In an essay called “Gone with the Wind,” rock writer Greil Marcus talks about a documentary released in 1983 called Seventeen. In the documentary, a teenager dies–a friend of the film’s central family. In commemoration, the surviving teenagers call a local DJ and request Bob Seger’s “Against the Wind.” The DJ obliges. The family sits around the radio in the teenage daughter’s room and listens to the song; they crank it up. Marcus notes how cinematic it is for a documentary. “Rituals cross over,” he writes, “one, of how you are supposed to behave when a friend has died, another of how you are supposed to behave when a star has played your favorite song. It seems inescapable that the latter ritual has contained the former.”
State Champion’s music swells with cinematic crossover. It’s diegetic to itself.
It’s infused into these scenes:
You know how to smoke, but not, when in resting position, how to hold the cigarette. You know Sweetheart of the Rodeo is major, but still don’t quite get it yet. There isn’t a volume knob in your arsenal that goes as loud as you need.
You know how to roll a joint, but not that you shouldn’t break it out in front of the house show police are already looking to ruin. You are terrified of being unfuckable, but still you’re happy. You’re careful not to crest too soon. You take David Berman very seriously and you should. There isn’t a volume knob in your room or your car or the bar that goes as loud as it should.
You work in a mall. You work at the university. You never get the cool restaurant or record store jobs. The volume knobs don’t go loud enough.
Drummers tell you in confidence which bands are about to break up. Coworkers say more anti-Semitic things than you thought you’d ever hear. They look at you expecting cahoots. You wish you had a warmer jacket and something more to say. You embrace Warren Zevon as a link between your childhood and this adult life you were slow off the block for, and you’re right. The volume knob goes no farther right.
Boredom is a struggle, if a luxurious one. But you enjoy being alone. All the famous scenes in music history were only really a summer or two. No one invited you.
The Smiths are great, The Potatomen greater. Sometimes too loud is too much to bear.
You appreciate that your car remains in good repair.
A band from Louisville comes through town. They’re a few years older. They’re loud. They’re so loud. They’re more than that. A ritual of communal basement amp explosion. A ritual of front porch solitude.
How do you behave when you hear feedback in response to your worship? How do you behave when you realize you can glean more from feedback than from clarity? You–in moments when this band’s phrases stampede through your head, when all that’s required of ritual is ecstatic flailing, stiffening, shouting–become loudness itself.