I am not adventuresome. The longer I spend on my current vacation, the more I wonder about how I adapt to environmental changes. Darwin wouldn’t be impressed. Willow and I planned a sweet trip, and everything seemed like a great idea. We spent a week or so in England—mostly in and around Oxford, since that’s where she was getting her Master’s Degree—and then, as a graduation present of sorts, a trek across France. The first week went swimmingly, and I never stopped smiling during our time in Nice, but Cannes was a bloody wide-awake nightmare.
However, let us not get ahead of ourselves. Since this is a Metal website focused heavily on album reviews, I will also touch on some of the music that has graced my ears and helped me cope with the chaos. Both bands fall under the “mainstream” end of the spectrum, and are each easily digestible.
As I flew to England, I couldn’t fucking stop listening to the new Fair to Midland album, Arrows and Anchors. If you told me there existed a group who expertly employs time signature jumping, pop sensibilities, Bixler-Zavala channeling, and interludes I need not skip, my eyes would have rolled straight out of their scoffing skull. Yet in their sockets they remain. Admittedly, after about—I dunno—twenty or so spins, I’m still unclear on the deeper meanings behind these tunes, but the hooks are irremovable, and I still know how the songs go. And that still counts for a lot, yeah?
Let’s talk about these songs. “Whiskey and Ritalin” sure sounds like a hell of a chemical ride, though I cannot decipher how it fits in context; “Uh Oh” is the only lyric I can extract from the titular track, save for this intriguing line: “the fruits of our labor were laid out to rot”; harking back to their Texan homeland feels so right in “Amarillo Sleeps on My Pillow” (even if it sounds like something statemates Hellyeah should be belting out); and the Kipling-kindled “Rikki Tikki Tavi” simply broadsides as the heaviest here (now I know how Nag felt). I might call Arrows and Anchors perfect if there wasn’t another album in this very article which I find flawless, so 4.5/5 it is.
To co-opt and adapt a phrase from Hunter S. Thompson: my blood is too thick for southern France. This surprises me to a point, since I have always confidently stated that my heritage is “mostly Mediterranean” (half Greek, and a good portion Italian). But I now believe the imaginary importance of one’s ancestry comes second to the life one actually lives. I have no allegiance to any with whom I have zero shared experience. And I’m cool with being born cold. This is not to say that I’m averse to creating new, meaningful moments; indeed, we are forever in the process of self-creation. Anyone that says otherwise is likely living in a stagnant shell, and you’d be wise to avoid such advice unless growth is feared.
Do take advice from a guy who just endured the madness of international travel, and don’t delude yourself into thinking the journey simple. Nothing’s easy, and the potential for fuck-up is omnipresent. Missed flights, confusing directions, expensive calls, lack of Internet, sleep deprivation, foreign languages, threat of dehydration and stomach-wrenching hunger are all working against you, and put your brain in a proverbial vice. It’s easy to say stop being a whiny douche, suck it up, and overcome these obstacles …hell, I say shit like that all the time. And honestly, I was basically good to go until I got what, in retrospect, was goddamned food poisoning.
For me, sickness is extremely uncommon. I can’t remember my last illness. I even lived with someone stricken by swine flu, and contracted nary a cough. But it wasn’t Porky that did me in, it was fucking Bugs. The bunny I ate sent me reeling, and I stumbled through the streets of Cannes, beaten into submission by the sun on the hottest day yet, streaming sweat on all sides, nearly delirious and staving off fainting—let’s just say I felt a bit off. Imagine, if you will, passing the fuck out in a foreign country. That’s all I needed, to wake up in a hospital bed and seriously consider cutting the quest short by a week. But I was held together with love and Lärabars from Willow, plus the aid of an album that now holds a larger place in my heart: Diamond Eyes by Deftones.
You, dear reader, almost certainly know about Chi Cheng’s crippling car accident, and the subsequent temporary replacement in Quicksand‘s Sergio Vega, so I won’t detail further than this sentence; nor will I explain the merits of certain songs over others. Suffice it to say I rate it 5/5, one of the finest 2010 releases, and am honored to finally give it some semblance of review on this site. Listen to it carefully and repeatedly, because it may save your skin as it did mine. Besides the immediate relief gleaned from the music, I took stock of my station in time, and was thoroughly grateful to be functioning of my own free will. As of this post, my minor setback has been summarily donkey punched, and I’ve enjoyed my precious time off with gusto. I refuse to be dominated by a mere stomach bug.