‘The Continuous Life’

“When was the last time an album completely blew your mind?”

What a knockout lede from this 2011 revisit of 311’s exceedingly spacey aperture explosion, the aptly titled “Transistor.” I set the record on our turntable at home and couldn’t help but dig around for some afternoon reading material while Forrest and I sunk into Side A.

Imagine stumbling upon this alien trip at the impressionable age of 10. “Galaxy” was playing on my buddy’s speakers in his upstairs bedroom in Rocky River, a pre-cannabis adolescent artistic wandering-experiment of music. 311 was ubiquitous in those years. For us. Our crew. What would that sort of thing do to a person? Before all the hormonal uncertainty even had a chance to take hold? What sort of tone does that set for a life? This album was an education.

When was the last time an album completely blew your mind?

Think about it. It’s a gift, if you’ve got an answer handy. I’ve been lucky enough to land many head-shattering listening experiences in my day. These are peak discoveries, rare signs of life along the road into the fog from which the present moment emerges. These treasures — the resulting rearrangement of brain cells — are the things that help guide a person through their story. To have your mind blown by an album!

Sitting there with my buddies, trying to figure out Tim Mahoney’s chords, his strange phrasing, the Lake Erie sunshine filtering in through hazy windows. Who plays guitar like that guy?

Then, 30 years old, dog by my side, the sturdy Terminal Tower standing guard outside the living room, clouds newly formed above the Cuyahoga River’s chilly water. “The continuous life, there is no end, moving through life, moving through death.”

Sure, “Transistor” blew the shit out of mind. Okay? Why deny it? Why deny that this thing, this music, set me on a course that I couldn’t shake, even if I’d wanted to? I grew up with the faith that music and creative expression and words — packages of ideas, books, Gary Larson frames — were the stuff of life, the primordial compound that each young cub with a Little League uniform was meant to harness. Ride the lightning, what it is to you and yours.

I still go to 311 shows just about every year.

First few shows were in high school. Smoking mids. SA’s robotic dance moves freaked me way out, and the roof of Tower City Amphitheater rippled in the north shore wind. Last saw them in Chicago, early July 2017. Chad’s developed a more electronic drum kit over the years, which has its positives and negatives; the band still doesn’t let their songs breathe the way I’d always wished. 311 relies heavily on song structure. It’s best to let it be.

People create what they want to create, what they can’t help but create. If if blows some kid from suburban Cleveland’s mind and sets his life ablaze with a new outlook on rhythm and the solar system, then so be it.

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