Sometimes songs come to you just when you need them. Sometimes they recur with freakishly appropriate timing, as though you’re just a bit player in some distant, meandering indie film soundtracked to perfection by the big guy upstairs. That’s how “This Is The Day” was for me.
When I first heard it I was about 15, listening to Triple J into the wee hours on my headphones as the dormitory snored. Held in thrall by Richard Kingsmill, I had just decided that I would dedicate my life to the one true path: music journalism (well, it worked for a time). When Richard dropped a track and The The’s eerie tinkling riff and wheezing accordion started up, I was blown away. How could you hear these lyrics as an insomniac teenager and not have some kind of epiphany?
Well… you didn’t wake up this morning
Because you didn’t go to bed
You were watching the whites of your eyes
The calendar, on your wall, is ticking the days off
The calendar on your wall is ticking
The days off
You’ve been reading some old letters
You smile and think how much you’ve changed
All the money in the world
Couldn’t buy back those days.
You pull back the curtains, and the sun burns into your eyes,
You watch a plane flying across a clear blue sky.
This is the day — your life will surely change.
This is the day — when things fall into place.
You could’ve done anything — if you’d wanted
And all your friends and family think that you’re lucky.
But the side of you they’ll never see
Is when you’re left alone with the memories
That hold your life together like
Fast forward to the end of Year 12; the night before the last day of school, which would also bring the traditional “muck up” day of pranks and our formal. For a group of 12 or so girls it was the last night we’d sleep in a dormitory where some of us had lived for five, even six years. Per tradition we grabbed a bunch of classic videos (yes, those were VHS days), commandeered the common room and set out to stay up all night.
By the time the first sickly shards of dawn light were filtering through the bars on the windows (not an exaggeration), I realised I was the only one who had made it through Empire Records without falling asleep. Whether it was excitement at the end of school, or anxiety at the potential disaster of agreeing have my formal hair and make-up done at the local TAFE – as that starbright tinkle rolled over the credits it was the sign I needed that things would be ok.
About eight months after that I sat huddled over an instant coffee in the St George predawn, about to hit the road for Brisbane and uni. Blinking desperately in a futile bid to wake myself up after a near sleepless night, what song do you think ABC Radio decided to play?
Lately though there’s a different song that’s having much the same spine-tingly effect on me; I am a bit loathe to confess it because it outs me as a hipster fail that I didn’t get on this bandwagon when the song was released in 2007. But on the off chance that I’m not the only one who somehow missed it, the song is of course “All My Friends” from LCD Soundsystem’s acclaimed Sound Of Silver. I posted John Cale’s cover of it a little while ago – Franz Ferdinand have also done one.
For nearly eight minutes it’s driven by a single, insistent, undeviating piano chord and a jaunty hi-hat. Which should be really annoying, but it just makes the circling, gradual build of the guitars all the more powerful. And then the lyrics. It might be loaded with James Murphy’s experiences of life on tour (“85 days in the middle of France” isn’t something I immediately identify with), but there’s something very universal about getting older and clinging to the party lifestyle.
You spend the first five years trying to get with the plan
And the next five years trying to be with your friends again
The all night house parties that you’ll never fully remember, with people that you’ll never forget. Laughing til it hurts at stupid moments you’ll never be able to describe to someone who wasn’t there. Sat in the default, circular arrangment of such nights on eskys and milk crates, around clotheslines and bonfires and kitchen tables, bumming cigarettes bleary-eyed as the sun rises. Messy intoxicated dramas and firecracker make-out romances in darkened rooms, over before they begin. And when people ask what you’re doing with your life – you can just ask “where are your friends tonight?”
When everything that’s happened has brought us to this moment: I wouldn’t change one stupid decision / for another five years of life.