I don’t think I express how influential of a year 1996 was in my musical development. What I can express is how grateful I am for that time. Much like the paper airplanes I built during Math class, my musical sensibilities had floated for the better part of my life but were accelerating quicker than I would have liked. I could barely hang on.
That year, my girlfriend of the time gave me Bush’s album “Razorblade Suitcase” right before my family took our annual road trip to Georgia to visit my Dad’s family. From Putnam to Lookout Mountain, Gavin Rossdale’s voices guided me through the persistent questions of adolescence. I couldn’t hear my parents talking through my disc-man headphones, but I’m pretty sure they were wondering what could make their middle child so quiet for such a long time. I might have even missed the litany of family jokes that always accompanied our annual Christmastime pilgrimage. Not that I cared at the time, those jokes were old by that point. But now, as a parent, I don’t miss an opportunity to tell my family the same jokes I dismissed as “old fart-isms” as a preteen. Those jokes are buoys that anchor me to a time when I needed a reminder to not take myself so seriously. In retrospect, I have to say that “Razorblade Suitcase” was a much better gift that the one my girlfriend received, a big blue balloon that had been miraculously filled with tissue paper and a stuffed bear… Maybe that’s why we broke up soon after the Christmas break. I’ll ask her on facebook someday.
1996 was a year of upheaval and transition for me. Spiritually, I was asking deeper questions. Physically, everything was shifting and changing. Emotionally, I was in vertigo, most days in an existential tailspin. It was the year I began high school. It was also the year I discovered Punk Rock music. Looking back, I have to admit that my first venture into punk rock was rather innocuous. For some reason I purchased a copy of MXPX’s “pokinatcha.” I’m pretty sure that the alum had something like 20 songs on it and timed in at a little under 30 minutes. I’m not given to brevity generally, and I didn’t really get it at first. But, each time I played the album I fell more in love with the simplicity and audacity of three guys playing four chords for 30 minutes and calling it music. There’s much more to my punk rock story than this. But, that album was where it all began for me. So, if you ever wore plaid shorts, suspenders and strapped on your Chuck Taylors every morning, this one’s for you.