Let me tell you about the apocalypse that never happened, which was staved off by a rock band that never existed.
Have to be careful about it, though, for to spoil too much of Fish Story, the 2009 Japanese film by Yoshihiro Nakamura, would be to do a disservice to it and to its audience. And yet, this is the kind of film whose vagueness stirs intrigue rather than alienation. It’s energy and Tarantino-esque structure are inviting enough, and its warm yet willfully strange tone make it accessible without the need for pandering. So, before I insist you go and view this film (at your leisure), I’ll leave you with these two facts.
Firstly, the film features a song of the same name.
Secondly, this song saves the world from destruction.
And not in the Wyld Stallyns sense, where it goes on to influence future generations down the path of world peace. I mean, the existence of this song plays a vital role in a series of events that stop the world from not being anymore. Less Bill and Ted, more Inglourious Basterds, you kin?
And it never comes off as a naive prospect either. Oh sure, there’s a touch of magical realism here and there, but the influence “Fish Story” wields over the fate of mankind is one rooted in a basic human truth. Life is a collection of moments, and one moment will always lead to another, for whatever reason. In the same way that one decision can change a life forever, one distinct element in the right place, at the right time, is every bit as powerful. Its influence ripples outward, touching people in ways both minute and critical, often simultaneously.
Music is an especially powerful element in this sense. More than any art-form, music is perhaps the most passive, not even necessitating the active engagement of a story-driven film. It can exist around us, lingering at the edges of our awareness, submissive to our attentions and tastes. By this nature, music, perhaps more than any other media, is capable of affecting us in far more subtle ways. A good song can change one’s mood, inspire ideas, motivate action, or ease weariness. It can matter more to some than others, even solely to those who enact its creation. The saying goes, “If music be the food of love, play on,” and for as bleak as things get, people keep finding new songs within themselves. To keep them playing; to keep them living.
It’s in this spirit that I begin this new column: to honor all those songs that matter, any song at all. The chart topping singles, the one-off hits, the deep cuts, the novelties and oddities, heck, even the straight-up “bad” songs. This goes out to all the other “Fish Stories” out there that have kept the world keeping on, with out anyone realizing it.
These are the songs that save the world.