First of all, if commenting is any sign of collective resonance, I should write about high school reunions all the time. My friend BJG, inspired in part by my incoherent ramblings about the past decade, posted a knockout ode to the great love of his high school life: Lauryn Hill circa 1998-9. He distills something pitch-perfect about his affection for Hill, namely its stuckness in a particular album, a particular mood, and a particular moment in time both in her career and in his own life. I was thinking about this the other day when A and I got to talking about our first concert experiences and I tried to explain how much seeing Bush had meant to me when I was young. A is a few years older than me and responded with a typical revulsion to my declaration of youthful love of Gavin Rossdale. The standard response to such a declaration is to denounce the band as faux-grunge and to reassert one’s allegiance to and fandom of Nirvana. I forgive it in A and some of my other friends that actually are of the age to have had some semblance of pop-culture consciousness of the Seattle grunge scene. But when somebody who graduated from high school in 2000 in an upper-middle class American suburb tells me how their about their deep and abiding love of Nirvana prevented them from ever really getting into Bush, I feel a strong desire to call bullshit. I was nine when Nevermind came out, and so were they. Maybe there were a lot of extremely pop-culture savvy nine-year-olds scampering about in ‘91 and I was just deaf to their noise, but I highly doubt it. I can’t speak for someone born in ’78 or ’84. But I can say, pretty unequivocally, that if you were born in ’81 or ’82, there was a moment sometime in your adolescence in which you thought that “Machinehead” was the coolest fucking song you had ever heard. You also probably owned Dookie and thought of it as a punk album. It’s okay. Don’t panic. It was the suburbs, you were only twelve, and there were plenty of years left for you to get into The Clash and forget all about those early transgressions.
I’m surprised that some people are reticent to own these kinds of identifications, especially because they seemed so definitional of our social consciousness when they occurred. Bush—and by this I actually mean Gavin Rossdale—laid down the tropes for my romantic life to such an absurd degree that having a guitar and a greasy mat of hair were near-prerequisites for dating me in high school. Gavin was the perfect guy: foreign (but not in an alienating way), talented, brooding, and volatile. He was always liable to punch through a door or get into a fight, but this was because he was passionate and damaged, probably by something in his past that was tragic and difficult and largely incomprehensible to a nice girl like yourself. Gavin would break your heart if you were actually available (Gavin wasn’t into available) but when things fell apart he would write you a song to try and win you back. The song he would write you would suggest that your adolescent connection with one another was singular, transcendent, and pure, and you would believe it with your whole heart. Or at least I did. One of the things I truly mourn as an adult is that kind of radical self-effacing emotional investment in an object. Yes, those early objects are always just a cipher, but despite this we never manage to cathect as acutely again, even though as a consolation prize the objects of our affection gain flesh and blood.
To wit, nothing on television or film has ever left the kind of psychical mark on me as did the following video. I was engaged in the perverse coming-of-age activity of watching MTV Spring Break and wondering what the bloom of my own youth would look like. It was 1996, and he kept playing in spite of the rain. I never made it to Cancun, but I can still say that there is nothing better than this: