Can we agree the summer of 2018 has been a rough one for America?
As of this writing, the past few weeks have been dominated by horrors including, but in no way limited to, stories of the US government caging children, and dire speculation on the future of the Supreme Court. Once you start contemplating the implications, it can be hard to keep despair at bay. I was having a lot of trouble keeping it at bay recently when I decided to let Jesus Christ take over.
That’s how a college friend used to refer to hitting “shuffle” on your music app, and when I let Jesus Christ take over that day, the first thing that shuffled up was “This Is the End” by the Ghost of Paul Revere.
The band bills themselves as “holler folk,” and the power of this apocalyptic anthem lies in that first word. This is a song about things being as bad as they’ve ever been, and on the verge of getting worse; when the group howls, “This ship is sinking, pass the whiskey,” there’s no room for hope beyond the brief pleasure of a good buzz. But by the time I finished my third compulsive and awestruck re-listen, I felt a welcome feeling overtake me — if not hope, then at least a moment’s serenity.
A good song can salve an emotional wound like no other art form can. A powerful work of prose can give you something to contemplate, but a good song gives you space to channel all your sorrow into aesthetic catharsis. For almost a week now, any time I feel the creeping despair, I crank “This Is the End” on my home speakers so that when the group collectively roars, “I’M NOT OK!” I can stand in the middle of the kitchen, scream it so loud my throat burns, and feel solidarity long enough to keep from reaching for the whiskey myself.
As it happens, Paul Revere was my great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather, and while I constantly see my ancestor’s name held up as a symbol, it’s virtually always in the service of something I find revolting — say, Rush Limbaugh’s ‘Rush Revere’ novels and accompanying (I shudder just typing this) ‘Two if By Tea’ beverage line. But if that self-described “bunch of hooligans” from Maine happen to read this: your exquisitely hopeless song gets my personal seal of approval for appropriating my founding great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather’s name.
(Song recommendation by Ethan Warren)