Roman Candle – Says Pop
Roman Candle - Says Pop (2002)
After three full days into this experiment, a weekend with many hours spent hunched over my computer pondering words, I stepped back to survey my accomplishments. Among other things, I noticed those first three albums I'd written about had all been characterized as "pop" in some way; their front-page blurbs each used the word to summarize the album. I figured for the fourth I should probably cover some different territory – and then I changed my mind – nah, might as well lean into it. So my pick for today is not only yet another I'll describe as pop: it literally states its intent as such in its title.
Says Pop has taken a wandering course through my life. It started somewhere in the 10th or 11th grade, when I heard their track "Something Left to Say" on my local college rock station (whattup WICB!). The song checks all the boxes in the catchiness section, but it was the lyrics I think that most drew me in. The opening verse:
Summer's here to rattle ceiling fans
A lot of people leaning up against the moving vans
You know there's pollen in the bottles laying in the garbage cans
Growing up in a Northeast college town, this imagery resonated. At the end of every spring semester, as the flora blossomed, there was the ritual of the students moving out for the summer: academic regiment giving way to open-air leisure, a descending atmosphere of insouciance, the bonhomie of annual goodbyes. The song's a tale of the cycles of college life, and to a teenager gaining cognizance of a world beyond the walls of his parents' home, the freedom therein was hardly fathomable but at once so invigorating. The idea of a life of dictating my own schedule, coming and going as I pleased, thrilled me with its limitless possibility. Someday – an eternity of two years later – I'd be out there careening through some verdant collegiate paradise, reeling in the folly of young love and brimming with unforgettable friendships. I could hardly wait to walk around and laugh all night, it's hard to fit a lot of years in a Friday night...
Eventually the song reached the end of its airplay shelf life, and faded from my awareness. It wasn't until three or four years later – at least a year after I had, finally, matriculated and stepped onto a college campus of my own – that the song and band somehow made their way back into my musical consciousness. I remember ordering the album, Says Pop, from somewhere – I'm talking a physical compact disc here – and jamming it into one of the trays of my three-disc changer stereo, where it remained for a few weeks and served as a soundtrack to some blurred slice of my erratic and unstructured sophomore year life. Then it receded once again (replaced by what I vaguely recall as being a weird combination of 311, Cam'Ron, and The Doors).
I found the album at last again after graduating college and entering the "real world" as a financial technology professional in New York City. Upon closer listening, I discovered the album – cosmetically a collection of twangy alt-rock and ne'er-do-well balladry – in fact to be, of all things, a New York City album. Most obviously there's of course the song called "I Wish I Was In New York" that's a simple and sincere love-letter to the city, and which contains some of the most endearing big apple imagery I've heard. "You Don't Belong to This World", an immediately melodic banger and album highlight, finds the lovelorn singer waiting for his belle on a subway platform in a touchingly romantic moment. Later, he walks "down to Myrtle Avenue" to meet his sister – now, I know there are probably hundreds of Myrtle Avenues throughout the United States and beyond, but I've always pictured this one as being the one running through north Brooklyn. To someone of my generation, these might be scenes of an "old" New York, but they don't make me long for the grit "before Giuliani cleaned it up;" they don't arouse dubious nostalgia. They simply celebrate a city that should be there for us all to experience and love on the terms we chose.