May 1, 2000
THE LINER NOTES:
Carrie was the most comfortable person I had ever been with up to this point in my life. She was so easy to be around. I didn’t have to fake anything. Not that I was necessarily prone to faking or pretending to be someone I wasn’t, but I’ve always felt the need to try a little harder with other people to come off as a little better than I am actually am. Because what I actually am is a giant dork.
The summer before this, I fell for a woman named Kirsten. And, holy shit, she kinda fell for me. And I was nervous as hell, for a lot of reasons. But my life was changing, and I wanted to see where things might go. I tried to be a better, cooler me around her. It worked for a little while. But it wasn’t me.
At work the rest of that year, I was slowly moving up the ranks. Where I started as a financial customer service rep, I was now close to becoming manager of the department’s Help Desk. All day, it was stocks and mutual funds and industrial averages. I was good at it and I even enjoyed puzzling through the numbers and calculations of monthly statements of earnings and losses. But it wasn’t me.
Before meeting Carrie, I was flirting my way through as many women as I came in contact with. At work, at parties, on the T, I was trying hard to be the adorable funny guy that women would be drawn to and undress around. And I was fairly successful at it, compared to all the years prior to this. And, let’s face it, I am adorable and funny. But I was overthinking the effort to the point where it was all more of an act than it was actually me.
Even with my roommate Tim, the one other person in my life who I was probably the most “me”around, there was still a bit of an act. We wanted to be the Chandler and Chandler of Selkirk Ave. (Neither one of us could be the Joey). So we always tried to be a little “more” than we were. Yes, we were ourselves, but often as a performance of our best selves– always trying to be just a little funnier, a little cooler, a little more confident than we actually were.
But with Carrie, I wasn’t trying to be anything. I was just me. My actual, true, annoying dorky self. We didn’t go on a lot of “dates.” We just kind of started hanging out with each other. We’d rent movies, watch TV, take turns playing Tetris on one of her roommate’s Gameboys. Occasionally we would even look at each other and talk. And when we did, it was silly, fun and honest. There was no pretense with Carrie. In either direction. I could be my true self because she I was being her true self… I think. I assumed she was. Every moment with Carrie was simple joy.
Kissing her was also fantastic. And all the other stuff, too. By which I mean the sex. And I only bring up carnal facts to use the following as an example of how at ease we were with each other– we laughed a lot during sex. We laughed a lot together in general, but when we made love, we laughed. A lot. No one had ever made me feel so good. So happy. So at peace.
Which is why, in the spring of 2000, we started talking about breaking up.
THAT’S GREAT, BUT HOW’S THE MIX?:
- “Camp Hill Rail Operator” – Cotton Mather
- “I Would Hurt a Fly” – Built to Spill
- “I Know What I’m Here For” – James
- “Close the Door” – Idlewild
- “Like You” – Kristen Hersh
- “Circles” – Soul Coughing
- “Song 2” – Blur
- “Airline to Heaven” – Wilco
- “You Can See Me” – Supergrass
- “Dog Got a Bone” – The Beta Band
- “Bust a Move” – Young MC
- “Waster” – Gomez
- “July” – Ocean Colour Scene
- “High and Dry” – Radiohead
- “Snake Face” – Throwing Muses
- “I Am the Very Model of a Cartoon Individual” – The Animaniacs
- “The Only One I Know” – The Charlatans UK
- “Weird” – Sebadoh
- “One Way Road” – Oasis
- “Ruby Soho” – Rancid
- “Swallow” – Sleeper
- “Naomi” – Neutral Milk Hotel
- “Machismo” – Gomez
- “All in the Groove” – Blue Traveler
- “Why Bother?” – Weezer
- “Rock in the Rain” – Money Mark
- “Center of Attention” – Guster
- “Slack Jaw” – The Bluetones
- “Line Up” – Elastica
- “Leave the Biker” – Fountains of Wayne
- “Rude Can’t Fail” – The Clash
- “She Said” – Longpigs
- “Yakko’s World” – The Animaniacs
As this tape played through its sequence, I was having a hard time recalling it. Most of these tapes have had at least a transition or two that I remembered– where one song ends and I can instinctively hear the next song starting before it actually does. A sense memory– a flash of a moment on the T or walking through the snow while a certain set of songs played. But with Little Help? that wasn’t happening. And then it hit me. When the Animaniacs came on, it hit me.
