Few people can ever forget their father's funeral. I know I can't. But I also remember the tape I bought that day. I mean, come on, the funeral wasn't very traumatizing. The insane makeup they put on my dad was probably the only part of it that disturbed me. Also, someone sang "Amazing Grace" but that was actually pretty funny. So anyway...
After the funeral was over, I got a ride home from my brother-in-law. He asked me if there was anywhere I wanted to stop on the way. I said, "The mall." Because that's what 16 year olds do. I went to the tiny Spectrum music store in the Gardens Mall, fine purveyors* of cassettes and CDs. I had enough cash on hand to buy two tapes: Rancid (the self-titled album (and probably the reason I wanted to hit the music store in the first place)) and Fugazi's In On The Kill Taker. Seems like an odd pairing but Dischord Records prices were always low as fuck.
The tape that went into the player first was In On The Kill Taker and for a little while there, I felt crazy. I felt like traditional punk rock and all that fucking ska I was into were a big mistake. Those first two songs were so exciting, different, and yet grounded in familiar fast tempo punk riffery. I wanted to jog in place, dive out my window, attempt a headstand, or punch holes in my ceiling all at the same time. But then something very important happened. Friggin' track 3, "Returning The Screw", happened.
Now don't get me wrong, I have learned to love that song. I have learned to love almost all of Fugazi's song. But the band's attempt to throw the listener a curve-ball worked all too well on me. Those first two, attention-grabbing, lightning fast, and altogether balls-to-the-wall songs followed by a quiet (though eventually building) and -for lack of a better term- "artsy" song did a number on my teenage mind.
The album became instantly "boring" and I started fast-forwarding through the tape trying to find more upbeat jams. Other than "Great Cop" and "Walken's Syndrome", I just couldn't believe how "boring" this tape was. Luckily, on the strength of those first two songs alone, this tape would not be returned, traded, or given away. It stayed in my collection for years until I picked up the CD. This tape was as patient as death and it was ready for me when I finally needed it.
All of this I admit with a little embarrassment because of course this just a few years later would become such a go-to album for me. But it's so typical of my thinking for many years. I had no patience for music. It had to be obvious in one way or another, containable by a genre or sub-genre tag or I would abandon it. This kind of thinking stuck with me for years, unfortunately.
On that day, I took Fugazi out and put in the much easier on the ears (or brain perhaps) debut album by Rancid which I can't even get through one single track of now. Not harshin' on the Rancid but that shit has absolutely no shelf-life for me. When I listen to the rest of In On The Kill Taker nowadays, I am magically whisked away to that magical time when I'd spend days listening and just soaking up everything Fugazi had to offer. For a short time there, I had a girlfriend who refused to listen to anything past their debut, 13 Songs, but she was a damn idiot.
*Also insanely easy to shoplift from but that's a different story.