During the actual awesome 80’s I was a bit of a cultural retard. We were pretty much dirt poor. We got the government cheese and peanut butter. We also did not see movies very often (I had a long list of films from this decade that certain people were appalled I had not seen; working on it one Alien movie at a time) only rarely had a car, never went on vacation, and didn’t have a telephone in the house until I was about 13. Moreover, my parents, god bless them, had what I now recognize to be less than totally sophisticated taste in music. Mom’s love ofZeppelin and The Beatles is totally understandable, but Andrew’s passionate fondness for Firehouse still leaves me sort of mystified.

It was a lot of Foreigner, Journey, Pat Benatar, and Metallica around the house. On cassette. I mostly wanted to listen to stuff that I could sing, and with the notable exception of the boys And Justice For All, I was well satisfied by the situation at the time. I had no idea that other FAR MORE AWESOME kinds of music existed. But then…

I went to high school and met people who were not so deprived. I was introduced to all manner of movies and books and music I had no notion about in my young life. I vividly recall taking home Pretty Hate Machine on tape and seeing the look of fascination turning to disgust and rage when Andrew heard

And the devil wants to fuck me in the back of his car

come larking out of the speakers. That was a liberating moment, let me tell you. Though I knew, even then, it wasn’t so much the reference to the devil that bothered Andrew as the homoeroticism implied. Apparently fighting off dudes at shower time in county left him a little tetchy about the subject.

Even admitting my dim understanding of pop culture it is hard to know how I had come by the impression that The Cure was a speed-death metal band of Pantera’s ilk. But I had. And so I was sure to hate them. And whevenever anyone suggested we should listen to The Cure, I objected vociferously (as was my strident way in those days; believe it or not, I’ve mellowed considerably) and thus managed never to actually hear  The Cure until I was parked in front of MTV one evening and the seminal LoveSong  came on.

I still consider this to be one of the best songs in existence. And in the way of all codgers, when it was remade recently by Jack Off Jill, I was deeply offended. This song was perfect. It needed nothing, and was diminished by tampering.

Even still, I didn’t listen to the whole album until about 6 years ago, when I was feeling particularly sad and lonesome and isolated. I decided to adopt the attitude Paul Simon proclaims

I have my books and my poetry to protect me

I always expand it to include music. It seems like such a sane and enriching strategy, but doesn’t work for shit. I suppose my readers have this failure to thank for the material they are enjoying(?) now, but still.

At any rate, the opening strains of Plainsong  became a cue to my battered heart, to accept a small respite in the form of a musical analgesic. And all the rest that followed was a beautiful plaintive reminder that everyone suffers, that I am not so singular in my pain or my longings, and I somehow found this comforting. There are moments dark and bright, but never lacking an essential communicativity. It is a hand reach out toward you, rendered in song.

This album made being melancholy more tolerable by glamorizing it just enough to make it seem like a choice, rather than a condition from which I could not escape. I understand explicitly now, that this is what goth is all about; embracing the darkness such that it cannot overwhelm you. The owl tattooed on my spine is testament to the idea that embracing pain can make it beautiful and instructive, rather than simply something to be endured to no end. The music on this record is truly a aural manifestation of this same truth.