The Hold Steady, Spinners
There are some themes that are timeless and it is often due to their handling our deepest, most primal fears. Shakespeare’s All the World’s a Stage still holds such currency with a modern audience in spite of the fact that it was written some four hundred years ago, in a radically different world to our own, because art and social artifice in life are inextricably bound. We like elliptical things; there is tremendous satisfaction to be gleaned from rediscovering and reaffirming that which we have forgotten we already knew. There is catharsis in returning to the start, retreading the familiar scenes that feature in our youthful memories and rehashing old ideas that were instilled in us by our forbears. The sense of continuity is simultaneously fulfilling and relieving; we hold to the belief that there is a teleological course to our lives, but we like to imagine our characters distinguishable and distinguished at various points en route.
By this I mean we are free to revisit our childhood, either alone in our dotage or through the innocence of newly begotten generations who repeat the mistakes and mishaps that we falteringly made some fifty years beforehand. So it is, that as I sit and listen to The Hold Steady’s newest offering, I find myself transported back in time to an age when Myspace was the order of the digital day, and Facebook and Twitter had yet to be conceived of. We are eternally anxious to relate to one another, but the language and means by which we seek to express this similitude is limited and our memories are sporadic at best. I am ruminating on the meaning of life listening to conceits conjured up by a man who evoked similar ruminations in a different version of me — one that was extant in 2008. He was likely a different person then too, but we are bound to repeat certain patterns of thought and behaviour during the course of our lives, loathe though we might be to admit as much.
Spinners is full of the anxiety of a very specific epoch of youthful self discovery; that age doesn’t denote wisdom, it speaks of a reckless and wilful urge to push boundaries and make mistakes, which is something I know that I can relate to at the very least. However, there is also a sage recognition by Craig Finn that we repeat behaviours, mistakes and patterns in this lifetime. Although the consensus is that we should really ‘grow out of it’, the truth as Finn would have it looks a whole lot less like progress.
We become more adept at hiding the fallout and make a lot less fuss but the number of experiences we can be subjected to is finite and our reactions are few. My perspective shifts as I grow older, and I see myself from a different angle but tend to react in an alarmingly similar way to when I was much younger. The urgency of my actions has been tempered by the knowledge that the hasty stroke goes oft astray, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the desire to react instinctively has in any way dulled with the passage of time.
The crux of the matter is that we can’t get by in this life without a hit of nostalgia from time to time. We are the product of our past selves and know not how to act differently. By way of an edit, I also happen to think the video is pretty fantastic. It is directed by Dustin Grella. You can see some examples of his other work, here.