I remember that dog’s “Totally Crushed Out” because the album came at a transitional period in my tender youth. I had seen the band open for the Foo Fighters on March 30th, 1996 and was non-plussed. Granted, it was the first live show I’d ever attended, but I think I was overly-anxious to see the guy who used to be in Nirvana.
Two months later and I was different. It was an awkward time…I’d finished 8th grade and we were done with school a good two weeks before the rest of school. Hanging around at this time was a strange, unknown pleasure of nothing to do during school-hour weekdays. Ordering pizzas in the middle of the day, riding bikes down streets we’d never been, perpetually throwing water balloons…me and this motley group of rag-tag others lived as unchallenged kings in our own four square block stomping ground.
Be we did other shit too. I’d dyed my hair forest green…only to have it fade that same day in a gruesome shaving cream fight. The rest of the summer was spent with faint pea green locks atop my head. We’d gotten unusually obsessed with the Anarchist’s Cookbook, but all being under-18 were unable to purchase said text from the local head shop.
So we improvised. We had a general idea of what a Molotov cocktail was made of, so the Snapple bottle was filled with lighter fluid with a paper towel hanging out of the top. We lit the paper towel and sat there, basking in the pyromania that most twelve-year-old boys go through. I’d say the flames got a little over my waist, so at that time, about three feet tall. We never seemed panicked or worried or scared…someone simply filled a kitchen pot with water and doused our sorry excuse for overthrowing the government. The concrete on that spot had actually been bleached a bright white from our actions and would remain so until we tore up the backyard six years later.
But behind all this pre-pubescent machismo, that same fucking day, I rode my bike to the Harmony House and spent what felt like an eternity trying to decide between that dog and the Vaselines. The Vaselines album had the originals of three songs that Nirvana had covered and was on Sub Pop to boot and was so terribly hip and tempting. But I kept coming back to that dog. Something about the cover drawn to look like a teen romance novel or the no short of brilliant use of all the song titles in a well-written, coherent paragraph on the back cover was all too much. I was secretly scared that some suburban youth would come and buy “Totally Crushed Out”, having witnessed the same mediocre opening performance for the Foo Fighters I had, and I would never find the album again. I bought that dog and came back a few days later for the Vaselines.
The songs on “Totally Crushed Out” are heartbreaking stories of lost love, missed chances, the “what could have been?” which is totally what leaving eighth grade is all about. It made sense to me, but not too quickly. As I grew, I kept finding myself coming back to the record…it never aged and always seemed to equate to that particular moment in my life that I happened to be living.
After meeting Anna Waronker, she told me that she thought of that dog as an art band…the whole thing being a kind of art project. And I thought that a little queer. “Totally Crushed Out”, a masterpiece that I revered as highly as any Beatles or Stones effort, was almost shrugged off by its inceptor as a one-off art thingy. I prided myself on telling her that it meant so much more to me and she was flattered.
So what I think of when I think of “Totally Crushed Out” is the confusing time at the end of my pre-teens, my stupid ugly green hair with the stink of lighter fluid still fresh on my hands and the squeak of bicycle breaks humming in my head, partaking in some psuedo rite of passage with a bunch of other hormone-addled freaks, and later, in secret, hoping that no one would find me out, listening to this “pop” album and feeling utter bliss and confusion and ecstasy and bewilderment. I liked the album so much that I was scared. “Totally Crushed Out” made a difference in this poor white boy’s life.