Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Airborne Toxic Event - Numb

XFest, a lot of people talk about, but I had never been until this year. XFest is an annual music festival hosted by local radio station X92.9 FM. This year’s XFest’s main event was well accomplished weirdo Jack White. White is a mean musician and a very talented song writer, who may be the most influential musician in the past decade, at least according to my friend he is. However if I am to be perfectly honest I was actually more excited to see Airborne Toxic Event, and I appreciate the fact that I was probably the only one. Make no mistake, Jack White is crazy talented and he put on a great show; I am just a weirdo who really likes Airborne Toxic Event.

It was not very long ago I was telling everyone to go listen to “Welcome To Your Wedding Day” and it might seem too soon to talk about Airborne Toxic Event again, but if you come through my home town and I really like your sound, it seems the least I can do to share how good of a job you are doing, so let’s talk about “Numb.”

I really liked Airborne Toxic Event’s second album “All At Once” and as already stated I am very fond of the two song set that is “The Kids Are Ready To Die” and “Welcome To Your Wedding Day.” Alas, Airborne Toxic Event did not play either of those two songs at XFest, in fact they only played two songs from “All At Once” the title track and one other, “Numb,” which might be my favorite song by them after the above mentioned two song duo. I understand they only played two songs from “All At Once,” they have a new album out and a hit song from the “Dallas Buyer’s Club” soundtrack and they got to share those tunes, but I don’t, and that’s why I am talking about “Numb.”

A long echo is joined by the repeating of a single cord and then accompanied by the drums and lead guitar, and lastly a distorted howl finishes the intro and sets the entire song up. The melody instruments come and go and are present exactly when they are needed most, during bridges and silent vocal moments. It is like the guitar is wailing along with the words of troubled sombre hurt. “Numb” is a song that somehow manages to be both happy and sad at the same time. The lyrics are moody, and for all intents and purposes, depressing, yet the instrumental is upbeat with cool rock distortions and catchy guitar sounds. Front man and primary song writer Mikel Jollett has created something not unlike a really good Bruce Springsteen song with “Numb,” insofar it makes me feel pretty good about feeling pretty bad.

I make a constant effort to not make these reviews not about me because no one cares about me, including me, but it is very difficult sometimes because all I am really doing to telling the world why I personally like this song or that song. It is hard for me not to take a song like “Numb” as a personal reflection on things because a lot of the personality Jollett presents in his lyrical content and tone is something I would very much express if I made an effort at poetry, though presumably I would not be anywhere near as good at it as he is. It is not just an exclamation of sadness but an acknowledgement of great grief with a stubborn stance of stoicism; after all, the goal the chorus suggests is “I just want to be numb.” This is not a submission this is a position of belligerence, a willingness to endure.

“If I drink tonight I’ll get you off my mind,”

This is the only line in all of “Numb” that directly suggests the numbing taking place is alcohol induced, but the whole song just feels like it might be an ode to the sweet escape of liquor. There was a time when I took to the bottle on occasion, trying to chase demons out of my head and I just wanted to be numb. When I reflect on the bad times on my life, my creative writing and my general outlook on life, it has always been dark, but it was never solely about the darkness it was about overcoming it, and when I was overwhelmed, it was about putting up with it and giving up was never an option. That’s the flair of me that I see in a song like “Numb.” I hear myself trying to feel good about feeling bad, and that feels pretty good when I listen to this song.

Live the Airborne Toxic Event did not just perform the song “Numb” they rocked the shit out of it. It was different then the studio version in mood, it was sped up just slightly, I think, and played much harder, I know. During the live performance at XFest, and presumably elsewhere, Airborne Toxic Event made “Numb” a little less sad and a little more angry, a little bit stronger, bolder, and with all that, a little bit happier. Jollett was not giving in to great pain and despair on stage, he was flipping it the bird, (arguably the opposite of what Death Cab for Cutie would do later that same day at XFest) and it was great. Being able to make a stand against your own misery is the most empowering thing someone can do, feeling good about overcoming past bad feelings might just be the best feeling there is.

Welcome to Calgary Airborne Toxic Event, I am glad you came. Come again sometime. Why not?

- King of Braves
Anna Bulbrook on violin.


The biggest pop Airbone Toxic Event received was when they played “Sometime Around Midnight” and Anna Bulbrook opened with the violin. Two things, violins are awesome and Anna is adorable, Jollett, I am not your manager or anything but if you are reading this, let there be more of that. Cheers.

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