It doesn’t matter if we all die – One Hundred Years by The Cure
One day I was playing some sad music in class. A student, whose wit is a sharp as a knife, asked me if I go to a this band’s concert is crying required or highly recommended. He doesn’t know this, but he instantly became my favorite student that day. It also made me think about why I often find myself listening to sad music.
If you have been reading this blog, you know that I have started to open up about my issues with anxiety and depression. People that know the kind of music I listen to think often that the music puts me in a depressed mode.
That’s not how it works.
The quote above comes from The Cure’s album Pornography. Many have called it the most depressing record ever made. It may be. The existential angst in that first line is a thesis statement for the album, and that mood goes all the way through the record up until the last lines:
I must fight this sickness
Find a cure
I must fight this sickness
The album always makes me feel better. Not because of those last three lines, even though they have become a motto. It’s because all those thoughts I have when my conditions are extremely cloudy are echoed here. Robert Smith doesn’t hold back in singing the darkest images his psyche can come up with. When I listen to it, I realize I’m not alone. I also understand Smith went on to write Lovesong, Friday I’m in Love, Mint Car, and Untitled. He is not permanently producing morose art.
They told us our gods would outlive us/But they lied – Distant Sky by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
Nick Cave lost his son. Losing a child is as traumatic an experience as one can have. We all have our stories of trauma, of a loved one taken too soon or too violently. When Cave sings that lyric, you can hear his voice break. It should be painful, but I don’t listen to it that way. I hear a man holding on to his grief because he has to. That grief is what keeps those we love alive when they are gone. In the documentary that went along with the album, Cave explains his rubber band theory. When we lose someone, it does get better. It always does. By getting better, he says we move on and move further away from the grief. However, there are moments – such as birthdays, anniversaries – that snap us back to that moment when the grief comes back. He doesn’t say it in a way that sounds morbid or morose. He says in a way that the sadness we feel comes from the happiness that those people brought to our lives.
I’m sobbing and eating eggs again – Crow Pt 2 by Mount Eerie.
Crow Pt 2 is my favorite song of 2018. It makes me cry, at this particular line, every single time. Phil Elverum lost his wife to cancer not long after the birth of their daughter. He explored his grief on two amazing albums as memoirs, A Crow Looked at Me (2017) and Now Only (2018). Again, if you follow this blog, you might wonder as to why I listen to something that nearly happened to me. God only knows what would have happened if my wife had not said to take her to the ER on the sixth day of our daughter’s life. This album doesn’t make me think about what could have happened. It makes me think about what did happen. It makes my heart full to know my girls are with me. It makes me realize how precious life is and how fortunate I am. When you suffer from depression, this is the reminders you need. Luckily for Elverum, he found happiness again. He secretly married Michelle Williams (who has had her own very public, very traumatic tragedy happen to her) earlier this year. Working through his grief in such a public way probably opened his eyes to the possibilities of life and love again. In fact, while his albums are about his lost love, the details of the records are filled with imagery of the living particularly in nature and in his little girl.
Hopelessly fighting devil futility – Untitled by The Cure
Nothing describes fighting depression better than this lyric from The Cure. Much like my sister’s Type I Diabetes, my depression will probably never be cured. It’s not a mindset. It’s chemical. This line has been my motto for life. No matter how hard it gets, no matter dark my skies become, I will fight. This is why I went public with my depression. If you are in physical pain, you act. You apply ice, take Tylenol, or, if it is bad enough, you see a doctor. The same should be said for mental pain. For me, listening to music is my Tylenol. While happy tunes are okay, listening to sad music is my extra strength painkillers. It becomes a cathartic experience. It reminds me I’m not alone. Not in just the way that singer is going through it as well, but also that there are other fans like me out there listening to these songs feeling the same way.
Shall we beat this or celebrate it? “All of Me Wants All of You” by Sufjan Stevens
When people form a community of sadness, we often end up smiling just as much as we cry. Nick Cave and Mount Eerie both toured on the albums in which they worked out their grief. Both were successful tours. Same with Sufjan Steven’s Carrie and Lowell album and tour in which explored the loss of his estranged mother. I was at the Sufjan show in New Orleans for that tour. The audience all sat and inhaled the show. We weren’t truly observers. We were participants all dealing with our own trauma. The rubber band brought us back; however, because it was communal, the snap was not as tight and jolting. We knew we were all suffering, but at the same time we were celebrating. We were celebrating the fact that we are here. We can tell our stories and the stories of our loved ones.
We didn’t know each other, but we were there for each other.
That’s what the power of art is.