A Separate Peace

A long shadowed October afternoon.
Jimmy Carter is still President, the Sex Pistols have already broken up.
In Mom’s garage making noise before an evening shift of folding corduroys at Wild West store.

We’d been at it a few weeks, Kimm and I trying to get the hang of electric guitars through amplifiers. The garage rang with feedback and ungodly clang; asbestos leaden particles floated down from the rafters.
We were creating weather, not music.
Somehow the open chords we’d domesticated on the acoustics became wild animals, unleashed somewhere in the 1/4″ shielded cables between pickup and speaker and free to howl.

We soon learned the barre chord was the way to go, and after a few tries were able to start and stop a whole song together. As we hit the final A-D-A there was just a pause, a silence more meaningful than a note, and we grinned at each other.
We just played Blitzkrieg Bop.

The feeling of pioneering accomplishment, probably shared by a thousand other boys and girls in their garages at the very same moment: We are all, to start, in a cover band.

I’ve always been surprised and really honored when someone chooses to cover one of our songs. To be sure, those events have been very few, but maybe that’s what makes it such an honor, no?
I mean, ya think Leonard Cohen still got a hard on every time another joker butchered Hallelujah?

But for us, to hear brainy indie heroes Yo La Tengo cover Out of Control, hey now!
That’s a big deal for us.
And though I was prepared for a bit of patronizing smirk in their version, it comes across as earnestly rockin’ enough, and if nothing else got some of the goddamn wags from Pitchfork to finally acknowledge our existence.

So when our pal Zoli from Ignite called and told us his plans to reinterpret Separate Peace with his new project, we were flattered. Besides being one of the most solid cats out there, Zoli has the vocal chops that put all of us hardcore screamers to shame.

His take with the new band Ocean Hills is a cranker in the alt-metal vein: musically years different than anything we might think up, a reinterpretation rather than a cover.
And the lyric video kills me, a nice platform to see some words I haven’t really considered in a long time.

A pretty heavy story of a family in disintegration, no one escapes the blame in this cheery little Christmas newsletter.
Indeed, it is written in the form of a letter, social distancing way before its time.

I remember my Mom fucking hated this song. The mother in the song is a car wrecking drunk, and though Mom never touched a drop, she was afraid that people might digest the words as non fiction.
And no, my brother did not OD and die.

I’ve been asked if I ripped the title off the John Knowles’ book of adolescent angst, but it really comes from that Hemingway notion in A Farewell to Arms.
Our man Henry is on the train to Stresa, dressed as a civilian now, giving absolutely no fucks to the consequence of escape.
A truly separate peace. I liked that.

Posh put the track on the third Rodney on the Roq compilation, I got a copy to give to my Dad.

I went down to his office in LaPalma, hoping really to just drop it off with the receptionist and make it away.
But he saw me in the hallway, between patients, and waved me back to a private room. We seemed to be family now only by those shared awkward moments of Father and Son separated by divorce.
Meeting the new girlfriend, pretending to care what the other was up to.
We shook hands and smiled, I handed him the album and pointed out our track in the lyric booklet.

He looked over the lyrics and then looked at me.
You got a lot of anger in there, he said, pointing at my chest.

No, I said.
I don’t know.

Dear son, how’ve you been? I got your card and the bottle of gin
What’s new, let me see
Seems there’s no love left between your mother and me
She gets half the house, I’m getting my share Of half this life we’ve built in twenty-three years
But there’s no guilt, I’ve opened my cage
You’ll like my new girl, she’s about your age

Can you blame me? Separate peace
I’ll do what’s right, what’s right for me
And I’ve found my separate peace
Understand me, can’t you see, I don’t care

And son, your mother’s just fine, I see her in the market from time to time
She got drunk, wrecked the car
Trying to get home from the corner bar
This life’s too cold to be straight
I guess a little drink, it helps her escape
She’s gave up, disillusioned in men
But in that little bottle she’s found a new friend

Understand me, can’t you see
Let me go, just set me free

Oh son, I almost forgot Your brother left his body in a parking lot
I guess it happens all the time
These goddamned kids cross the needle and line
What happened? I can’t understand
He left so early, he was such a young man
Oh well, now he’s just gone
And are you coming home for the holidays, son?

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