The Power of Pop


May 9, 2002

Sometimes it gets so incredibly hard to truly believe in anything. There’s so much crap in the world. So much cynicism. You have to wonder if maybe that’s the way to go.

Maybe the cynics are right? Why should I care about things that’ll just get destroyed, or get appropriated by larger forces and changed for the worse. Why should I put my faith in things that’ll just let me down? Why bother? All too often, good and promising things crumble to nothing. People turn cold. Relationships go sour.

Good pets turn bad!

But then, just as I’m about to morph into Holden Caulfield, I’ll be reminded that cynics abound because that’s the easy way out. The path of least resistance. The safe way. It’s easier not to care, not to invest anything of yourself into believing in something—something that might let you down, something that might not come through for you. Something that will inevitably get tainted. Something that’ll knock you down and laugh at you.

Love is like that. Sure it is. She can be a cruel mistress. And in some ways, so is music. The joy can fade. And the Big Machine just keeps churning out “product.”

But it’s becoming clearer to me that above all else, and despite the disappointments and disillusionments, these are the two things I believe in most.

And why? I suppose it’s because to me these two things—which are, of course, inextricably linked; where would music be without love, or love without music—are among the very few things that, at their best, their purest incarnations, are able to elude the grip of Power and Money and Greed and all those other deadly sins, all those things that stoke the fires of cynicism and despair. Not always. No, not always. But often enough, they pass through the fires unscathed, like hot-coal walkers.

I was reminded of all of this again most recently on Saturday. I stopped into Indigo on Bloor Street and popped down to the music department to snoop around. I was perusing the staff recommendations when I spotted at a listening post the recently released tribute CD, This Is Where I Belong: The Songs Of Ray Davies and The Kinks. I put on the headphones and pressed play… and my whole world did a 180. Grey skies turned blue. Pigs flew.

It was Fountains Of Wayne doing “Better Things”.

Here’s wishing you the bluest skies
And hoping something better comes tomorrow
Hoping all the verses rhyme
And the very best of choruses to
Follow all the doubt and sadness
I know that better things are on the way…

It’s really good to see you rocking out and having fun
Living like you’ve just begun
Accept your life and what it brings
I hope tomorrow you’ll find better things

Amazing how a little song can reach out and grab you by the lapels, lift you up, give you a shake, spin you around and then plunk you down where you need to be. The place… where you belong. It said “This is where you should be. This is how it feels. This is how it sounds.” The very definition of Power Pop.

And I was reminded that I believe.

I believe in the absolute power of the perfect song to grab you at the perfect time and put you in the perfect place.

It flowed into me. It flowed out of me. It made me feel like everything was gonna be all right. And, hell, if that’s not the definition of a spiritual experience, then what is?

Now I think I know why surfers search for the perfect wave (hey, do you think maybe Brian Wilson knew what he was doing?). It’s the search for the Perfect Place, balanced precisely on the crest of possibility. It’s the attaining of the Beautiful Moment, when everything’s right and true. The Beautiful Moment is the holy grail of Western pop culture.

So here’s to the eternal quest for the Beautiful Moment. And here’s to Better Things.

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