This New Year’s Eve, the “make a bunch of resolutions” types and the “one year closer to death” types came together around the sentiment that 2020 needed to fuck right off. That said, it’s surely sunk in by now that many things continue to be bullshit—and as Americans, we’ve fucked up our own country so badly that it’d be funny if it were happening to somebody else.
Actually, I take that back. It’s never funny when so many people are needlessly dying from a pandemic that they add up to another 9/11 every day or so. And I’m sure that nobody but other autocrats are amused that the country with the world’s biggest military budget by a factor of three—and nearly 4,000 active nuclear warheads—now has a major political party openly embracing fascism. I won’t even get started on the U.S. culpability for global climate change, which under Trump grew to include actively, willfully accelerating the onrushing catastrophe.
So where am I at with the turn of the year? The first lines of Codeine’s “New Year’s” are speaking to me: “Bad to feel the way I am,” sings bassist Stephen Immerwahr. “Today’s another day, you do what you can.”
I don’t have the sunniest of outlooks, as you might’ve noticed—I’m pretty sure humanity isn’t gonna make it. But my pessimism is long-term, and to some extent an artifact of the suboptimal brain I live in. In the short term, I do what I can. I donate to mutual-aid drives in my ward. When I’ve got money to spare, I give some to community groups who can put it to better use than I can. I can’t turn Mitch McConnell to ash with the power of my hatred, but that doesn’t mean I can’t help at all.
That brings me to the Jesu song “Old Year,” which reads at least in part like a rebuke to my decision to expend psychological energy despising Republicans. “Now who are you blaming? Are we worth saving?” sings bandleader Justin Broadrick. “Is this how it’s always going to be?” If you’re familiar with Jesu’s early output—this stuff is “mopey” the way the surface of the sun is “balmy”—you might be surprised by the note he strikes next. “Now you’re stuck in our old year / But I believe in the new year.”
If the guy who wrote “Like Rats” can do it, then I can do it too.
I suppose I shouldn’t ask you to choose one of these songs to represent your feelings about 2021, then pick both myself. It’s completely reasonable to feel shitty and hopeless. And it’s equally reasonable to need hope so badly that you’ll find it anywhere. If you’ve got anything to share on either subject, please comment or use the e-mail address at the bottom of the page. We’re all going through it, in our own ways, and lately way too many of us have had to do it alone. v
The Listener is a weekly sampling of music Reader staffers love. Absolutely anything goes, and you can reach us at email@example.com.