By Russ Marshalek
One of my fondest memories since joining the working world (too early; most grocery stores in Georgia will happily break any and all sort of age restricting labor laws because WINN*DIXIE) is from my time in high school as a part-time manager of the copy department at an office supply store. Weekend shifts were broken in two, each highly coveted for its own reason. First, an early-morning shift from around 5am until a little after lunch, involving preparing the store from the previous day for the gaggle of weekend shoppers and checking in business card orders, etc, to the second shift of noonish til close, involving follow-up and next day prep. The latter was obviously the preferred shift for those who had been out the previous night “partying” (whatever high school partying consisted of back then, like I guess taking shots of PBR and dealing with acne? I have no idea), but being the cornfed teetotaler I was I preferred the early shift. It meant that, while the rest of my schoolmates were just getting to work, I was headed home to…what? I honestly don’t remember. Read, probably. Or write terrible poetry. Regardless, I think this is where being an early riser became embedded into my personality like an iron-on transfer, affixed slowly, firmly, and over time. I’d wake up much earlier than necessary so that I could take a long, leisurely shower, have a cup of coffee, watch some benign news program and pick the perfect music for that morning’s drive to work–which, from my grandparents’ house in Marietta up to Kennesaw, consisted of an always-scenic, at-times spooky drive through the Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield, the site of one of the bloodiest battles of The Civil War War Between The StatesDuck Dynasty War Of Northern Aggression.
There is a very specific synaesthetic feeling that comes from being bleary-eyed and tired yet awake and driving very early in the morning. I’ve experienced it often in my life, either from work in High School, later as an educator, or en route to some travel excursion or another. It’s in The National’s song “Apartment Story.” It’s a heavy influence on Drake’s “Nothing Was The Same.” And it’s all over the brilliant, blown-out 2004 album “Futures” by Jimmy Eat World.
(Side note: we are not talking about STILL BEING AWAKE in the early-dawn hours. That’s an entirely different soundtrack, one better served by the early works of Moby than by any of the above albums. That’s a post for another time.)
“Futures” is, I think, my favorite Jimmy Eat World record, coming on the heels of the band making one of the single greatest emo records ever recorded (“Clairity”) and one of the most popular radio-emo albums of all time (“Bleed American”). Futures is the merging of the two, all thrashing guitars and subliminal, sensual textures and some of Jim Adkins’ greatest lyrics ever, yet it got lost. “Bleed American” came out, 9/11 happened and suddenly the lyrics “salt/sweat/sugar on the asphalt/our hearts/littering the topsoil” weren’t allowed as a metaphor to love, “Bleed American” became a self-titled album, and…and I don’t know, because I was clinging to every word of “Futures.” I had an early-morning job at the time, my girlfriend was not good for me and I was not good for her, I’d often awake in the some clothes I’d gone to bed in from fight after vicious, lacerating fight, and immediately start Futures over at the beginning, the title track, from wherever it was in my car CD player.
Even that first song, with the chorus of “we close our eyes/as the nickel and dimes/take the streets completely” resonates with the slow burn of an early morning. Jim Adkins’ vague-but-intense substance references are amazing here; one of my favorite lyrics from him ever is on the ode to grudge fucking in cars “Cherry Lipstick”–two of them, actually. In terms of placing blame for the hookup he sings “three fingers point back to you” (!!!!! please don’t make me explain this!!!) and, the even nastier, “quitting alone will never make you dry”.
The whole album is like this–raw, cutting, wry, almost (I’m saying almost here) on point with U2’s “Achtung Baby” in terms of kiss-offs. I’ve been revisiting it both in preparation for my upcoming pop-punk party at Glasslands at the end of Jan but also because this is the cruelest time of year. This is the time of year when internal lives need saving, but we just passed the longest night of the year, and from here on out things get better. Right? Right, things get better. And that’s the message at the end of the record: “don’t give away the end/that one stays mine”.
It’s not gonna keep being dark all the time anymore.