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Mix Tapes From The Midwest:
Forgotten Songs

Put simply – these are songs I used to love that, for whatever reason, I didn’t listen to for many years and have recently rediscovered.

And this is a warning: this is a confessional post, where you’ll learn more about my personal mythology than you will about what the music sounds like.

I’ve heard some people hate that sort of thing.

Side A

1. Beat Happening – Indian Summer

I have just returned from visiting my best friend, out in the soft sweet East of my heart. School is about to start, and I am not looking forward to it. The rain hits the ground and hammers on the rooftop, and I lie on my bed with my eyes closed, listening to jangly guitars and the drone of Calvin Johnson’s voice. I know that the days are getting shorter, and the air is getting colder. All I want is to be back with my best friend, lurking in moldering Civil War cemeteries and walking through muddy creeks, dodging snakes and vines. All I want is for one more warm week, for someone to say: Buckle up, we’re wayward bound. We’ll come back for Indian Summer, then go our separate ways.

2. Archers of Loaf – Floating Friends

I am lying on the bed in my teenage bedroom, blinds drawn. It is winter, and it is cold in my room. My mom always tells me I keep it like a meat locker. “I keep it cold, like my heart,” I tell her. I am such an angst-filled teenager. I am listening to angst-filled boys yowl from their throats and wail on their distorted guitars. I am so lonely. All of my friends have floated away. I just want to disappear, and I’m starting to learn the ways, the dangerous ways, a young girl can undo herself. I’m clinging to fresh, new mistakes.

3. Mary Lou Lord – Speeding Motorcycle

All love is unrequited; especially when you’re a teenager. You love someone, and they don’t love you back. You love someone, and they love you back, but they never tell you that. You love someone, they love you – but one of you loves more strongly than the other does. Whether it is true or not, I always feel that I am on the side that loves more. I love too deep, too strong, and it scares the boys away. Mary Lou Lord with her warbly voice and sweet guitar, Mary Lou Lord when she makes this Daniel Johnston song her own, she understands. They keep breaking my heart, but I keep falling in love. Many boys have taken you for a ride, hurt you deep inside, but you never slow down.

4. Superchunk – Detroit Has A Skyline

He gives me a mix tape, and Superchunk is on it. Or he tells me, one time after I see his band play in some coffeeshop or other, “hey, you need to listen to Superchunk.” And I take whatever musical suggestions he gives me, hoping that if I like the right music, maybe then, maybe then he will love me. He could be one of two boys. It doesn’t much matter which one – they have similar styles, similar names, play in a band together. One is a little nicer, one a little meaner, but I am in stupid, tortured love with first one, then the other. I take all his (their) musical suggestions, but it doesn’t make him (them) love me. I had a crush. Nothing works out.

5. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Someday I Suppose

Before he becomes a tough-ass S.H.A.R.P. skinhead, Jake is a just a ska kid, with a mohawk like the guy from Fishbone and plaid pants like the dudes from the Bosstones. Ska is the word on everybody’s lips, and I want to know more about it. So we are hanging out, and I am like, “yo, what’s this ska thing I keep hearing so much about?” He puts this song on, and as the horns kick in, he begins to skank around the room in wide circles, looking a little fierce and more than a little awkward, like some kinda strange teenage cheetah. I think we are in someone’s basement; I’m not sure what town we’re in. There was a place, and the name of the place escapes me. When I can’t remember, it irritates me. Could be I can’t remember, could be I choose to not.

6. Bis – X-Defect

Sometimes, I get tired of being so serious and angry and sad. So I put on the lo-fi-dance-pop-new wave sounds of Bis – Sci-Fi Steven, John Disco, and Manda Rin, those adorable Scottish kids – and I hop up and down, alone in my bedroom. I only know one other person who is into them – my girlfriend, who only lives thirty minutes away but who I only get to see once every few months. Years later, after I stop really listening to Bis, I see them play a free in-store at a Tower Records in Chicago. I can’t help but be reminded of that X-Girlfriend – the last time I saw her, we were at a different show at the same shop. And she loved Bis. And I always did think she looked kinda like Manda Rin.

7. That Dog. – Hawthorne

I drive through suburban streets, loop around cul-de-sacs, looking for his parents’ house. A little stalker-like, perhaps, but I never do anything super-creepy. I look for the place where he lives, I drive past it only once, and then I drive away, slip-sliding through the winter streets of my town, feeling sad. He is my dream (maybe more like a nightmare), and he will never want me. I run into him sometimes, at the stupid little shows his band plays, but we don’t talk much. Usually he is too busy, too cool, to talk to me. Driving, looking for your parents’ house. Striving, to find a piece of you. And I saw a punk rock show in a car garage. And I saw you.

