Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Echo and the Bunnymen, "Pictures On My Wall"

There is some music that I associate so intensely with certain periods in my life that the flow of memories when I listen to it can be fearsome. One such band is Echo and the Bunnymen. Despite my love of The Smiths and Depeche Mode, I never listened to them until I started my master's program in Chicago in the fall of 1998, and only because a new friend turned me on to them. It was a very strange time in my life. I had been a stellar student in my undergraduate history classes, but the grad classes were very demanding and very difficult. While I had received a fine education at my undergrad institution, I had not been taught by historians who were in tune with the current state of the field. It was disorienting to feel like I suddenly wasn't good at something that I'd always assumed was the thing I was best at. This led to very high levels of self doubt.

On top of that shock, I was living outside of Nebraska for the first time in a big city, and living alone for the first time in my life to boot. Echo and the Bunnymen's first album, purchased around the corner from my apartment, was the soundtrack to so many dark and lonesome nights. There was something erie and new to me about being alone in a city surrounded by millions of people. In the rural town I grew up in those nights were impossibly dark and quiet, the sound of trains like otherworldly sentinels blowing their horns echoing through my window. In the city the sky was never truly dark due to all of the reflected light, and there was a constant background buzz at all times.

There was an eeriness in songs like "Pictures On My Wall" that spoke to me on those nights. In fact, I can hardly think of music more perfect for such moments. Nowadays, married with kids and a dog in a cluttered house with friendly neighbors, those moments don't come around so often. I listen to this song these days and feel glad that's the case.

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