The End Is Near

Growing older with The New Year


Growing older is a subject The End Is Near talks about repeatedly--the way we lose control of things, how our lives and bodies decay. And so you'll understand why I keep returning to my friend, whose raspy, strained breaths stay with me as I listen to track 5, "Disease": "I don't know about heaven/But our bodies are all going to hell." Or perhaps the best song on the album, "18," a song about death and regret that ramps into a full-blown sonic maelstrom as it nears the end. "This is something you should know," the song intones. "There's no escaping getting old. But did I hear it when I was told? When I was 18 on the outside?"

I should point out that the album isn't all morbid. "Sinking Ship" is about the monotony of social pretense, and "Chinese Handcuffs" sketches the portrait of a fractured relationship. But there is something dark and downbeat throughout, which isn't to suggest the album is despairing. In fact, the splendid burst of sound at the end of "18" seems more like a battle cry against our frailty.

"When you're playing, and the sound is completely surrounding you, and it's loud, it sometimes seems like you're reaching people who aren't here anymore," Bubba tells me at one point. "Just a particular stage on a particular night when it envelops you completely, you feel like the music is going someplace else. Like there's something to be accomplished by doing it. I really can't explain it."

Neither can I, but maybe I know what he means. Maybe it's like the time I brought some old music to my friend's house. She was pretty lost at that point, but the music pulled her out a bit, and she mouthed the lyrics: "At first I was afraid, I was petrified." It's Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive," something obvious and fabulously upbeat. Or maybe it's like the way I needed music on the car ride home, because I wanted something sad and strange and new. Or maybe it's something entirely different. I don't really know. But a shiver passed through me as I heard those first notes, the notes that haunt me still as I write this: "The end's not near. It's here. "

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