These may not be ‘great’ albums, or the best by the artists, but they are albums that, in a broad sense, help construct an identity for myself.
In the turmoil that is the average middle school the horrible subversive infighting, painful chastising, life-long damage to self-worth and the like – mine was particularly bad. Some back history: I failed seventh grade. Not in a way that school systems allow kids to do, nor in a way that parents would allow their kids to do so either. I had a self-inflicted agonizing loss of close friends in a way that would make any part of child’s life hard, but stack that on top of being placed into a ‘last chance’ class for the horrible fringe children of Hubble Middle School – well I might as well have been gum on the shoes of mediocrity popular. I attempted to eat lunch with people I knew but was cast out publicly, shamed for days, until I spent the rest of year eating ho-hos in the hallway – avoiding hall monitors and crying tears of embarrassment. My poor teacher, who had his own demons (his wife having a nasty case of breast cancer,) allowed us social bottom-feeders in the room when we whined enough to break. When he didn’t it was the three steps across the hall, or the desk placed directly outside the door, me, a green bag of Sun Chips, and a sack of two off-brand ho-hos.
So it was during this part of my life I picked up an album. An album by a band I only liked in passing but wanted to buy so the cool (see: bad) kids in my Educational Opportunities class would think I was somehow cool too. They, of course, didn’t think this in any dark recesses of their psych – but they borrowed the album no matter. It was a different time when CDs were king and you had one that you were into and played it to the point of mania.
Another short piece of back story: Mr. Comstock, the shepherd of us lost souls, was doing a ton of research on ADHD. I had (have?) a pretty nasty case and he put to use a handful of tools to help me study. One that stuck for the rest of my life: white noise – or more accurately, jams while working. So I brought my CD player in, my fancy rear-wrap headphones, and RC adapter in to relinquish half of brain to the music.
So this brings us back to the classroom. Where seeming the only normalizing album in my collection was ‘Hello Nasty’ by the Beastie Boys. It wasn’t my foot in the door to being hip, but it was a way to feel normal, to feel needed by my peers. That is just the tangible item. The album harps on some pretty dark themes, has bright poppy songs splashed with a message, and just like nearly any pop album of a preteen’s library – leads the listener to believe it’s about them. It spun and spun in my CD player, the brain-cation between my ears, allowing me to get away from being an emotional fringe blob.
Everything about it is the ideal metaphor for my life at the time.