They say that smell is the sense with the strongest ties to memory, but I don’t know if I buy that. For my money, nothing can take me back like a song. Even new music, stuff that hadn’t yet been recorded or written or even conceived of at the time that’s being recalled, can make me relive every painful day of my early adult-hood, can dredge up emotions and regrets that I’ve long since buried and repressed to the point that it feels like they belong to someone else. I guess that’s a little different from what aromas can do, so I’ll concede the point, because it’s not so much that I’m taken back to the events or circumstances, as much as I’m remembering how it felt. Like the man said, we might be through with the past, but the past isn’t through with us.
You might ask, “What exactly is it that brought all this up?”, and I’d answer “the fantastic new record from Banner Pilot, appropriately titled Souvenir“. Just like that scar under your lip is a souvenir of the time you tripped over the vacuum cord, and landed on your chin so hard that you bit through your lip. Just like that reflexive twinge of fear, that tingle in your “spidey-sense” that you feel every time you hear that catch in your spouse’s breath, is a souvenir from the time you walked in on your ex-girlfriend riding some dude that she’d just met, on top of that washing machine at that stupid party she talked you into attending. The thing is, though, as painful as some of that stuff might be, it’s important. It’s what makes us who we are. Our regrets teach us to not make the same mistakes again. Our misadventures from yesterday are the same stories that we laugh over today, and our pain allows us to relate to our fellow human beings.
That same empathy is exactly what makes music like this so powerfully affecting. Nick Johnson’s world-weary rasp is the direct result of a thousand drunk, sleepless nights, making mistakes and learning lessons. Lessons that are then passed on to us. The melodies in these guitar chords are the arm around our shoulders, the one that comes with the rueful laugh – “I’ve been there, buddy. Did I ever tell you about the time…” The aggressive drums match the accelerating thrum of your car’s engine as you press your foot down on the gas pedal, beating yourself up yet again. “How could I be so stupid?!?” This is what growing up sounds like. It’s exciting and sometimes angry and even a little melancholy, but when it’s over, all you can think is that you can’t wait to do it all over again. 9 stars out of 10.