By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
Maybe all great music is also a way of resolving your youth. In a New Yorker article a few years back, Nick Hornby wrote about Radiohead: "You have to work at albums like Kid A. You have to sit at home night after night and give yourself over to the paranoid millennial atmosphere as you try to decipher elliptical snatches of lyrics and puzzle out how the titles might refer to the songs. In other words, you have to be 16."
I would argue that you can't be 16 to appreciate A.R.E. Weapons--you have to be 30 going on 16. The album ticks with the pacemaker pulse of adult life. Nightclub beats blast from the beater car stereo you listen to on the way to your techie job. Disco disintegrates into the sludgy, synth-wash aftermath of new wave--the sound of real-life nostalgia turning into a retro fetish. Repetitive electro gadget wankery expresses the malaise of a mechanistic, grown-up world. And it's that soundtrack to adulthood that helps you appreciate A.R.E.'s sophomoric lyrics. When McPeck sings, "Don't be scared, be cool," you'll want to leave the résumés unsent and the bills unpaid and spend the entire week bedroom-bound with a four-track, practicing shout-outs in front of the mirror. You'll find yourself remembering a time when you were so obsessive about devoting yourself to a particular album that you'd never buy more than one at a time, when you'd play that album over and over again until you knew the lyrics by heart. (Or until Mom came in and unplugged the speakers.)
Jim Carroll once asked in a review of Kids, "At what point, and by what experience, do we adults find ourselves so insulated by the artifice and purblind world-weariness of society that we not only lose the vision and freedom of youth--and, admittedly, its recklessness and misjudgments--but, further, find ourselves so fearful of youth and its particular subcultures?" Good question. One day you're just suddenly older, looking back, and thinking in the portentous words of Casper from Kids: "Jesus Christ, what happened?"
That's when you should slip A.R.E. Weapons into your CD player and let McPeck and his cronies make you long to be young, dumb, and not so numb. Somewhere between the video game bloops, the garage-band-practice guitars, and McPeck's manchild howl, there's a teenage riot for a new generation of punk. Let's hear it--for America.