“Lightning Field” by Sneaker Pimps

The Sneaker Pimps is my favorite band. I have strange memories associated with them, however, because the day I bought their first album — Becoming X with the talented and haunting Kelli Ali singing — I received a phone call from a friend, saying that her sister had just been evacuated out of Columbine after the shootings happened there. Needless to say, we were all shocked and her sister was, thank God, all right.

Chris Corner took over singing for the last two albums and I love him to itty-bitty-serial-killer-bite-sized pieces. He now fronts the amazing IAMX, a second-runner up in my favorite bands (and we all know how much I like second-place, eh?), and is an overall outstanding artist, not just in terms of music, but in presentation, ambience, and stage presence. I saw IAMX in October of 2008 and it remains, to this day, the best concert I’ve ever seen. (Fittingly enough, I was under 21 at that time and had giant, black Xs on my hands. Best game of hand-tic-tac-toe ever with the lovely Miss Ren. This is also a not-so-subtle plea — I’LL SELL MY FIRST-BORN 14TH BORN — to have IAMX tour Denver again.)

“Lightning Field” comes off of their second album, Splinter, my personal favorite. It’s organic trip-hop, electronica that’s soulfully warm, but still distinctly eerie and macabre. (You didn’t think I’d forgotten, did you?) It’s also more complex than anything I’ve posted here before and just so happens to be my song du jour for when I had to choose my favorite song back in high school.

(I was in TOK — Theory of Knowledge — a strange class that dealt with the different areas of enlightenment and how they affected the Human Condition — I kid you not — and when we studied Music, we all got to bring in our favorite songs and listened to the vastly different musical tastes of a bunch of 17-18 year olds. What I learned, though not necessarily connected to the existential complications of society, was that everyone, with the exception of yours truly, knows the words to “I Got Friends in Low Places” and that Michael Jackson’s creepiness could not fend off a good 1/4 of my classmates from loving him to death.* I also got this gem from my teacher: “I thought you’d have picked something classical.” I’ve grown in my appreciation of Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich since then, but give me my electronica [or FREEEEEEDOM] and I’m a happy woman.)

Strike me down
Better left it all unknown
Strike me down
Should have held it all alone
Wash the questions off my hands
I’m the fate in no one’s plans
I’ll be everything I’m not

Oh, free will and determinism. Those two like each other as much as Legos and vacuum cleaners. (I just got a funny picture in my head of Legolas made out of Legos fighting a giant vacuum cleaner Transformer. SOMEONE NEEDS TO MAKE THIS A MOVIE, STAT. Not you, Michael Bay. Get lost.)

Lightning strikes are chances of fate — a prevalent theme in this song — and, like love in a Shakespearian play, they touch down quickly before dissipating into the ether. In all monomyths there is an instant of temporary death where the hero undergoes the abyss, either physical or spiritual, in which case a part of him dies in order to be reborn so he may fulfill his mission. (Think Luke Skywalker when he’s eaten by the Death Star and subsequent apotheosis of Obi-Wan.) This may be an instance where the abyss wins, looks into your soul and finds something lacking until the unknown becomes all-encompassing and impenetrable, a hero turned into a fateless lone wolf, unable to continue existence in a world that doesn’t need him. (Think Han Solo(!) as a reluctant hero, at least in A New Hope before the big damn hero saving-bit with the Millenium Falcon.)

Washing hands recalls Pontius Pilate, yet another reluctant hero figure who is just a cog in a machine, playing his role, but ends up being stuck in a moonlit limbo, a liminal space. This song calls attention to all those who have lost their faith in “higher things,” shooting blindly in the dark, trying to recall their positions but never quite reaching the top of their abysses just yet.

A note about the video: I just finished watching the season finale of Legend of the Seeker and thought that someone knows me too well and made this specifically for me. The theme of the song goes better with Cara — a liminal figure in transition between emotionless Mord-Sith into doing a heel face turn, trying to maintain a balance between her love for her friends and pride for her past — but Kahlan’s super hot too. I guess Richard’s pretty good looking as well.

Wheel of Empanada, turn, turn, turn
Show us the song that makes stomachs churn:
Hell” by Squirrel Nut Zippers

I sang this at karaoke once. And only once.

*Too soon?

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