Try to imagine, if you will, the importance a song like “Poem” could have for a young male teen. Its lyrics of controlled anxiety and fear, of panic overridden by a confidence in the future based on past experience, are surprisingly resonant, even to this day. Granted, that’s a lot to extrapolate from this, “Overbearing panic attack entrenching my veins / In an hour I’ll be okay / I pray this pain will go away permanently someday.” Still, it’s easy to figure how a band like Taproot could connect with the angst-ridden masses.
Only that’s not exactly how it worked in my regard. For a start, I had no idea what any of “Poem’s” lyrics were for the longest time. Stephen Richard’s two primary modes of expression on “Poem,” nasally rap and guttural screaming, don’t exactly prioritize audible coherency. Furthermore, I was never in a position where I could assimilate the song’s deeper meanings through repeated exposure, as the single rarely ever played on my local new rock radio station. Months on end would pass between listens, and every time, I was unable to grab hold of anything (no DJ mention of a band or title, nor even a snatch of a lyric) that would aid in my investigation of the song’s identity.
It was in this manner that the track grew in my personal esteem. I would frequently catch myself mumbling an approximation of the chorus (admittedly the best part of the song by far, for however much that might say), grooving on the way the exclamatory “BREAK” accentuated the low-key flow of the rest of the line. That portion alone nearly became a sort of mantra for me, assuming a place of prominence in my mind that few full songs managed to achieve.
Naturally, when I finally came into full possession of this song’s identity, my former enchantment with it all but instantaneously dispelled. And believe me, if there’d been any shred of personal connection with “Poem” remaining, seeing the music video would have deftly cut that nonsense right out. Never before have I seen the theme of teenage unrest hammered home so relentlessly and artlessly. One wouldn’t be surprised if the young lad from the video (who looks far too old at the very end to be behaving in such a manner, unless there’s a metaphor I’m missing) was indeed the very same mind from which the video itself had sprung fully formed: a sort of angst Uroboros.
Mind you, the sum of my involvement with “Poem” took place before the full ascendancy of the internet as we know it today, in a time when such small mysteries as this were the cornerstone of any well-rounded adolescence. “Poem” was always going to be a song that mattered more for it’s time than for all time (wasn’t the first, won’t be the last). For as little appeal as it bears for me now, I’ll always look back fondly on the times when I’d madly turn up the volume knob on my car radio, striving to get as much of this “poem to myself” as I could, while I could.