Lately, I’ve been so centered with nerdcore and underground type music in the Music Monday posts that I haven’t had a chance to share with you what is, strange as it may seem, one of my all time favorite albums. Yes, most people in America vaguely remember SR-71 as “that one band who had that one song about cellophane…” but I remember them for much more.
After this song faded into obscurity, most people forgot about the band entirely. I stayed tuned and in 2004 I was able to get the hard to obtain “Here We Go Again” – and find myself listening to it still, seven years later. Here We Go Again opens with the song Axl Rose, a tribute to hairbands of the 1980’s and the question that people who miss their genre of music always ask: where did you go? The trend continues in the song 1985, which was later popularized by the band Bowling For Soup. SR-71 posted on their website, years ago, that they were simply glad people were enjoying the song, no matter who was playing it (they were getting their royalties, I’m sure!). Between those two tracks lies a cover of Peter Gabriel’s 1980’s hit song “In Your Eyes” and later on the album another song with lyrics about “post grunge apathy.”
The album wasn’t just “another album to appease the record label” – it really seemed like a tell all kind of album that described how the band had been feeling. More songs such as “The One,” “All American,” and “Fifteen Minute Idol,” deal with how hard it had been for the band to stay relevent in a society that is rapidly changing. In “The One” the lyrics specifically mention how the band wants to be more than a “small town hero.” It’s one thing to be nationally famous – but it’s not as great being “national famous, once.” Everybody in your town might look at you as somenoe who “made it to the big time” – but you’re still back there, living the same life you had before. People might know who you are now, but that’s not the level of success the wanted.
I think my favorite song on the album always ends up being another one of those tracks on the album where the band struggles with their past. They hate where they came from and how they were raised, they only want to look forward. But even what’s ahead is bleak. “Blue Light Special Life” deals with more of the small town trap “I can’t express myself / I just depress myself / of all your choices, man, you think you just could’ve got one right. I never wanted this / dirty white trash kiss / thanks for giving me your blue light special life.” Another line mentions a “new, used pair of jeans.” Maybe it’s because I recognize the life he describes with too much familiarity, and the struggle the people in my home town always had ahead of them. Myself and people I knew, what it was like when “the plant” closed, and the difficult times we all spent searching for the American Dream. Maybe that’s a blog post for another time.
As an album, Here We Go Again is one thing at its core: genuine. It’s an honest look at an honest place and time. SR-71 puts to music the struggle to want to go back to a time when you thought things were simpler – your childhood. But things were no simpler then than they are now, you only had to look at life through the lenses of a child. The worries and responsibilities were on the adults. But though the specifics of the challenges may change from generation to generation, the struggles always exist. SR-71 simply does a great job of putting them into my context. It may not be an album for everyone.