Whenever I find an artist, I always look through their entire catalogue, afraid that I missed something pivotal.
But I always end up coming back to the first album I heard by them. Even when I know it isn’t their best work, it still manages to be my favorite.
Case in point?
Alkaline Trio – Crimson
Social Distortion – White Light, White Heat, White Trash
Rancid – Indestructible
AFI – Sing the Sorrow
NOFX – The War on Errorism
Every Time I Die – The Big Dirty
New Found Glory – Sticks and Stones
The Black Keys – Magic Potion
Against Me! – Searching for a Former Clarity
Okay, I think I made it clear.
For some reason, there’s a thrill and memory associated with when you fell in love with an artist. Even if, in your heart, you know it isn’t their best work, the first album you hear will always shine brightest. Some of my best memories were made listening to these cds. I still remember being in middle school and buying, White Light, White Heat, White Trash at FYE and listening to it on my Walkman in the car on the way home. I was so excited to hear those songs, and to find a new sound that I’d never known – a sound that no one around me in suburban Indiana had known.
That sparked my love of Social Distortion, who were my favorite band for years. I even remember going to see them in concert and teachers from my high school were at the show. We had more in common than we’d initially realized, and even though they were my instructors, I considered them friends.
I can pinpoint the moment I heard the opening riff to “No Son of Mine,” from Every Time I Die’s The Big Dirty. The same car trip that inspired my love of ETID fueled my passion for Against Me!. I was on a trip to Bloomington to suss out IU with some friends, and they played Searching for a Former Clarity. “Miami” stuck with me. I can remember subsequently going into Shake It Records to buy copies of both albums, and being ridiculously excited.
A friend burnt Indestructible for me in high school. In all reality, she was a bully that I didn’t really like, but I befriended her to avoid conflict. I asked her to burn cd’s for me that I didn’t have the money to buy. At the time, Tim Armstrong’s voice was worth putting up with her. I listened to that album on repeat while mowing the lawn at home. It was the soundtrack to many a summer sunburn.
As I tried to distance myself from the bully girl, I found myself going to the local library to get albums and burning them to my computer. That’s where I scrounged up Magic Potion and countless others. Surely the librarians knew that when I checked out STACKS of cds, I wasn’t just taking them home to listen to. But they never said anything.
It’s not like all this pirating was for nefarious reasons. I was a high school kid who was sonically starved and something had to feed that addiction. At least I was nerdy enough to hang out in the library instead of other places.
More than any other, I remember my first New Found Glory album. I’d been bullied A LOT by a jock in middle school. He would harass me virtually every day, and the teacher didn’t do anything. I was angry, hurt and felt violated. My mom knew about it, so when we went to Bigg’s one evening, she bought me Sticks and Stones. She gently asked me if I liked it when I took my headphones off briefly in the car.
Even though I was a shitty, bratty, angry teenager, I appreciated her act of support. She felt helpless watching her daughter be picked on. But she knew what made me feel better and wanted to supply that to me, even if she didn’t fully understand.
The main thing that ties all of these albums together is that they served as different milestones for me. Whether I’m embarrassed to admit that I like those artists or not, I can’t forget the effect that the music had on me. It served as my therapist, my solace, my friend, my ammunition.
I think it’s incredibly important to pay homage to the albums that inspire us and get us through rough spots. There’s no reason to feel sheepish when an artist or album resonates with you. That means there’s a chord to be struck, and not everyone has that depth or emotional awareness.