“Trains To Brazil” by Guillemots | Today marks ten years since I graduated from college. The plan was to devote this week to the songs I listened to a lot during my three years in La Salle, but to be honest, that plan was months ago, and I completely forgot about it, so instead, here I am, writing about one of those songs from the time – specifically, one of those songs that I somehow have not written about in the six years I’ve been writing this blog.
The Guillemots called this a song about appreciating life: Fyfe Dangerfield originally wrote it under the title “Life Song”. It took a life on its own after an unfortunate not-really-side event in the immediate aftermath of the 7/7 attacks in London: a Brazilian, Jean Charles de Menezes, was fatally shot by police after being mistaken for one of those responsible for the bombing. (Wrong place. Wrong time. Shot eleven times, seven in the head.) I didn’t know of this background when this song came out in 2006, when I was starting to explore my musical preferences and spent a lot of time in MP3 blogs. It was just that song with a really good sound. I had a phone that can play MP3s – the iPhone was only introduced when I was in my third year – but only eight MP3s, in my case, and I had this on repeat, when I did not feel like listening to FM radio on the bus ride home.
You know what some say about your musical preferences being stuck in aspic once you reach a certain age, when you stop listening to new music and just stick to the songs that you know? It’s an essay I intend to write for the future, but I remember this because this song got lost in the shuffle many times since, when I discovered a lot of other songs (and radio stations) and shifted from slightly more left-of-center indie to definitely mainstream K-pop. And then, today, I come across the song, realizing I have never written about it here, and going, “this sounds as good as it did when I first listened to it.”
Ahh, “Trains to Brazil”, the song that punctuated the bits in between those moments in my college life: the Student Council elections I blogged about; the constant bouts of feeling hated, of drifting between groups with nobody to call my own; the random pizza lunches, and the doughnuts that always followed; the crushes I acted really awkward towards, down to a stolen kiss (on the cheek) I deeply regret at a time of #MeToo; those orange Chucks. Those orange Chucks. There was this girl I had a really big crush on – it was so awkward I mistook it for love, and professed it on national radio – and she danced to Bloc Party, and suddenly I like Bloc Party, too. I don’t think she knew this song.
It’s awkward waxing lyrical about all this now. That was ten years ago at the very least. (The Bloc Party thing – the song is “Banquet”, to be specific – was twelve years ago.) So much has happened since that the fact that I saw those things as relevant in a life-changing way is humiliating now. (And yet I immortalized all that on a blog for everybody to see.) Those orange Chucks? I don’t even know where the owner is now. And I never wondered about it, because now there are other things I see as relevant in a life-changing way: the thought that you still sort of love what you do, the thought that you’re not really moving even laterally otherwise, the thought of settling down with the one you love.
But this song – this song still sounds fresh. And as I write this, and have this song on repeat on YouTube, of all places, I sing Fyfe’s lines out loud, with the gusto of a kid who thought he had the world, but didn’t at all.
I have lost track of the Guillemots since. I know they released a bunch of albums afterwards, and I love Fyfe’s solo work. (“She Needs Me” would be dedicated to another crush, regrettably, in hindsight.) As with all of the songs I liked at the time, they get buried under things that feel immediate and important. I wonder why people my age seem to be hung up on nostalgia, a yearning for supposedly simpler times. I click play again, and I get it. [NB]