The other day I was in the shower and I started singing this song I didn’t know. I knew all the lyrics, I could hear the guitar line in my head, but I had no idea what it was. A little googling revealed that the song was ‘My Life Story’ by MxPx. My first question was, how do I know this song? My next couple questions were: Didn’t I used to love this band intensely? Didn’t I see them live multiple times, didn’t I own some t-shirts, didn’t I once go to the beach the day after seeing them live because the singer mentioned he was looking forward to going to the beach the next day, and I thought maybe I could bump into the band and become their fucking friend? Yes, yes, yes. If you’d asked me one day before this what I thought of MxPx, I would have strained to remember them. Actually I would have been like, buzz off, creep.
So I went and dug up my old CD case. You ever dig back through old CD’s you bought in High School? It’s a little like going through your parents drawers and discovering that they have your baby teeth in a jar. It’s kind of familiar, but also why the fuck did they keep these? Why not throw these away?
Here’s a sampling of what I found inside:
Smash Mouth (Fush Yu Mang and Astro Lounge) God I loved Smash Mouth. Loved them. My first ever concert, a birthday present from a girl who didn’t like them but knew I did and wanted to make me happy. That song “All Star?” When I hear it now all I can think is that it’s the musical equivalent of Powerade, but the summer it came out I probably listened to it 11,000 times. They saved it for the encore, when I saw them live, and I remember turning to the girl who brought me and saying, Oh good, I didn’t think they were going to get to it. That’s a relief. On the way home from that show it came on the radio and I was excited to hear it with the live version fresh in my head, so I could compare. I’ve apologized to that girl many, many times but let me throw out another one, in case she reads this: Anna! Sorry you had to see Smash Mouth! You were right about them not having the staying power of The Who!
Reel Big Fish (Why Do They Rock So Hard) One year at Warped Tour I saw a leathery middle aged anarchist throw down his crudely photocopied fuck-the-government flyers to berate the crowd for having no sense of history when they flocked away from the stage following Reel Big Fish, ignoring a performance by Henry Rollins. One of the truly formative experiences of my life. Until that moment I had no idea that loving something too much could wreck your life and turn you into a sad disaster.
John Popper (Zygote) Well everyone has this thing, right? Certainly everyone in America asked for John Popper from Blues Traveller’s solo album for Christmas the year it came out, and of course we all spent hours hunched over the stereo playing “Evil in My Chair” on repeat, studying the lyrics like they were the Dead Sea Scrolls. Right?
Mike Ness (Cheating at Solitaire) This one I stand by. Mike Ness doing rowdy covers of rootsy songs. I still prefer his version of Don’t Think Twice to Dylan’s. I’m kind of surprised this thing has been forgotten—some of these songs would work well for a show like Sons of Anarchy, if Sons of Anarchy didn’t just play slowed down Neil Young covers over endless montages of Peggy Bundy snooping and grizzled character actors hugging. Have you heard Mike Ness sing Long Black Veil? He sings it like it fucking happened to him, it’s incredible!
NOFX (So Long and Thanks for all the Shoes) Once upon a time I was passionate about whether or not NOFX’s frontman, Fat Mike, was a piece of shit, but I can’t remember which way I leaned now. NOFX was punk rock for kids who came from good families but acted crazy anyway—case in point, I’m pretty sure this album was a gift from this kid Alvin who once confided in me that his goal in life was to avenge himself upon the guy who killed his wife and son (Alvin was 16). Alvin’s grandma called him Munchy and used to give me cookies to bring home to my family.
The Smiths (The Queen is Dead) and The Sex Pistols (Nevermind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols) I’m lumping these two together since they’re both albums I bought because I thought I should like them, because they were cool bands and I wanted to be cool. Actually, I think I wanted to have sex and being cool seemed like a shortcut to making that happen. You know what? That’s a lie. I just wanted to be cool. Having sex seemed very bourgeois to me, in high school. Anyway, think of all the time I wasted pretending that “Bigmouth Strikes Again” meant something to me when I really wanted to go home and listen to John Popper sing about chairs! And the Sex Pistols… look, The Sex Pistols are fine. Fine. But there comes a point in your development as a human being that you have to choose The Ramones and let Sid Vicious rest in peace, because really, which is the ballsier move: sneering at the Queen or getting up in front of a bunch of Bowery drug addicts and playing “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend?”
It feels like going through these CD’s should have taught me something, right? All this music I used to cherish and then abandoned. If this was High Fidelity and I was John Cusack, I suppose I could talk about how the stuff you like defines you, or doesn’t define you, or something. I don’t know. That movie comes up, everyone thinks they’re Cusack when really they’re the guy complaining about the record store staff being rude. And Cusack, in real life, still talks about loving Fishbone in every interview, so take his shit with a grain of salt.
God, I loved some of these CD’s. This shit reverberated within my soul! What does that mean, when “All Star” by Smash Mouth reverberates within your soul?
I guess the reason your parents hold on to your baby teeth is to remind them that the whole thing actually happened. You were their baby, and then suddenly you were not. But you can never have not been a baby. You can never have not loved Smash Mouth. Having loved Smash Mouth means everything and nothing. I don’t have to apologize for having loved Smash Mouth (although, again, apologies for inflicting them on others).
Anyway, it’s silly to look for meaning in a CD case. I’m 32 years old; I know now that the only real meaning in life comes from romantic love.