8. Juliana Hatfield – Everybody Loves Me But You

Things are okay, you could say. I am finally realizing that some people do have crushes on me. Too bad it isn’t the same people I have crushes on. I am having some success with my writing, yes, at such a young age; I’m earning money, getting to travel, receiving fan letters and presents in the mail. I even have some photos taken, where I think I look alright; photos which other people tell me are beautiful. I am young and could do anything I want. But. There’s a world out there, and a million things to do. What do I care, if it doesn’t include you?

Side B

1. Lifter Puller – Back In Blackbeard

So I’m in Minneapolis, my first time ever there. This cool older chick is taking me around the city, showing me all the hip places. She takes me to First Avenue, 7th Street Entry, to see Lifter Puller and Sleater-Kinney. And I guess it is probably the first real rock’n’roll show I’ve ever gone to; the first dark and smoky club of many dark and smoky clubs to come. This is right around the time I start falling hard into self-destruction, but I need to do those dark things in order to survive. I will never regret a second of it, because it is out of desire and freedom and danger (and rock’n’roll) that I will build a life. And Mom and Dad – Don’t blame your daughter’s downfall on her dancing. Don’t blame your baby’s binging on the bass bins. Blame the boredom. Blame the basements.

2. Circle Jerks – Love Kills

It will be a couple more years before I reach the true depths of self-destruction. But my best friend and I, we are working our way there. And we are obsessed with Sid and Nancy, like so many young, self-destructive punks are; before we reach the age where we see that Nancy and Sid are the worst role models possible. Since we live so far apart, we send each other strange mementoes in the mail: handcuffs, padlocks on chains, stolen leopard-print underwear. And we talk on the phone whenever we can, cry to each other about all the sorrows in our separate lives, and say – Love kills – and it hurts me to see you this way.

3. Blue Meanies – Pave the World

At the same show where I interview the Mr. T Experience, I discover the Blue Meanies. It is some weird deal where the club shoves two shows together – The Mr. T Experience/Teen Idols, and Blue Meanies/Apocalypse Hoboken. And my god, I will forever be glad that they did. Cos me and my best friend, we fall in love with the two Chicago bands we didn’t even know we’d be seeing on this Milwaukee night. The Blue Meanies, what are they? Are they ska, punk, rock? They are so bizarre and so amazing. When they play this song, we belong wholly to this place in time, we belong wholly to this band, as surely as if they’d looked at us and said: “You’re one of us!”

4. Ben Folds Five – Fair

I spend my days walking through town, with Ben Folds Five’s ‘punk rock for sissies’ on my headphones, ducking behind buildings whenever I see (or think I see) a particular shade of blue on a particular make of van. I want to confront him, but don’t know what I will say. I want to confront him, but am too scared to say – Did you get my other letters? Sometimes I think I oughta call. Cos you know, I often wonder if you open them at all. Every couple nights or so, you know, you pop into my dreams. I just can’t get rid of you like you got rid of me.

5. Pohgoh – Friend X

Emo isn’t even a real genre, it’s a dumb label used to describe melodic punk/indie rock that has depressive, poetic lyrics. And I haven’t yet figured out that the so-called emo boys are the worst kind to fall in love with. Before I see that there only sensitive about their own feelings, and that they do not give a damn about my tender heart. You can say what you wanna say – people will talk, anyway. I will give you a head start, let you take the easy part. Making others laugh at my expense – I’m sure you’ve had experience. Still, I have to say, what puzzles me, is why’d you hafta be so mean?

6. Kristin Hersh – Me and My Charms

I am on the ground with my arms spread out, floating, then sinking. I am willing my molecular structure to dissolve. I feel myself cracking. Days on fire. Nights spent watching “Foxfire” over and over, and those words that always make me cry: “If I told you I loved you, would you take it the wrong way?” And there she is, at the periphery, haunting me. She. Her. The girl I love so much I think I might die without her. The girl I want to kiss more than I want to kiss any boy. Is she here? Is she here, right now?

7. Too Much Joy – Drunk and in Love

He is the first boyfriend my parents know about, but they sure don’t know the reality of the relationship. The reality is, it’s terrible. A terrible, interminable five months, with a few good moments sprinkled in. One of the good moments – he plays this song on his radio show, and dedicates it to me. It describes a kind of romance that we will never have. I’ll make fun of her ex-boyfriend. I’ll ask her what she wants to name our kids. She’ll tell me she can’t live without me. I’ll call her Nancy until she calls me Sid.

8. Fugazi – Furniture

Sometimes, it seems like no one understands. I am in my twenties, now, but still so full of angst. And it feels like I’m shouting into the void. Feels like people are reading my words, but not really hearing what I’m trying to say. See my mouth, see that it’s moving – and think you already know where I’m coming from.

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