Welcome to The Testing Ground’s very first Song of the Week review. Even though it’s the Song of the Week, expect it to be more bi/tri monthly until I really get into the swing of things. Without further ado, one of my favorites…
“(We Are)” by American Nightmare, later known as Give Up the Ghost, is one of the most amazing pieces of music I have discovered in the last two years. I started listening to American Nightmare in 2008, long after their 2004 breakup, but despite my late arrival, I am certainly glad I eventually made it to their party.
I won’t bore you with the details of my descent into their music, but I will say that the first times I heard Year One and Background Music I could not believe the musical gems I was unearthing. I got that feeling I get every time I discover music that will truly stick with me. My eyes get wide, I turn to whoever is next to me and I ask, “How the hell didn’t we already know about this?” The same thing happened the first time I heard Red Sparowes’s At the Soundless Dawn.
American Nightmare’s singer Wes Eisold sets the tone of this lonesome anthem about having given up and being absolutely set upon that decision with the first line of the song, “This is the soundtrack to saying goodbye.”
I’ve shown the lyrics of (We Are) to a lot of my friends who don’t listen to aggressive music. In general they’ve liked the lyrics, but have almost universally commented that these words are some of the most depressing writing they have ever read. I certainly cannot deny this, because Wes writes using very bleak imagery, but I believe my friends all miss something I feel in these words. What my friends miss, I hear in the delivery of the lyrics juxtaposed with the aggressive tone of the music. While the words alone sound tragic, when I hear this song, I am always filled with hope.
Something I love about American Nightmare is how their music creates this space where, for the moment, it is completely okay to say, “Fuck everything, I give up. The world sucks, life sucks, I’m drowning in emotional torment and everything is going to hell. I am angrier than I’ve ever been and it’s not going to get better.” While this attitude will get you nowhere, many of us have moments where we feel this way, though we know life is really not that bad. Just because we know it won’t get us anywhere does not mean we can simply push those feelings aside. You have to accept these emotions and work through them. and I find American Nightmare’s music to be one of the best places to work through these feelings, one of the best places to purge them.
“we are dropping coins/into dead payphones/to hear the sound of our voice/just to know we’re alone”