This was a tape I had made for Carrie. The Animaniacs were the giveaway. I never would have needed to add any comical cartoon filler to a tape I was making for myself. This was a tape for Carrie and I had wanted to show her the silly side of me. I was comfortable enough to show her the silly side. I was, after all, a 25-year-old man who should have thought twice about acknowledging my ownership of a now cancelled cartoon series’ soundtrack. Except with Carrie, that was perfectly okay.
Another giveaway– and fitting to our theme of comfort– is that this is a very sloppy mixtape. It’s all over the map musically, with no definitive theme or purpose. It doesn’t sound well thought out, which was unlike me at the time. Side A opens with a great track from Cotton Mather, but it’s the second song here, Built to Spill’s “I Would Hurt a Fly,” that would have been the better lead off– what with it’s slow, brooding build-up to a cacophony of driving guitar.
Yes, the opening tracks stumble over themselves, but it didn’t matter. This was for Carrie. We were cool. I didn’t have go all music snob on her and piece together the perfect introductory soundscape in some auditory attempt to define the season of Spring. Nah– I was just throwing some shit together for a person who was slowly becoming my best friend. So my usual mixtape rules seem to have been thrown out the window for Little Help? Which explains why I could play a solo Kristen Hersh track…
…and follow it up nine tracks later with a not-solo Throwing Muses song.
This just wasn’t something I would normally do. I mean, they’re on the same goddamn side of the tape! I’m breaking my unwritten laws of mixtape making and then giving it to somebody as proof of said lawlessness. Gomez shows up twice as well. And they’re both songs from the same E.P. that came as a bonus disc with the B-sides collection. Hell, at least I split these two between Sides A and B.
As strangely thrown together as this mix feels, it’s not without its charms. Clearly The Beta Band was fast becoming a favorite as I included “Dog Got a Bone” for a second time. Classics from The Charlatans, Blur and Sleeper represent my Britpop side, while Rancid, Sebadoh and Weezer keep my American rock cred intact. It was a little strange to hear Blues Traveler’s “All in the Groove” from out of nowhere, but then again, this was a delightful hodgepodge.
The was a perfect tape from me to Carrie at this stage in our relationship. I had nothing to prove. We were great together– relaxed, at ease, and longing to simply be around each other. So, yeah, we broke up.
PLEASED TO MEET YOU:
I feel like I must have had a song from The Bluetones on one of these mixtapes before this, but as I’m scanning back through the previously published entires, I’m not finding any. Maybe it’s because they sound so classic, I feel like they’ve just always been around. But, no. Nothing.
So it must have been around this time I picked up my first The Bluetones album, their third–Science & Nature. I remember I picked up this album at Newbury Comics, songs unheard. I had only read about them in Q, but I felt I could take a chance on another British band. And I was right. I absolutely fell in love with this album and would soon be collecting their previous releases. This song, “Slack Jaw,” was an easy standout. It’s pop perfection, in my book. A short song without a chorus, telling a love story a hundred years old. It’s a song as gentle as it is biting. Sad and uplifting. And, for my money, it’s a song horrifically underheard.
WAIT. WHAT? WHY?:
I had just given Carrie an all-Oasis mix, so there really was no need to add the band to this post-concert mix. But, since I was still buying the singles, I had a sweet B-side I could share. It bears the same fate of all the Standing On the Shoulder of Giants-era tracks, being overproduced and underdone. I have a feeling the next several tapes are going to dipping into the SOTSOG‘s well, perhaps trying to convince myself it was worth listening to.
THE SUPER ULTRA MEGA SONG:
Since this was a comfortable hodgepodge of tracks for my lady, it turned to out have a decent amount a classic “me” tunes on the tracklist. Quiet a few are contenders for the Super Ultra Mega Song here, including the previously mentioned “Slack Jaw.” There’s a couple classics from Radiohead and The Clash on here, plus favorites from Fountains of Wayne and Rancid. But of all these, only one makes me feel like dancing.