Nothing happens without a reason. I’m going through a very hard time – so tired from school and dealing with health issues in my family – and it’s in moments like these that I desperately need a safe place to hide at the end of the day. As usual, finding solace in music is appealing, so I guess it was not a coincidence what happened yesterday evening. I was surfing the net in a grim mood, when I happened to watch this video, where Mike McReady and Barrett Martin spoke about the reissue of Mad Season’s Above. While watching the video, I realized I was drowning in a wave of bittersweet memory and it felt good. I knew I had found the safe place I was longing for.
I’ve always seen Above as a strange experiment. When it came out in 1995, we (my friends and I) thought it was nothing more than a diversion for the members of the band – Layne Staley from Alice in Chains, McReady from Pearl Jam, Martin from Screaming Trees and John Baker Saunders from the Walkabouts. I listened to it quite a lot, I liked some tracks but I didn’t see it a seminal album. Yesterday I realized I was wrong. Watching some excerpts from the band’s performance at the Moore in Seattle, recorded on April 29th, 1995, brought back the strong feeling of melancholia and sadness I’ve always had while listening to Staley’s voice. I don’t even want to start speaking about his conditions, because at the time he didn’t feel well because of his drug addiction problems. Yet his voice, that unique tone, was better than ever.
And Mark Lanegan? Well, sooner or later I will explain why he’s God in my book of rock, someone whose career and influence in music rises above everyone else’s. I’ve often listened to the albums he has released after the 1990s, but looking at him as he was in 1995, long hair and no tattoos on his hands, and listening to his voice has certainly brought back a certain sensation of warmth inside of me. Long story short, the walk down memory lane finally took me to Long Gone Day and – bam! – something clicked, as if someone had woken me up and told me it was 1995, I was 21 and my hair was long, black with blue streaks. Did it feel good? Not really, but certainly the desperate darkness of the lyrics written by Staley was still there, haunting like a nightmare that you can’t shake off. “You don’t understand the quality of light or the preciousness of it unless you’ve spent time in the darkness. And somehow Layne was able to conjure that in his lyrics and in his voice,” says Martin in the video, and I totally agree with it. Surrendering to the darkness is something I’ve always done; I can even say that it’s one of the things I’m really good at, especially in difficult moments like the one I’m currently living, but you know that there can’t be darkness without light, because both are part of everybody’s life. I know I must face events with courage and rationality, but now I know I have my dark safe place to run to when everybody here is sleeping and it feels so good.