Monday, June 12, 2023

This Year: 1993

"This Year" is a series of weekly posts, each about one song from one year of my life. See the introduction for more.

I've called this one my favorite song, in public, more than once. That's partially a pose, but there's a lot of truth to it.

My song for 1993 was on the list almost as soon as I started this project: Knowing People by Matthew Sweet.

I don't like knowing people

I don't like people knowing about me

The voice is angry, disgusted, demanding, insistent - a tangled welter of negative emotions, throughout the whole song. It's never clear if the voice is talking about himself or about other people - or both, alternately, or both, all the time.

Well. It's not clear because it can't be clear: that's the point. It's a song about disgust and nihilism, about the sense that nothing matters at all.

What is here? And who wants to stay? No lasting life. And no judgement day.

I was young when I first heard it, and that disgust at everything is often a feature of youth: the sense that the world is irreparably tainted, horrible at its core, that there's no way to possibly make things better. I'd like to think I don't believe that anymore. I'd like to think a lot of things, but I've lived in the world and see what people do. And I don't like knowing people.

Who is the singer talking to? Is it a single other person? Himself? The world as a whole? All of them? It works, all of those ways. It's just as true, for each in turn. And, some days, I have a very hard time arguing with anything Sweet spits out in this song.

Your desperate dreams. Are pathetic.

The sound is as angry as the words, loud and on the verge of turning into noise. (I've always loved music on the edge of noise - whether it's rock or classical.) It's a song that's spiky in every possible way, a song that goes out of its way to be unlikable in every way it can.

And I love it all the more for that.

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