Friday, April 22, 2011

"Challengers," a Marathon, and My Gratitude

In late 2008, towards the end of the “Carrollton period,” I was in the process of fundamentally redefining myself. As a part of this general life overhaul, I participated in the Dallas White Rock Marathon. I was part of a relay team, so I only ran seven miles, but considering the general state of my physical and mental health not six months before there was a lot to be proud of. My contribution probably did not do much to make us more competitive, but I think it is safe to say that our team’s overall goal was more about strengthening the friendship between us than making good time.

Challengers As I walked to the base of Reunion Tower, I was still humming the tune from the car: Challengers by the New Pornographers. I was introduced to this band in the morally ambiguous days of Napster and later I bought the quirky and sometimes angular Twin Cinema on a rainy weekend in Boston. The more musically exuberant and lyrically introspective Challengers was in regular rotation at this time, however, and it just happened to be what was playing as I participated the weekend of the marathon.

Most groups wear their influences on their sleeve, cobbled together into an often clearly identifiable patchwork, but the New Pornographers obscure their influences in stratified layers. They have some vague stylistic associations with Cheap Trick, David Bowie, the Cars, and Genesis (pop period), but overall, the New Pornographers coalesce these styles into their own densely melodic approach. There is hardly a second of Challengers that passes without some sort of addictive hook thrown in the mix somewhere.

Despite this complexity, The New Pornographers write memorable, singable tunes with slightly ambiguous but vivid lyrics. Although vocal duties are shared within the group, having Neko Case in this band is like hiding a weapon of mass destruction. Her vocal delivery invariably breathes a unique life into the New Pornographer’s lyrics, and her songs danced on the edge of my consciousness all afternoon. When the event was over I returned to the car exhausted. Challengers started right where it left off at the base of the Tower, though, reifying the satisfaction and solidarity I felt from a day well spent in the company of friends.

Participating in the White Rock Marathon with the people on my team ended up being very special and important to me personally. Very often, I unfortunately don’t recognize the importance of these kinds of moments until they are long gone. As I relistened to Challengers this afternoon, it brought that day back somewhat, and I wanted to take this post express my gratitude to the people who were involved. Even if you don’t think that you did anything, you did something, and for that I thank you.

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