Michael Penn waited three years to release his next album, 1992’s Free-For-All, and safely avoided the sophomore slump. On the contrary, I rank this as his best album yet.
Starting with the haunting acoustic ‘Long Way Down (Look What the Cat Drug In)’ and weaving through a string of metaphor-rich songs about love and loss, Free-For-All is a more potent and mature album than March. It’s also better produced, boasting an organic quality that’s lacking on his more polished debut.
I also love Free-For-All because it’s one of those albums that teleports me to a specific time and place. It anchors me in the summer of 1992, the year I met my future wife. That was also the summer of REM’s Automatic For the People and I had that album and this one on opposite sides of a cassette tape that I played non-stop in my car for months. I can’t hear these songs without feeling like I’m in my maroon Toyota Corolla (as opposed to the black Toyota Corolla I own now) driving to my college classes, my movie theater job or to Denny’s for a late-night snack with Alex at my side.
There might be room for a future theme week all about those teleportation albums and songs. I can think of several off the top of my head, and the memories are all good ones. I’m curious to hear about the music that has that effect on my dear readers as well.
And I did not want my cover blown
Thought well enough was left alone
And who decided you’d rescue me?
Yeah, I do agree
A bent and broken set are we
Up in a tree we’re stuck
And the only lights off the wire
Are all the moths in the fire
Can’t you feel how the air is getting dry
Try, but can’t identify
What you start to think
My baby won’t come out at night
They took apart the Angel’s Flight
For this strange season
Did you feel it change from cold to hot
With fever, you will have a bout
And all you do is talk about
The meaning of the walkabout…
There I go again
A taste of my own medicine
So shake your head and look around
The leaves don’t fall
There’s still no sound
To this strange season
Then I start to think
I’ve seen it through
I saw the sights
They disassembled Angel’s Flight
With this strange season
Do you want to know that
It comes down to this?
Do you want to hear that
Ignorance is bliss
Ignorance is bliss
Imagine if your teleportation songs took you back to awful memories. How horrible would that be. I’m guessing we’re quicker to keep the music on that elicits the positive memory. Otherwise… yikes.
(your Toyota sentence made me lol, btw ;))
As for me, I don’t know this album very well at all, likely because that was the summer I was consumed by morning, afternoon and night sickness and was not rushing out to buy the newest Michael Penn album 🙂 Good song, however. And I like how the title works so well as a symbol for this whole discussion – was that your intention?
I think my dear wife has some explaining to do, as, to my knowledge, she was not pregnant in 1992. Rather, we got married in the summer of ’92 and she was pregnant (to my knowledge) in 1995. Hmmmm…
Anyway, hard to imagine an album topping March, but, if you say so, I must check it out.
As for teleportation by music, I’m sure there are a number of songs that would bring me to a happy place of my past. One that brings me to a less than happy place is Nora Jones’ “Sunrise.” When my mom was ill and in the hospital in the last year of her life, we had brought in a CD player for her to hear music. One of the CDs was by Norah Jones and the song that always seemed to be on was “Sunrise.” It seems that, now-a-days, whenever I turn on The Coffee House satellite radio station (often when I am going outside to clean the pool, but sometimes in the car as well), “”Sunrise” is either playing or comes on in short order. It always jolts me emotionally and in memory to that bittersweet time of spending those last months with my mother. I am, of course, the last person to get all spiritual, but, when that song plays, I always have the fleeting thought that maybe she is using it to reach out to me…to remind me to remember her. As if I will ever forget, although the distractions of life and the passage of time do have a way of creating static interference.
Anyway, I didn’t mean to bring down the mood of your blog readers, but Amy’s observation just brought that to mind…That, and the fact that she may have hidden a pregnancy from me in 1992:)
Exactly the same for me Dana…I think of it as an inadvertant Clockwork Orange effect and should such awful circumsatnces arise again I may have to go through it in stony silence. I remeber leaving Tampa for Guam in 1965 and leaving my best friend, Rachel Crane. The music on the radio kept playing the song “Sunny” and I kept weeping. The Beatles, “Hello/Goodbye” was on in 1967, Guam, while I mooned over Rawlin Potter, the cool long-haired boy from California. “White Rabbit” was sung again and again as I rocked a certain, cute baby brother to sleep. The soundtrack of life brings out the nostalgia.
Okay, okay… I had my years wrong 🙂 The summer of 92 was consumed by a move from Gainesville to Ft. Myers, and I had no reason whatsoever not to buy the new Michael Penn album (though Clay could have given it to us as a wedding present!)
The Counting Crows song, “A Long December” is the one that does it for me. So many of the times I would drive to visit Selma in the hospital, I would have that album on and that song would play. I came to associate it so closely with her. Now, if I’m alone in the car and I listen to that song, I cry. I can’t hear the words,
“I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower,
Makes you talk a little lower about the things you could not show her
And its been a long december and theres reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I cant remember all the times I tried to tell my myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass,”
without thinking of Selma. Which actually makes me love the song all the more.
This is some powerful stuff on my little old blog. Thanks for sharing, everybody.