One of my gifts this year was Mental Jewelry on CD. The band, Live, is one of my favorite bands, largely on the strength of this first album. I have a weakness for debut albums, believing they represent an artist’s hopes and dreams that they’ve been tweaking and polishing for years up until the point of recording. Plus, they frequently remain the best of a band’s discography, unless the artist dramatically changes their sound.
At any rate, Live is one of my favorite bands, and Mental Jewelry is one of my all-time favorite albums, and up until now I have only had the album dubbed on tape. It’s true that I have two copies, each given to me by the two people I was closest to that year. Which is perhaps a clue as to my affinity for the album: it reflects my ethics and sensibilities regarding living in the world in many ways. I suppose that’s why the two people who knew me best in 1992 passed it along. To some degree, selections from their first album have an energy similar to that of other recordings from that year: EMF, Jesus Jones, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. Which is fine by me, I am of my age and I liked all of them as well. Just not as much as I still like Live.
I started hankering to have a copy of Mental Jewelry on CD after seeing them at Meadowbrook this past summer. I happened to be in LaSalle, and to see an ad for the concert on TV. As it happened, I could have picked up a voucher at any gas station in the Detroit area and gone for five bucks, but I didn’t; I bought a single ticket and showed up early to pick it up at the box office. The guy in the seat next to me had done the same thing—he’d also driven nearly 4 hours to come to the show, and had never seen them in concert before. This made the fourth time I’d seen them, and it was definitely the biggest venue. Well, the Palace was comparable, but they were the opener.
I am a bad fan. Despite having loved the music for 15 years now, I knew very little about them, and still couldn’t really tell you who’s who in the band. I’ve always known they were my age, I remembered that much from having interviewed them after the show at my college my first year. But I only recently learned they were from Pennsylvania, and I couldn’t tell you any kind of trivia about them. I do know that they’ve been together as a band since junior high, and that may explain some of the fondness I have for them. That aspect reminds me of people I know who’ve been playing together just about that long, and have succeeded in leaving the garage sound behind. I have to say, knowing a lot of people who played music in garages growing up pretty much ruined me for garage bands in my adult life.
But, back to Live. I got the CD as a gift, I listened to it on our car trip across the Midwest, and I thought to myself ‘I must have listened to this tape A Lot, because I know every word of every song and I would have sworn I couldn’t even tell you what was on this album with any degree of reliability.’ I still couldn’t tell you the names of half of the songs, but the brain cells that contain the actual music have not been reallocated after all.
So now, this week, I’ve been listening to the CD on my wee shuffle. I’m sure I’ll get sick of it again at some point. So far, though, all it’s really done is give me a strong craving to hear the version of ‘I Walk the Line’ that they performed at the concert last summer. Which in turn is giving me a strong craving to see the film again; one of the rare instances when I thoroughly enjoyment Reese’s acting, in addition to being impressed with both of their voices. Even the interjections of my friends to the tune of ‘he wasn’t that good-looking, was he? I don’t remember him looking like Joaquin Phoenix, did he? Can we find a picture online?’ didn’t take away my appreciation.
But June Carter Cash is a topic for another day.