Endless Loop: Life in Mono

monoHave you ever had one of those songs that gets stuck in your head for days…weeks…years? Sure you have. These are the songs that always make the cut. The songs on repeat. We all have them. I have a ton. Welcome back to Endless Loop.

“Life in Mono” by Mono

Time and time again, I seem to find myself trading in nostalgia on this website, caught up and forever wading in all of my personal memories, stories, and emotional detritus like so many pop culture writers before me.  And that’s okay I guess.  Write what you know, or whatever.

But lately I’ve been dwelling on why nostalgia is what it is.  Why it’s so dear to us, its drug-like and euphoric mental-caressing providing temporary comfort and soothing us like a proverbial teat.  Memory narcotics.  I think that a part of it has to be some kind of subconscious desire to return to the way things were, when everything was exciting and new, a whole world of possibility ahead of you.  Youth.  Innocence.  A time before the future became the present…or even worse, the past.  That would certainly explain the often contemplative or even existential melancholy that accompanies it.  But there may also be a part of nostalgia that goes even deeper than our childhoods and hopes and dreams.  In some ways, it’s a longing for what we used to be, a kind of subtle mourning for an us…a you…a me that simply do not exist anymore.  On a mental level.  On a biological level.  On a cellular level.  I am not who I used to be, and neither are you.  As our bodies grow, and age, and change, we are not what we were, just a collection of old thoughts, moods, and memories within an ever-evolving flesh sack.  So maybe we’re not just missing our pasts, yearning for what might have been, maybe we’re also missing our old selves who molted away or were sloughed by the wayside.  And nostalgia provides us a time machine of sorts to revisit or remember it all again, be it the movies, books, and music we grew up with, or old family pictures gathering dust in shoeboxes and photo albums.  They provide a return, or an escape, or a chance for introspection.  And that’s important, even if this whole memory train can be a little annoying sometimes, that rehashing of old tales, old loves, and old obsessions thwarting our personal growth and future selves.  You just gotta ride that time machine conservatively.  Don’t get stuck on it.  To paraphrase Sick Boy in T2 Trainspotting, don’t be “a tourist in your own youth.”  Take the time to live something new.  Keep evolving.

Now, of all the songs that have that hypothetical time travel ability to transport me back to whatever era my heart, mind, and soul associate it with, wetting that nostalgia whistle like so much methadone, none do so with quite the all encompassing zeal as “Life in Mono,” the quasi-hit from British trip-hop duo Mono.  But it’s all so random.

Appearing on the band’s 1997 (’98 in the States) album Formica Blues, as well as the soundtrack to the 1998 version of Great Expectations, the song makes me recall nothing of any significance whatsoever.  There are no long, lost loves or life turning points.  No memories of fun times or great friends.  No overlaying personal story arc to at least inspire within me some kind of diary-level gab fest.  Instead, it’s all inconsequential bullshit.  It’s me walking down 21st Street in Austin in front of the fountain at the bottom of the south mall at UT in late 1997, clouds greying, an old, green Toyota Corolla driving by me, contemplating going to see a midnight revival ‘70s porno screening* at the now defunct Dobie Theater.  It’s me driving home to Midland one weekend during spring semester of my freshman year, the sun setting near San Angelo, the hunger in my stomach making me pull over to eat at a Subway.  It’s me watching Much Music (Canada’s answer to MTV) in my dorm room, willing myself to nap between classes on a warm Friday afternoon, my focus zeroing in and out on the gaping holes in the knees of my blue jeans.  It’s me rifling through CDs at the also now defunct Sound Exchange by campus.  It’s me studying for a government exam that I failed.  It’s me with insomnia as my roommate breathes slow and heavy on the other side of the room.  It’s me at 18.  Just being bored.  Just existing.

For whatever reason, all of that comes flooding back in a tsunami like surge whenever I hear “Life in Mono.”  And it will stay with me forever.

*1978’s The Disco Dolls in Hot Skin.**

**We totally went.


Thomas H Williams

Thomas H Williams

From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit heavenisanincubator.blogspot.com.

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