New music editor Reed Fischer and the great divide to the Twin Cities
Earlier this week, I drove 1,752 miles prior to my start as City Pages' new music editor. This three-day journey came right after I capped a two-year stint as the music editor at our sister paper in Fort Lauderdale and welcomed an able successor. And it also came after about 83 jokes from friends, colleagues, publicists, and gas station attendants regarding choosing to make the move at the worst possible time of year, weather-wise. As a Minnesota native, I'm built for our current frigidness, and watching the temperature sink from the 70s into single digits on my dashboard thermometer was an expected by-product of this career shift. However, I did not foresee that Semisonic's Dan Wilson would join me on this eight-state trek.
No, the Semisonic/Trip Shakespeare member -- who recently scored a huge songwriting credit when the world fell in love with his Adele co-creation "Someone Like You" -- was not physically in the car with me. However, I picked up a crate of old, long-forgotten CDs (remember those?) during a stop at my friend's parents' place in Kentucky, and mixed among the ska and trance discs of my teenage years was 1996's Great Divide and 1998's Feeling Strangely Fine.
I know both of these albums extremely well from past road trips, shows at First Avenue, loads of play on Rev 105, and the fact that the guy who spoke at my high school graduation from Northfield High School cited the lyrics you might expect from "Closing Time." Incidentally, Lil Wayne thinks that particular song would be the perfect jam to hear while walking to the mound if he were a relief pitcher, and Grantland lengthily discussed how the 13-year-old hit is "maybe the most late-'90s thing there is." (I always thought it was K-Ci & JoJo's "All My Life," personally.)
Anyhow, listening to Feeling Strangely Fine, which features "Closing Time" and an assortment of approachable alt rock (never liked "Completely Pleased"), and Great Divide in the car was a refreshing way to think about returning to the Twin Cities. (Of course, I also had Lazerbeak, Doomtree, Dessa, Howler, and some other more current local selections pulsing through my iPod along the way.)
From what I gather, Dan Wilson's physical trips to lands far away from Minnesota to achieve artistic success were as harrowing as the places he'd go in his head.
Although my teenaged self wasn't getting too wrapped up in the lyrics on Great Divide, this recent drive gave me more of a chance to delve inside. The road angst of "If I Run" hit me harder than the stiff winds across the wide highways in Missouri. Having moved to a new dwelling nine times in the past eight years, I got a sense of what "from the cradle to the van" can mean.
Moreso, the concept of "Across the Great Divide" was ever-present when comparing the temperature and cultural shifts of coming back to the Twin Cities. Wilson doesn't mince words when he discusses his fears of such a journey, "Unknown, unwise, and unaided." But here's the thing, all of these feelings are provided within Wilson's (and John Munson's and Jacob Slichter's) aptness for riotous, anthemic songcraft that can't help but feel like a conquering of all those challenges.
Hence, the "icicle reunion day" in "Down in Flames" was something that didn't have to be a negative, in spite of what many had made it out to be before I started heading north. Listen to what is arguably Wilson's rawest solo ever on the track and try and tell me that he wasn't elated to be "seeing these friends for the first time in years."
I'm beyond excited to be back in Minnesota, and ready to get to work here.
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