Seeking shelter under “This Modern Love” by Bloc Party

(I’ve long known that the biggest reason I don’t free-write more frequently is because I can’t think of what to write about.

So in an effort to change that, I am going to begin taking closer looks at things that have had an impact on me, things I enjoy, or anything that I find interesting and feel compelled to talk about.

This idea is being pretty much stolen from John Green’s brilliant podcast The Anthropocene Reviewed, in which he reviews different facets of the human-centered planet on a five-star scale.

Also, and this may be greatly overestimating my readership, but if there’s anything about which you think I should write, please feel free to suggest it at mike@mikeplatania.com.

I’m beginning with “This Modern Love”, a song by Bloc Party.)

[Credit: BlocParty.com]

The Byrd Theater held a video premier for DVS Shoes’ “Skate More” in 2005.

In my memory, most skateboarding companies had clear identities in the mid-2000’s, or reputations that came mostly from their sponsored, professional riders. For example, Baker were rambunctious party animals, while Zero were punks wearing acid washed skinny jeans.

But DVS had no such clear identity as far as I could tell. Skate More was its first video, and it turned out that DVS did not take itself very seriously.

Skate More’s intro starts with slow motion, black-and-white b-roll playing over building symphonic music, only to be interrupted by goofy flash animations set to Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky” and fart-noise sound effects.

My friends and I were all sitting in a row in the theater, each of us 13 or 14 years old, and laughing like crazy at Skate More. It was a great video, and not just because the skating itself was awesome. Skate More was just plain entertaining.

Daewon Song had the video’s coveted final spot, which was typically reserved for the most talented rider on the team. Daewon Song’s part is set to “This Modern Love” by Bloc Party.

Song’s part and the song it’s set to deviate from the mood of the rest of Skate More. One of the parts that precedes Song’s is set to “Canned Heat” by Jamiroquai. You know, the song from Napoleon Dynamite.

“This Modern Love” is a love song, and it’s off Bloc Party’s 2005 debut album, Silent Alarm, which was well-received by critics — Pitchfork gave it an 8.9 and “Best New Music” honors, Rolling Stone described it as “dance rock, but highly caffeinated,” and Billboard compared it to the early work of The Clash and Joy Division.

Bloc Party’s vocalist Kele Okereke said that he broke down into tears the first time he listened to “The Modern Love” recorded.

“I started crying right at the part where the backing vocals come in on the second chorus. I mean, it was so perfect — so perfectly what we’d set out to make, a song that’s, like, two people on the telephone, who can’t touch each other, and as the song and the conversation progress, everything amplifies,” Okereke said.

“”It still gets me, that part. Even now, we’ve played that song hundreds of times, and sometimes when I hear that shift happen, it overwhelms me.”

For me, Silent Alarm is a masterpiece. There isn’t a single skippable song on the album with upbeat dance songs like “Banquet” and “Price of Gas” and gentler ones like “So Here We Are” and “Compliments”.

I think love songs exist because songwriters need to express themselves, and listeners need places to seek shelter when feeling romantic.

“This Modern Love” has been where I’ve found shelter over the years when I’ve felt overwhelmed by emotion: whether it’s exuberance after a first date, or utter deflation after the relationship that first date evolved into came to an end.

One such recent occasion involved the latter. To protect her privacy, and because minimal context is needed for the purposes of this story, I won’t go into too great detail.

I had began to feel a dreaded, ambiguous “distance” between us for a few days, which really just means we weren’t talking as much as we had been. Texts were going unreturned and no plans to see each other were being made.

When we did at last make time for each other, she came over and sat down next to me.

“I came over to tell you that I’ve started seeing someone else,” she said. I fell into myself.

I said I was really bummed, but that I won’t hold it against her. I said I know what it’s like to have someone step into your life who makes you want to drop everything else. I told her I’ll cherish the time we shared. I told her I really like her. I showed her the door.

I stood at the foot of my bed and fell backwards onto it and buried my face in my hands.

I put on “This Modern Love” and listened to Kele sing about how love breaks him, how it wastes him. I felt, like I have so many times before, like I know what he’s talking about. I felt wasted, like all the mental energy I put into not only getting to know her, but getting excited about her, were wasted away.

Even in writing this, I feel nauseous when I think about what happened that afternoon. “This Modern Love”, as its lyrics portend, helps eat up my sadness. It isn’t an explicitly sad song, but I’ve found it quite useful for when I’m feeling sad.

Written by

Writer, cyclist, often at the same time.

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