One night, long before children, even before marriage, though I was either engaged already or definitely common-law in the eyes of the government, I had trouble falling sleeping. These brief bouts with insomnia occur a handful of times each year. Usually they happen when something worrisome is on my mind and I can’t shut down my brain. It’s not problematic enough to warrant medical investigation but it does make for some tough mornings after.
Then, as now, when such an evening occurs, I shuffle off downstairs to waste some time until I’m exhausted enough that my hyperactive brain gives up and I can finally fall asleep. On this particular night, long before social media and tablet apps cornered the market on time wasting, television was my tried and true resource for procrastinating the hours away.
I sat down and began flipping channels, once again realizing that TV had exponentially increased its suck quotient in parallel with channel proliferation. After a couple hours of watching a bunch of crap I can’t remember, though I’m positive it was exactly that memorable, I clicked over to Much Music, something I had done rarely since I was much younger. This I remember explicitly, as though it happened yesterday, because what I saw that night was unlike anything I’d seen, or heard, before.
What I ended up watching was some sort of special program highlighting a succession of videos starring what turned out to be a new, hot band at the time. That band was utterly unknown to me but I would never, EVER forget them. They were just that unique. They played what I thought were wonderfully melodic rock songs but with a twist. One member of the band, the lead “singer” I guessed since he played no instrument, spent the entire song screaming into the microphone like some deranged death metal singer. And he did this for every song they played! It was as if this guy was purposely vandalizing the band’s songs. I was mesmerized and appalled by what I witnessed.
The next day I emailed my cousins to tell them about this bizarre band I’d discovered on late night Much Music. These two cousins are 15+ years my junior, so it gives me an ego boost to appear young and hip in their eyes once in a while. This helps, or helped, stave off the growing discomfort I have with the reality of my aging. I explained the strange nature of the singing and how the songs were cool but kind of ruined all the same. I thought they would be so stoked to be introduced to such an experience. Their peers would grovel over their coolness and in turn they would thrust me onto a pedestal of worship for sharing this secret with them. Instead they emailed back with a fantasy shattering glib response along the lines of, “Oh yeah, that’s So And So. They’re awesome.”
As some of you have likely guessed, that band was Alexisonfire. It’s pronounced Alexis On Fire, by the way, not Alex Is On Fire, which is what I thought until I actually spoke to my cousins in person and heard them say the name many months later. Hey, it made perfect sense to me that Alex was the screaming dude and being on fire was the reason for such screaming.
I won’t kid you. Alexisonfire is an acquired taste. I wouldn’t say I’m a fan. You’d be hard pressed to sit down and listen to an entire album of this screeching strangeness in one sitting. Still, the underlying songs are often pretty great. The other singer, the non-screaming one, has a gorgeous, normal voice. If you could edit away the screaming you’d have the makings of a hugely successful rock band. Funny thing is, they kept the screaming and became that anyway. And dammit all, if there aren’t moments when I really enjoy cranking up a couple of these songs and embracing the anarchy they represent.
To kick off this dull, winter weekend, I’m hitting you in the brain with my personal favourite from this band I innocently stumbled upon one sleepless night. This is “Pulmonary Archery” from Alexisonfire’s self-titled 2002 album. If you have no idea who this band is, brace yourselves!