Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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Something’s Always Wrong: The Bravery – “Time Won’t Let Me Go”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 8, 2007

Ashamed of myself for having to Wiki who Cherry Valance was

I was actually having a discussion with a friend of mine a while ago about Bryan Adams’ widely accepted 80s rock classic “Summer of ’69,” a song I defended vehemently, but one that he had little love for. “Come on, haven’t you ever had a summer that made you feel like you were gonna live forever?” I (paraphrasedly) asked him. “Not really,” he answered. The thought–and its enormous relevance to the appreciation of “Summer of ’69“–had never even occured to me. Flash forward to about a year later, and the new single by The Bravery actually has the lyric “I never had a Summer of ’69” in it. Eerie.

Rock songs like this aren’t supposed to exist. Rock is all about remembering the good times, even when they weren’t actually that good–it’s about looking back with rose-tinted glasses, or at least about remembering how you used to or were supposed to look back with rose-tinted glasses. When Bruce Springsteen sang about how his high school friends couldn’t get past their “Glory Days,” at least they had glory days that they could look back on. It’s one of the fundamental principles of Rock & Roll–everything was always better when you were young, even if they weren’t.

To call “Time Won’t Let Me Go” an anti-nostalgia song would be missing the point somewhat. It’s a song made by people who grew up listening to songs like “Summer of ’69” and Bob Seger’s “Night Moves” and watching movies like American Graffiti and Dazed and Confused and wondering why they don’t remember their youths being that memorable. It’s a song influenced by a culture that puts such a huge emphasis on nostalgia as one of the essential emotions, that if you don’t have anything to really feel nostalgic about, you feel like you’re not even human.

It hits a little close to home for me. That’s not to say I have nothing to feel nostalgic about–I’d say I did have a Summer of ’04, or at least one that’s as close as I could’ve hoped for. But when I heard the song’s first line–“Whenever I look back / On the best days of my life / I think I saw them all on T.V.”–my jaw practically dropped. The further I get from High School, the less I can picture what it was actually like and the more images from American Pie and The O.C. start to fill in the gaps, and when I graduate college, who knows if I’ll remember bar nights with friends and watching Scrubs re-runs or if it’ll just be Road Trip and Undeclared (which I’m actually sort of scared to watch now). When your own experiences don’t compare with those whose lives you watch on a daily basis, defense mechanisms start kicking in left and right. It’s a disturbing and surprisingly honest thing to admit, especially in song.

And especially from The fucking Bravery. When we last left the boys, they were ripping off The Killers and creating elaborate Rube Goldberg devises for their one minor and entirely forgettable hit, “An Honest Mistake.” I wrote ’em off as a joke or worse at the time, and I was nigh on positive that history was going to prove me right. But here we are with a song that, if not exactly musically exceptional (though I kinda dig the bendy synth sounds on the hook), comes from a completely unique and surprisingly resonant perspective in pop music. And how many songs can you say that about these days?

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2 Responses to “Something’s Always Wrong: The Bravery – “Time Won’t Let Me Go””

  1. Mayank said

    But, I mean, they missed the god-damn target in the video. Even after all those dominoes fell!

    Can’t forgive them for that.

    Not yet, at least.

  2. Anton said

    Hey come on. It was an honest mistake.

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