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More Than Simple Cash Can Buy

More Than Simple Cash Can Buy

Pete Frame got me thinking last week. Not that I would expect everyone to find inspiration in the work of a guy who charts out impossibly complex and detailed family trees of rock bands both famous and obscure—but for a liner-notes fanatic like me, his work is thoroughly absorbing and brilliant in a borderline savant sort of way.

What Frame reminded me of is that, for all its thematic trappings of rock and roll and political activism, at its core, Believe in Me is about family—both the one we’re born into, and the one we create.

It seems to me that the latter experience lies at the core of almost every rock band that matters. In the words of one of said groups, they’re looking for “more than simple cash can buy”*—they are seeking a sort of connection, with each other and with an audience—that transcends their everyday existence and lifts up both audience and performer. They share a common purpose and loyalty, as well as joy in their triumphs and frustration in their setbacks. They are a unit in every sense of that word, both a cohesive, tightly bonded structure and a measuring tool, calculating the human experience and interpreting it into song.

Believe in Me is the story of Tim Green coming to grips with the end—due to his father’s death—of the only family unit he’s ever known, while being drawn into an unfamiliar and turbulent new family represented by the band Stormseye and its lead singer Jordan Lee. At first Tim often feels like an outsider, and at times he acts out accordingly, wanting desperately, for reasons he doesn’t completely comprehend, to find his way inside. As the newcomer, he’s not sure where he stands much of the time, but as bonds begin to form he draws closer and closer to the buried truths of the family structure he’s now inhabiting. What he eventually finds forces him to take stock of his own life and begin looking toward the future again, instead of wallowing in the past.

And this—to bring it back around—is why I really hope that however the delivery of music to market continues to evolve, we don’t lose liner notes. Because encoded in that at-times seemingly trivial information about the creation of the music we are hearing is an important part of the connection that makes music not just entertain but resonate. The art means a little bit more to us when we feel, even just for an instant, like we witnessed its creation. Like we sat in the studio control booth—or around a dinner table—and shared the experience.

*Switchfoot, “Happy is a Yuppie Word”

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