The storms created in the mind by a seriously life upheaval like a relationship breakup, argument with a family member, or an impending major decision overshadow anything that nature can throw at us.
The lazy critical comparisons between the new Pet Shop Boys album “Elysium” and their much-loved 1990 album “Behaviour” caused me to revisit it this week, and I heard it with new ears.
When I first heard it, I was a teenager and found it difficult to initially get past side one. Why is it so slow? (I was probably in a manic phase) Why does it have such a great sleeve and cool song titles but nothing that actually speaks to me?
I guess all I had to do was wait.
This album has hit me in the guts over the last few days, and the closer of side one, “Only The Wind”, especially so.
It describes the aftermath of a life upheaval – like the best Pet Shop Boys songs, the specifics are not given, so you can project your own situation onto it.
The reflective narrator sings about the wind outside in an effort to convince himself that everything is ok, but we know it isn’t:
It’s only the wind blowing litter all around
Just a little wind and the trees are falling down
There’s nobody crying, that was yesterday
Inside we’re all smiling, everything’s okay
The backing is so minimal – the lightest of electronic drum beats, as if the producer is scared of igniting another catastrophe. The synth lines echo in the background, leaving plenty of room for the simple, lonely and very melodic vocal.
The narrator is capable of seeing a future when things are better, but is clearly not in that space right now, and wonders whether he is capable of making the decisions he needs to make to change his life for the better:
My nerves are all jangled, but I’m pulling through
I hope I can handle what I have to do
When life is calmer I have no doubt
No angry drama, a storm blows itself out
But there is doubt. The string accompaniment, almost unnoticed in the background, drops off without warning at the end, leaving us only with that drum beat, and the spoken words:
Two words that never seem adequate, no matter what context you use them in.
Healing from hurt and recovering from change is a waiting game. Saying sorry is a placeholder. It’s a gesture, not a magic word, because there are no magic words (although the word “codpiece” has always made me feel a bit funny).
Some good friends of mine used to break the tension after an argument by asking the other if they wanted a cup of tea. Sounds dreadfully English and inadequate, and some might even say they were avoiding speaking about the issue.
Sometimes you are all talked out, though. You go round and round in circles, and become like the wind in the Pet Shop Boys song, blowing cans down the street. Making irritating noise for no discernable purpose.
Life will be calmer. You may have doubt, but it will be. Just be kind to yourself while you’re waiting for that bus to arrive.