checking Facebook?
Are they cool? Or are they really, really awful? It’s a tricky line. 80s music is a lot about forgiveness and projection. Finding the through lines in a time of technological upheaval and the democratization of sound.
If they talked to you about the Thompson Twins, would it be unironically? If they said Dave Stewart, would they just say Dave Stewart, and not Dave Stewart of The Eurhythmics?
Are they homophobes? Or are they a bunch of queer kids holding it down for the retro weirdos?
It’s funny how you can’t tell. When there’s just not enough information. When it could go either way, it could be cool or not, or good or not. Like, why do I like Lady Pank and not The Police? I mean, really they’re the same band, just in different languages.
And then I start to think, well, maybe I do really like The Police. I mean, I don’t, but could I see it? If I squint just a little, can I be fair? Is it just that Sting is a douchebag?
But I like Picasso, and he was a douchebag. Harder to tell through a painting, though. You read that Arianna Huffington biography, though? Hard to think about funny shapes after that.
Course I can’t remember anything about the song now. Time goes by and then that little snatch of music flies out of your mind. Would I even know it again if I heard it? Will I hear it again some day in the future on some hot day when that band is practicing again? Was it just an inane loop played very loudly that wrapped around me? Was it a DVD selection screen with nobody making a selection?
It was cool. It had a groove. It reminded me of late-career Siouxsie and the Batmobile. Maybe it was late-career Siouxsie. Maybe it was the Batmobile.