Holy shit, there's a company in my back

There’s a beautiful thing that happens the moment a song clashes with a certain state of mind in a special situation unique, unparallel, which can’t be duplicated, only remembered the day you hear that song again, when you’re far removed and that song-moment is just a memory. Most songs, we listen and they pass us by. We don’t hear them, not the way they were meant to be heard, if your ears are lucky enough to catch them in the in the right state of mind. We indifferently delegate them to mere background music status, pushing them away in favor of what’s next. We’ve got distractions, something on our minds, something definitely more important than the song, which, at best, is simply a fleeting sound byte, its permeating brilliance missed in favor of the here and now. We may already know the song so well from a past situation during a different age, a different time, when we might have been younger, less wise, and more indifferent. We aren’t listening to the lyrics. Are we ever, when we can’t understand? We’re riding the elevator. We hear people talking about the weather, about sports, about a doomed relationship, about Iraq. We might be too drunk, too high, too low. But is there such thing as too low? I know that when you’re low you need songs to make sense of the moment, not get you high again but to just be low. You need musicians who are also poets to give you enough hope about life to acknowledge its surmountable adversities, especially when you’re so low that you’re the one creating them. You need songs to look back and appreciate the moment when you had a low point, when you were wandering lost in the valley, when you impulsively listened to the song a few times over and over again to get over it. You need the song to make you feel better, and you’ll know that when you look back on this moment you’ll smile in infinite triumphant retrospect.

When you least expect it but need it the most, you listen to a song and it hits you. You find yourself listening to the song and really appreciating and wondering what the songwriter was going through at the precise moment he created the song, wondering if the musician meant for the song to heard by me, right now, at my present state of mind. Probably not. Jeff Tweedy and the rest of the band Wilco wrote the music and lyrics to “Company in My Back” without really giving a shit whether a girl named Delia True would hear the song on a grand shuffle of the album, A Ghost is Born, which her roommate happened to have lodged in the CD-2 spot of the five-disc CD-changer at the precise moment when she was enjoying the benefits a grand indie rock all-shuffle (CD-1: Modest Mouse – The Moon and Antarctica; CD-3: Spoon – Kill the Moonlight; CD-4: 764-Hero – Nobody Knows This is Everywhere; CD-5: Earlimart – Treble and Tremble) was having on reading her latest book, Diary by Portland native Chuck Palahniuk, a book her ex-boyfriend sent her, the same ex-boyfriend that has made three unanswered calls to her in the past three days, leaving three messages, one containing a simple instrumental song played on the guitar, a song inspired by Delia, about Delia, a song that she doesn’t feel she deserves, a song she can’t bear to hear nowadays, when things are so mixed up she can’t dwell on the past anymore for fear it may compromise the future. “Company on My Back” blindsided her, the wrong song hitting at the wrong time; therefore, the right song at the right time, in a fucked up kind of way. She heard it and needed to hear it over and over again. She couldn’t understand the lyrics so she looked them up and saw them as poetry. She saw them naked, as an adrenaline-kicked emotional-fueled introspective monster ready to go down as one of her favorite songs ever, since it has that favorite-song-ever criteria intact. The lyrics must be fucked up, real meaning buried somewhere at the bottom of the ocean, subjective as subjective can be, never spelled out directly for anyone to possibly understand, open to interpretation, deeply personal to the writer, but completely open to be deeply personal in a completely different way to someone the writer doesn’t even know but maybe hopes exists somewhere, at some time in the near future, someone who needs the lyrics to make a jumbled mess of a situation, someone who needs the lyrics to guide her, even if it’s to nowhere, but just travel along with her for a few hours while she writes, while she writes because that’s the only thing she can do, that’s the only thing she ever could do when she feels just like this. “Company in My Back” is not a straightforward song, although it deceptively sounds like one. Like many Wilco songs, the chord structure is easy to play on the guitar (C-G-F). It sounds like a soft-rock Tom Petty, easygoing Eagles decoy, but somehow it forces its way beyond the soft, into a harder, more intense realm without compromising its musical simplicity. If I could liken this simple-musically, complicated-lyrically dynamic to any song, it would definitely be something like Springsteen’s “Brilliant Disguise,” or even (this is a stretch) the Smashing Pumpkins’ “Today.” But when you really get down to the lyrics, “Company in my Back” is definitely more difficult to understand than those two songs. For me, the beauty moves with the chorus, “I move so slow, steady crushing hand, holy shit, there’s a company in my back,” and once you notice the beauty there, you notice it reverberating throughout the entire song, in the triangle-laden intro, the country strawberries-in-the-summer guitar and pounding poignant piano haunting the entire song, the delicate careless vulnerability of Jeff Tweedy’s voice,and especially the frog noises that accompany the silence when the third verse pauses, just for a moment, to make sure nature’s not lost in the jumbled sea of simple yet emotive words. Only at a moment like this can I appreciate “Company in My Back” the way I was meant to appreciate it, here in this small but worthwhile private window of time. Well, it stopped being private when I started writing, but you know what I mean. Or maybe not. You may not be like me. Songs may pass you by, one by one in the background. You might be missing something; it may not be worth your time to stop and listen. You probably have better things to do. But if this kind of appreciation, coming out of the background music woodwork, keeps me writing about music, it must be a song like “Company in My Back” at moments like this that keeps the words flowing, encouraging others to find these moments. You not only learn more about the song, but you learn more about yourself. You learn why you continue to love music…because it keeps giving back when you think you’ve lost all hope…for it, and, if you're low enough, for yourself.


Blogger jengiz said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:46 PM  
Blogger jengiz said...

This is the 1rst blog I've ever read. And so important and singular. My search on A9 was plain and simple. What the hell is this song about?
Your explanation is perfect for me.
I myself, have dug myself into kind of the deepest depths regarding this song. I only noticed my response to the song with the new live album- way better version to me. I played it all the time.
I just really loved what you said. 'Makes one love music. '

10:10 PM  

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