At twenty-one, well into my Dylan frenzy, I stumbled across a song entitled ‘This is the Sea,’ by a band called The Waterboys. It was a serendipitous occurrence. A youtube user had uploaded ‘This is the Sea’ as an inspirational accompaniment to football highlights, the object of my search.
This song shot lightening through the caves of a skull. It was rapturous, a genuine celebration of personal expansion, a peaceful forward pledge for the spirit. I had attempted to wall myself off, and here was more dynamic sledgehammer art, further separating me from the unfortunate slumber.
After listening to the song about three hundred or so times, I decided to give additional Waterboys material a spin. I quickly discovered “The Whole of the Moon,” the song most closely associated with lead singer Mike Scott. Immediately upon listening, I felt an old instinct creeping. The phrase “you can’t like this,” entered my thought pattern incessantly. I had recently become a committed Modest Mouse fan, and here was work on an entirely different spectrum. The lyrics leapt beyond staid romanticism and into reckless gallantry. Scott was singing brilliance and making no apologies for his talent, or humanity. I could picture him casting shame over a cliff and clapping his hands together at a job well done.
My initial hesitation was washed away upon hearing a dynamic line about “flags rags ferry boats, scimitars and scarves, every precious dream and vision, underneath the stars…” it was beguiling and beautiful. Challenge accepted. I became captivated by The Waterboys’ entire discography, especially ‘Dream Harder,’ a release driven by Scott, as he boldly returned to rock following a wonderful Celtic sojourn. As with Dylan, I was left awed by albums turned into deep expressions, in addition to appreciating a challenge.
Scott writes different kinds of love songs. He’ll tackle complicated subjects seldom explored in popular music, like the misconception that men can be saviors for women [One of Many Rescuers] or maintaining a positive attitude in the wake of separation [Rare, Precious, and Gone] Because these songs present themes difficult to explain in a single line, or devour in one listen, Scott’s work has not received a staggering amount of mainstream attention. It could do an even better trick, though. Turn a guy watching football highlights into a lifelong fan.
I was also amused that I could so thoroughly enjoy both The Waterboys and Modest Mouse, who offered extremely different sounds and approaches. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my ability to appreciate the music, without attaching myself to a particular style, was proof of my advancing artistic palette.
Had I never listened to Dylan, would I have been able to give The Waterboys a fair shot? I’d be a poorer man, had I not… I do smile upon thinking, years ago, when I chased wealth instead of celebrating art; I was, in effect, a very poor man.
At seventeen, I remember listening to the Modest Mouse song “Float On” endlessly, yet remained reluctant, for reasons unknown, to check out their entire body of work. Something had been holding me back. It happened again later, with The Waterboys, and I advanced with relative ease. It’s challenging at first though, overcoming the comfortable; a deceptively difficult task. When a person is open to the new, though, so much more is possible. The existential frustration often explored in Modest Mouse’s songs put words to my feelings. I didn’t feel alone.