I’ve written before, on this blog, about the “fine-grained, specific recall” of memories that listening to a song can bring about. I’m inclined to think that any time I pen a note of appreciation here about a particular piece of music, I will do so by also noting and paying attention to its associations; it seems to go with the territory. (A new series, so to speak: Songs and the Things They Make Me Remember.)
Last time, it was BB King’s Thrill is Gone and remembering my time as a bartender in a small jazz bar in Newark. Today, it’s Skream‘s Where You Should Be (featuring Sam Franck) and the summer of 2011. There are two twists in this tale. For one, this song goes hand in hand with a video–but not its official music video, which comes off a distinct second-best–and secondly, the associated memory is very recent.
In August 2011, Next Level Pictures released a video titled Eight Hours in Brooklyn; ostensibly a concept shoot for a commercial, it was shot using a Phantom Flex camera, and featured dizzying, super slo-mo shots of skateboarders carrying out flips and a formation ride down a road next to an elevated subway track, hydrant bathers, pickup basketball games played by tattooed teenagers, break dance moves, and a close-up of a tattoo under construction. As soundtrack, it featured Skream’s Where You Should Be.
Where You Should Be is a sophisticated piece of pop dubstep; and it is too, a breakup song. Its lyrics are simple and plaintive; they don’t aspire to high poetic levels. Consider, for instance:
How can I feel good about this life I’m living//When you’re not here//Right beside me
These lonely days//Turn to lonely nights//Everything’s upside down//And I’ve lost the will to fight
But for all that, set to the bass, melody and slightly spooky vocals of the track, they work well. And Where You Should Be works especially well with Eight Hours in Brooklyn, which of course, isn’t about breaking up with anyone. But the video’s images immediately taps into a melancholia that always seems to be associated with summers on the East Coast: the knowledge that all this cannot last, that the summer, hot, sticky, humid and kvetch-invoking as it is, is also the time for cool, T-shirted nights, barbecues, beach trips, and cold beer. And in August, the light begins to change, the shadows lengthen, and we are reminded that we had better get on with the business of making the most of it before the change of season, before, once the glories of fall have gone, we’ll be stuck with slush, snow, and the grimy greyness of winter.
In August 2011, I was working on a book, and dealing with all the frustration and self-doubt that that always seems to entail. I tried to stay sane, mostly by lifting weights, and by endlessly bitching and moaning, to anyone that would listen. And sometimes, by diversion. Watching Lost was one particularly undistinguished way, listening to music was another. Eight Hours in Brooklyn was a perfect three-minute break from editing, revising, and worrying whether anyone would give a rat’s ass about my self-indulgent reflections.
So, thank you, Skream; thank you Phantom Flex camera; and thank you, videomakers. You got at least one writer across the finish line.