Record #20: The Ataris – End Is Forever (2001)

And here we are with another piece of nostalgia. If Blue Skies was 8th grade, End Is Forever was 9th. It was my first year of high school. I had friends that were getting into drugs. I made more friends en masse in a month than I did until college, and a lot of those friendships dissolved very quickly, and sometimes with a lot of bitterness. And for the first time in my life, I really, truly hurt someone I cared about. It wasn’t exactly the most fun time in the world.

And End is Forever isn’t the most fun record in the world. Sure, the punk rock tempo remains consistent, and the bass still chugs along in picked 8th notes. But the guitars are more contemplative, the songs are centered more around minor chords, sad keyboards peek through some of the tracks, and the lyrics often border on depressing (even the uptempo pop blitzkrieg of “Bad Case of Broken Heart,” complete with tongue-in-cheek classic rock guitar solo). This melancholy even permeates the cheer-up song, “Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start,” giving the youthful, friendship-championing anthem a between-the-lines temporality.

To my borderline depressed 15-year-old who was trying to figure out who exactly he was anyway, it was a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it gave me a place of solace to find solidarity with someone. On the other, it didn’t give me a lot of hope. The “follow your dreams” message of Blue Skies, while still there, is muted considerably. The loudest voice in this album says, “love is a lie, which sucks because it’s the only thing worth living for.”

And when Kris Roe isn’t disparaging his love life or contemplating his loss of youth, he’s throwing up a middle finger at anyone who “just doesn’t understand,” on tracks like “If You Really Want To Hear About It…” or “Teenage Riot” (not to be confused with Sonic Youth’s much more respectable “Teen Age Riot”). These tracks never spoke to me very much. Rather, they hit me like a bucket of cold water to the face on an otherwise cathartic album. Hearing them as an adult makes them sound even more inane and unnecessary. “Song For a Mix-Tape” likewise is a jolting experience, with its brash, unsubtle opening section awkwardly transitioning into an ironic country song by the track’s end. Even though some of the songs are better than anything on Blue Skies, the random, poorly sequenced deviance from the contemplative songs that made this record and the last permanent residents in my Discman causes End Is Forever to suffer in comparison (but not in comparison to So Long Astoria. God, help us).

The side 2 opener, “Fast Times At Drop-Out High”, opens with the most overarching sentiment of these two records: “Alone at last, just nostalgia and I/And we are sure to have a blast.” Admittedly, that’s more true of Blue Skies…I mean the having a blast part.

Whereas that record was attached more to a general era of my life, End Is Forever is attached to too many specific memories (taking a drive through farmland just to get out of our friend’s house, being bored in gym class and singing to myself, blasting one of the songs in the computer lab when the teacher left, writing the lyrics to one of the songs while blowing off a lecture, etc) to be a quick and easy listen.

Music has always been one of my biggest triggers for my memory, and this album is like a machine gun, and for whatever reason it’s only firing out my saddest memories; memories like how much I felt solidarity with Kris Roe in the otherwise-life-affirming “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” when he sings “I’m still waiting for the world to come crashing down ahead.”

Thank God high school doesn’t last forever.

One thought on “Record #20: The Ataris – End Is Forever (2001)

  1. Pingback: Record #49: Blind Pilot – 3 Rounds And A Sound (2008) | A Year of Vinyl

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