Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Track Tales Tuesday: The Dark Side

If City Light's first album "In It To Win It" is an exercise in youthful hope, then their followup "The Way Things Should Be" is an ode to the determination that comes with a sense of identity. Picking one song off of the latter, which was released today, to highlight is a difficult task. Each features a number of lyrics that inspires the band's determination in the listener and are perfectly complimented by their beats and breakdowns. Still, the strength of one song soars above.

My dislike of Star Wars is no secret. It'll probably come back to haunt me at some point in my life. I'd never heard a good argument for the ideas in the films...until I heard "The Dark Side" by City Lights. Perhaps predictably, the infamous Yoda quote from The Phantom Menace is included:
I sense great fear in you
and that could only mean one thing
Fear leads to anger
and anger to hate
and this is why darkness surrounds your fate
That quote is an example of my biggest problem with Star Wars. It's underdeveloped. Yoda tacks on "hate to suffering" to create a nice sounding platitude, but none of it explains why fear leads to anger and anger to hate and hate to suffering. Even more importantly, the source of fear is never mentioned.

Maybe the ultimate issue that Yoda is ignoring is the young padawan feels alone in dealing with something which makes him feels afraid. Yoda's silence on the matter would then only increase the fear, which makes me wonder something else. Is suffering the result of Yoda's progression or the start of it?

City Lights answers all these questions by adding psychological depth around the reference. They open the song:
Everyone you hold close
is poison to your mind
Be mindful of your feelings
they may pull you from the light
Immediately the role you allow other people into your life is brought into question as well as how you treat your own feelings. There is no advocating for emotionalism here. You have to be critical of what you're feeling and consider how it's affecting you. In the chorus, the band paints a picture of this solitude:
The voices in your head
Don't listen to what they say
Just keep doing what you do
When you're doubting yourself
and it's clouding your mind
stay away from the dark side 
You must fight to endure
Fear is a disease
and hope is the only cure
Unlike Yoda, City Lights shows an understanding of what leads to fear--the negativity in your head, concretized in "the voices" of people who haven't believed in you (a running theme on the album) leading to doubt. They then go on to provide an antidote to this poison--hope.

How do you find hope? Part of the answer to that question is in the chorus--doing. Do what you want and believe is right. Actions in reality trump words, especially words in your head. The rest of the song provides the other part of the answer. After dispensing some more platitudes in the second verse, the band hits the nail on the head in the bridge:
The universe can make you feel invisible
so don't forget about your principles
Keep your friends close
and your demons at bay
An underlying theme in all of pop punk is feeling like you're fighting the world on your own. Strangely, or maybe appropriately, it's only recently that bands have started to really celebrate exactly how important independence is. As a young band, City Lights is an example of this development. Another example was With the Punches, one of my all time favorite bands who recently broke up or went on hiatus or whatever they're calling it these days.

Both bands focus on internal improvements turning into external actions. They discuss developing your principles so that your definition of "friend" isn't arbitrary and so you can take action with a surety of purpose. That surety, as well as the positivity from your true friends, is what keeps your demons at bay, gives you hope, and keeps you away from the dark side.

The world adds a lot of noise to all of our heads. Developing the principles to properly sort through it is a necessity. Without them, you suffer. What Yoda didn't realize is, it's not a progression, it's a cycle--suffering leads to fear which leads to anger which leads to hate which leads to more suffering. When you're already in the cycle, one of the worst things someone can tell you is it's all your fault. While you do have a level of personal responsibility for your feelings, being told so in such a manner makes you feel even more alone.

City Lights breaks down the noise in a way Yoda couldn't. Oh well, at least the little green guy tried, right?

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