Song of the Day: Stabbing Westward, "Shame"
My memory worries me. I'm not so much concerned with the volume of what I am able to remember, as I still hold a pretty good grasp on everything that is necessary (I'm even getting better at remembering names and faces, which has always been a problem). No, I'm more bothered by the quality of what is left in my memory.
It's not the memories themselves, but rather the emotional charge attached to them. There's no shortage of joy or exhilaration lurking in my grey matter, but I find that the stuff that hits the hardest—and the stuff that surfaces for no good reason on an otherwise pleasant day—are the moments in my life of which I am ashamed.
As somebody who wanted to spend his life on stage and has always had a complicated relationship with the metaphorical spotlight, I have lived portions of my life with a particularly blunt approach. I always believed that since my intentions were relatively pure that I could not be held accountable for certain actions, and that any interpretation to the contrary was merely a case of miscommunication. Of course, I now know that people can only be judged on their words and actions, and looking back on how I conducted myself in the past—to friends, to family, to complete strangers—dredges up an incredible amount of guilt. (Honestly, it's a wonder I did not spend every day from ages 15 to 24 getting constantly punched in the face.)
So while it's certainly healthy to be reevaluating those circumstances and to recognize the error of my ways, I do wish that I had a bit more control over the sting that those recollections can create. Here's a small example: When I was maybe 10 or 11 years old, I went to a neighbor's birthday party. He had it at one of those indoor play emporiums, a giant warehouse-sized space that housed an arcade, a basketball court, a bouncy castle, and one of those jousting set-ups like they had on American Gladiators. (Looking back as an adult, it's insane that this place even existed, that parents let their kids go there, and that it was able to get any form of insurance.) Anyway, there must have been eight kids at the party, plus the birthday boy's little brother. When the time came to play basketball, we broke up into two teams of eight, and then tacked the little brother onto one team (because how much could he really contribute anyway?). But a few minutes into the game, something in my poisoned little brain decided that these current stakes were unacceptable, and I asked the little brother directly, "Hey kid, do you have to play?"
I don't need to tell that that this fucking destroyed this kid, and he ran off the court crying. I have no recollection of what happened next. Did I apologize? Did we just go back to playing? Did the game break up? It's a blank. But I remember the moment when that kid looked at me and his eyes expressed very clearly that I had torn something apart for him. This happened over two decades ago, before I had hair on my balls or a sense of how the world worked, and yet I sometimes randomly recall that very moment and it makes me feel exceptionally shitty.
So I'm actively trying to take my own brain back. I should be able to deal with the emotional fallout of that moment (particularly considering I should have dealt with it years ago, as is the case of most of these incidents), and then compartmentalize it and let it be. It should not be the sore on the inside of my mouth that I can't help but rub with my tongue. It should be expunged, and yet there it lingers.
Some songs are like that, too. Since we're talking about shame, why not consider "Shame" by Chicago post-grunge industrial combo Stabbing Westward. This is a terrible song, and yet I still recall every lyric and moment in it. How is it that I could still karaoke this bullshit and yet still need the words on the screen for songs I love?
Here are some thoughts about Stabbing Westward, in no particular order.
- I first became aware of them when I caught a late night screening of the video for "What Do I Have To Do" on MTV. It was exactly the type of catchy self-loathing that I reacted to in 1996. That song, as well as "Shame," came from their second album Wither Blister Burn + Peel, which I thought was an impossibly cool title but now I see it as trying to hard.
- Stabbing Westward was the favorite band of a dude I knew named Colin, who was one of my freshman roommates at NYU. He was a fucking idiot, primarily because his favorite things were all insane in comparison to stuff he considered his second favorite. Case in point: His favorite movie of all time was Bride of Chucky, and his second favorite was The Godfather Part II. His second favorite band? Led Zeppelin.
- That guy's hair in the "Shame" video is just fucking goofy as hell.
- I thought for a long time that the lyric "How can I exist without you?" was "How can I have sex without you?" I was dumb.
- I thought for a long time that I had seen Stabbing Westward perform live at a radio festival in 1996, but it turns out the actual memory I have is the crowd at said festival going fucking bananas and singing along to "Shame" while it was played over the PA in between sets by Poe and Goldfinger.
Anyway, TL,DR: My brain is broken and I still know all the words.