You are so old now. Artwork by the author.
In 2002, if you asked me which album I would take to a desert island and listen to for the rest of my life, the answer was Taking Back Sunday’s Tell All Your Friends. I’d have listened to that record, decorated the island with skateboarding posters, and built a bathroom strictly for hot boxing. In my mind, the album was perfect. If Adam Lazzara had lit me on fire, I would have felt honoured just to keep him warm. From the guitar feedback intro on the first track, “You Know How I Do," to the closing shouts of “Don’t call my name out your window, I’m leaving” in “Head Club,” Tell All Your Friends defined me as a human teenager.
But a lot has changed in my life since Taking Back Sunday released this masterpiece. I was 14 at the time. Everything sucked. I was into punk, communism, and yelling at my stupid parents, who wanted me to do stupid stuff, like not huff my grandma's stupid heart medication. Now, I’m an adult. I have a mortgage. My back hurts and I have grown an early-onset dorsal fin. That’s just what happens when you get old. For the purposes of bettering humanity, I spent a day investigating Tell All Your Friends to find out if people my age are too dead inside to relate the spirit of the album. Failing that, I assume I have to wander into a wooded area so wild animals can eat my soulless body.
What originally drew my generation to Tell All Your Friends were the poetic lyrics, because MSN Messenger was our only form of communication. Posting TBS lyrics in an MSN status made you appear both tortured and smart. I need to know if these words still have the same effect on me. I have broken down lyrics from the best songs, giving an analysis of how 14-year-old me related to them versus 28-year-old me.
14-year-old me: "You're So Last Summer"
"You're So Last Summer" captured the kind of wit and snark I could only think of alone in the shower while rehearsing imaginary arguments with imaginary lovers.
… you could slit my throat
And with my one last gasping breath
I'dapologize for bleeding on your shirt
This really has it all for teenage me: 1) violence; 2) a situation in which I am the victim; 3) but I still get the last word in and I’m guilt tripping someone. Basically, I am an eyeliner-wearing martyr; the patron saint of non-athletic bodies and Chuck Taylors.
28-year-old me: "You're So Last Summer"
With my one last gasping breath, I’d take out a life insurance policy. But I’ll get around to reading over that policy manual after a few episodes of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Second time watching it through. So. Good. Oh, am I bleeding on your shirt? Let me get a towel for that. I never know which towels I’m allowed to use. My wife is a psycho about which towels I can use for stuff…
14-year-old me: “Bike Scene”
I'll leave the lights down low
So she knows I mean business
And maybe we could talk this over
Cause I could be your best bet
Let alone your worst ex
And let alone your worst
IS THIS ABOUT SEX!? Yup. I think this is about sex. Awesome. This is a song about lust and passion and, like, not worrying about definitions of a what a relationship is. Because fuck definitions! Even though this thing—this sexy sex thing—is so wrong, it feels so right that it makes me miserable with love.
28-year-old me: “Bike Scene”
I am too tired to make coitus. Let’s watch Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt again.
14-year-old me: "Great Romances of the 20th Century"
This song opens with classical instruments, which helps me feel smarter than my dumb parents who don’t even know about culture, such as Afroman. Also, these are the hottest lyrics of 2002.
I'm on the corner of your bed,
I'm thinking maybe,
are you turned on,
are you turned on?
It’s so dangerous! These simple words paint a vivid picture of teenage romance, as a potential lover sits, contemplative and anxious, on the corner of a bed. The word “corner” here is isolating. That corner is an emotional prison—so close yet cut off from a real, personal connection. The repeated question, “are you turned on” is confidently stated, but when posed as a question the speaker is afraid deep down. The yet-unspoken truth hurts.
28-year-old me: "Great Romances of the 20th Century"
I’m standing on the corner of a bed because I’m helping my wife hang a new picture frame she bought off Etsy. She is very turned on.
14-year-old me: “Ghost Man on Third”
If you need me
I'm out and on the parkway,
patient and waiting for headlights,
dressed in a fashion that's fitting to the
inconsistencies of my moods
Everyone around me is an emotionless drone caught on the tracks of “society.” That’s why am I wearing a white, loosened tie with cargo shorts and collared shirt made of snakes that bite me. This fashion fits the inconsistencies of my moods.
28-year-old me: “Ghost Man on Third”
I am an emotionless drone caught on the tracks of “consumer debt.” I will wear literally anything a paying employer tells me to wear.
14-year-old me: "Timberwolves At New Jersey"
This is the best song on the album. I know all the words. I can play it on guitar, which I will prove to you right now because I brought my acoustic guitar with me. I’m going to be a famous musician and lyricist when I grow up.
This is me with the words on the tip of my tongue
And my eye through the scope down the barrel of a gun
Remind me not to ever act this way again
This is you trying hard to make sure that you're seen
With a girl on your arm and your heart on your sleeve
I have no idea what this song means, but I love it.
28-year-old me: "Timberwolves At New Jersey"
I write for a music blog because I am, in fact, a terrible musician. I have no idea what this song means, but I still love it.
Devin Pacholik is cute without the "E" on Twitter.