Red House Painters // Songs for a Blue Guitar // 1996 // Supreme
How beautiful must words be to portray the deepest meanings inside of us?
In twenty-five years, I’ve heard the phrase “check it out” quite a bit, but rarely does it contain any peculiar meaning. It’s hard to emphasize any real depth in a conversation that can end with that phrase, so rarely will you gain any insight on either the topic itself or the person who presents it. Deep down inside of all of us, there are many things we hold precious, storing them inside of us, rarely offering others a glimpse into the beauty we have found in them. “Check it out” just doesn’t cut it. I don’t want you to check it out. I want you to understand the meaning I have found, and use it to find your own. In searching for it, I want you to understand the lengths to which I went, and appreciate how far you will go to find your own. And once you’ve found it, I hope you’ll hold it as precious as I once did, and wait for the right opportunity to share it with another.
Concerning the intangible, finding meaning in things is the most important thing I do. It’s hard, it’s challenging, it takes time, there is risk, but damn does it pay off. In college, there was an ongoing inside joke all my friends had about me concerning my fervent responses to the most minor of jokes and provocations, often causing them to laugh that I was mad about a relatively meaningless topic. It was only a joke, but it was indicative of a real problem, nonetheless. Time really speeds up in college, and it was hard to get a grip on who I was. In hindsight, everything seemed so blurred. One of the few crucial moments of clarity came when two of my friends shared their experience in bonding over the song “Duk Koo Kim” off of Sun Kil Moon’s debut album, Ghosts of the Great Highway. I hadn’t heard of either, but a few nights later we all listened to it together while laying on the carpet, and for just a fleeting moment, everything made sense.
“That was so good.”
“Yeah man, you should check them out.”
I grinded that album all summer long that year. Mark Kozelek is the first artist I remember listening to that was able to paint pictures with his words, and hold a mirror up to a part of me that I didn’t know existed, or maybe I was just too afraid to admit it. He wasn’t afraid to ask himself the important questions, or reflect on the costly mistakes, and in that, take something from both. Those two things became the imperative in my own life, at least for a while—The reflection, the learning, the letting go… It hurts, but it helps. Little did I know, the insight Kozelek offered in Sun Kil Moon was amplified tenfold earlier in his career as a part of the seminal slowcore group Red House Painters. Kozelek held nothing back on 1992’s Down Colorful Hill and 1993’s Rollercoaster, where a surprising range of emotions highlighted in great detail what it means to let go. When you let go of anything, you have to face it as it makes its way out. You will learn what allowed that demon to manifest itself and what it takes to rid yourself of it. When you repress that, you starve yourself of the knowledge it possesses. Later in Mark’s time with Red House Painters, he asked himself a very important question to open up 1996’s Songs for a Blue Guitar:
“Have you forgotten how to love yourself?”
No, I haven’t, and I won’t. I know what it takes.
So yes, I checked it out, and maybe a little bit more.