So far 2014 has been just what I would expect out of a winter in Michigan, though most people are taken-a- back by the weather we have been having. Really?!?! You live in Michigan, it snows, it gets cold and miserable deal with it. I have been spending most of these days either working or sitting in my office listening to any random record that strikes me as I glance my collection. One day it’s Anthrax – “Among the Living”, the next it’s John Coltrane – “Live At the Village Vanguard.” It all really depends on what is calling out to me at that specific moment.
Thats the great thing about music. It has the ability to capture how you feel at any given moment, and can also keep you suspended in that moment for as long as you want. The song is not going anywhere, it’s not going to get up and leave, you can always start the song or LP over and have that feeling when ever you want. It is endless. This is why I love music so much. There are certain records that if I put them on when the weather is just right, or the light in the room looks a certain way, it can take me back to a specific place in time or a specific memory. Sunny Day Real Estate – “LP 2 (the pink record)”, is one such record that brings me back to a specific moment in time.
When I was 18 years old I moved out of my parents house and on my own for the first time. It was exciting. No rules, and no supervision of any kind, and the best part was I was living with guys that were able to buy booze, so that was a bonus. I used to listen to a ton of music around the house, mostly punk rock as thats what the majority of the house was into, but I also would listen to stuff more on the sappy side that the other roommates, save for one or two, couldn’t get behind. One of those bands was Sunny Day Real Estate.
I first heard about Sunny Day Real Estate when I saw their video for “In Circles” on MTV’s 120 minutes back in 1995. I wasn’t sure how I should feel about it at the time, because during this period in my life pop-punk was all the rage; Mr. T Experience, The Queers, Screeching Weasel, etc. This was different, it was emotional, deeper, and more musically proficient. The song wasn’t about how the singer couldn’t stop farting, or how much he loved a girl because the size of her tits, this was about something more. After the video aired the song was stuck in my head, and the next day I rode my bike up to the local record store and bought “Diary”, the LP to which the song belonged.
When I got home and put the record on I couldn’t expect what was going to happen next. The record blew my mind. It was a life changing moment. From the first cymbal crash into “Seven”, to the last cymbal crash of “Sometimes”, I was hooked. I still listened to my beloved pop-punk music but slowly bands like Shudder To Think, Fugazi, The Nation of Ulysses, and Sunny Day Real Estate were taking over. Every time I listened to “Diary” I listened to it like it was the last time I would ever be able to listen to the record in my life. I memorized every drum part, every guitar part, and every vocal inflection. I was obsessed.
Then later that year or the next, I picked up “LP 2”, or “The Pink Record” as it came to be called due to its incredibly pink artwork. This record soon surpassed “Diary” as my favorite Sunny Day record. The songs were more thought out, more emotional, and technically constructed. From the opening arpegiated chords of “Friday,” you know where the band is. Even though the record artwork is pink, the mood on the record is darker than “Diary.” There are some traces of the past Sunny Day on the record such as songs “8” and “Rodeo Jones”, but over all we are dealing with a band in a dark time and a transitional period. When the band entered the studio they were already beginning to fall apart and didn’t have enough material to make up a record so they re-recorded the song “8” which had appeared on a 7″ release in the past, and used “Rodeo Jones” a leftover track from the “Diary” session, to round out the record. The band eventually broke up well before the record even came out, henceforth the pink artwork. When the band was contacted about artwork for the record drummer William Goldsmith famously told the label, “Who cares? It’s over, make the whole thing pink and put a tiny fly in the corner”. Sub Pop did.
When the record came out it didn’t sell as well as “Diary”, but its impact and influence on the bands fans and new fans alike,was immeasurable. Most people like myself, state that “LP2” is their favorite Sunny Day record and with good reason. Besides the two songs that feel not so much out of place, as they do just in the wrong context, the album is a solid emotional journey through a band breaking up and it’s lead vocalist finding himself.
The journey of finding one’s self is what I most aligned to when I listened to the record prominently during that fall and winter of 1999. It was like hearing the record for the first time all over again. This was record I listened to a lot before I even lived on my own but it’s affect on me didn’t happen until much later. I wasn’t becoming a born again christian like lead vocalist Jeremy Enigk was, I was just starting to etch out my own life away from my parents and thats what the record came to mean to me.
I remember lying in my bed on a winter night and watching the snow flakes fall in the light of a street lamp just outside my window as the song “Red Elephant” began to play. It was perfect. That moment in my life is frozen in my mind, much like a picture would freeze frame a moment, but unlike a picture where everyone can see it and experience the moment, this moment was mine and mine only. No one else could experience this with me, or comment on how it must have felt at that moment. Only I will ever know just how I was feeling, and just what I was thinking. Moments like that are extremely special and music makes those moments last forever. Every time I hear the song “Red Elephant” I think of that moment in time and for that brief 3 minutes, I can feel like that again.