End of a Hollywood Bedtime Story
OK, the first thing I’d like to say is that I really do hate these types of articles. You know, the one’s that talk about why Loveless is so good or why Pavement has a special place in the authors indie-kid heart. It’s like, gimmie a fucking break; everyone feels the same way, so why the hell should I be reading your article. There is absolutely no reason to write anything ever again about bands like Radiohead, Sonic Youth or even Neutral Milk Hotel for that matter (they are huge in the indie world, don’t kid yourself) unless you are doing something like a critical essay or a band bio/history. Your comments about how you always fall asleep to Loveless or how much you love Guided By Voices and own every single GBV release (dude is serious) should be kept to yourself. More people have heard of Slowdive than you think, so I suggest that you stop wasting your time. It’s funny, but some even go so far as to venture into topics such as the complex and dangerous realm of mix tape theory or ‘the death of the album.’ Gag me with a fucking spoon.
So more specifically, it’s the redundant articles that piss me off the most. I would happily read personal articles if they were about bands I haven't read a whole lot about, or a record that I have never heard before. Or if they were saying something - anything - unique and not just the same thing as everyone else. This would legitimize the world of haphazard essays/articles by music geeks if only that then there would be something worth reading for the sake of a relation of unfamiliar experiences. Thus, the Shameful Memories article. This is not critical writing in any sense; in fact I wouldn't even call it a proper article. However, this is going to be my relating to you why a certain record is so utterly personal to me, a record which, as it so happens, came from a band that a lot of people nowadays (in the indie crowd at least) shrug their shoulders to. I am in fact not ashamed at all about my relationship to The Dears’ End Of A Hollywood Bedtime Story. It is because I know that others may be ashamed for me that this piece ends up under the heading of Shameful Memories. God bless Only Angels Have Wings for having devised such an ingenious type of article (see Angus Anderson’s Shameful Memories article on Silverchair’s Frogstomp). Brilliant.
End Of A Hollywood Bedtime Story is a record that did not garner a lot of attention outside of Canada when it was recorded in 2000. The band has only recently started to receive attention as their third proper album, No Cities Left, was just re-released last year (after being available in Canada for almost two years). Often, the band has been described as overwrought cabaret-pop, and this is especially true regarding End Of A Hollywood Bedtime Story. I don’t know if that tag is truly befitting but it does a good job of conveying how much emotion is in the music. Choosing this record was a matter of personal experience, of which no record has accompanied me through more. In this respect, I did not choose to write about End Of A Hollywood Bedtime Story, it chose me.
My first experience with anything related to End Of A Hollywood Bedtime Story came years back when I was watching Much Music (Canada’s equally shitty version of MTV). I was flicking through the channels and as I passed by the music station, I noticed a really interesting video; two seconds of just looking at it (I had the volume turned down) made me feel upset. I kept it there and proceeded to turn the volume up. There was a black guy walking down a very dark, cold looking city street, with the camera fixed right in front of him as he was continuously walking towards it (a la the post-limo shooting run of Marlon Wayans in Requiem For A Dream). Every so often he would pull a flask or bottle out (I can’t remember which) and take a swig, all the while continuing to walk steadily foreword through the grimy looking street. I noticed the guys crooked teeth, sad winter hat, beard stubble; his whole character suggested that of a homeless guy. I thought, ‘how cool, they got a homeless guy to sing along to the song and star in the whole video from beginning to end.’ Then I began to pay attention to the music: “Is this the end? / Has our time come and gone? / It’s like every book we’ve read / and every film we saw.” The guys voice sounded unique and really tortured, really honest. The character in the video reached a clearing in a park and began to spin around, the camera spinning with him. I watched on as the blur continued and the end of the song dissolved into a cascade of guitar, keyboards and cymbals. I caught the name of the band and song: The Dears - End Of A Hollywood Bedtime Story. Cool name for a song I thought.
I had the song and the images from the video stuck in my head. I mean, it wasn’t anything new to see a lonely guy walking down the street, but watching it as the song played, something about it was very real to me, something very relevant. Perhaps I was still a little young too (around 16 I think). Someone at school told me that they were a band from Montreal and I was glad to hear that they were Canadian. I decided to research further. When I got home I hopped on the internet and searched for the band. I came across their website and immediately headed to the video section and watched the same video again. It was just as powerful as the first time. Browsing around, I looked at an image from the “Heartless Romantic” video and I was surprised to see the same black guy in the shot. I clicked on the video and watched. Throughout the whole thing it was just a bust shot of him against a white wall, some clever graphics and the song. The video was another striking achievement but this time the song had me by the heart. This was one of the few times I actually almost cried upon first hearing a song. That voice was just incredible (although it is seriously distorted in the song). And I realized something important. This downtrodden guy in these videos was actually the front man of The Dears. His name is Murray Lightburn.
I looked everywhere for End Of A Hollywood Bedtime Story, and eventually found it someplace downtown. Since then it has accompanied me through many tough times. I’ve also been fortunate enough to see the band a few times in concert as well, and I am always left breathless. Going back to the album though, it has a three song streak that is one of my favorites on any album ever. “Where the World Begins and Ends,” “Heartless Romantic” and “End of a Hollywood Bedtime Story” pack a very emotional punch. The second to last song on the album, “There Is No Such Thing As Love,” is just as overtly emotional as the title suggests but it is also terribly beautiful to me. It is Heartless Romantic” though, that stands out on the album, and it is one of my favorite songs of all time. It is a perfect mix of noise and melody. Marching drums, organ and a distorted voice tell a heart aching tale while a deadpan yet interested mini-barbershop like group sings in the background.
You know what, I’m starting to feel silly bringing all of this up about this record. I feel like I’m going behind my friends back. So I’m gonna cut this shorter than I thought (although some may say it’s too late for that).
Listening to End Of A Hollywood Bedtime Story makes me feel like a loser, but it also makes me feel comfortable knowing that it is mine. That no one from Texas or New York or anyone in Europe will ever know how it felt to be with this most personal of albums from the very beginning and having it there for you when you feel the most ridiculous; when the sweeping gestures of bands like Arcade Fire are just too much in their perfection. When I feel bad, genuinely like utter fucking shit, I put End Of A Hollywood Bedtime Story on to make me feel comfortable again. It is my old blanket now, and its protected me many a time. There is nothing uniquely Canadian about the album, but I have come to think of it as my definitive Toronto/Montreal inner city blues album. When I think of the past it is always there. The feelings are similar to those of growing up - and still holding onto that blanket, or that hat, or those sweaters the two of you won, or that old letter from your ex, photographs, your old wallet, the memory of the time you had sex against the railing on the stairs, all those fast food trips, finding your old journal, or reading those silly poems you wrote way back when...
When people see the Dears pin on my backpack I always get a remark. “Ohh, it’s ok,” they might joke. Or “boo-hoo” followed by gestures of crying. I’ve done the same, but mostly to idiots who listen to pop-punk. I mean, The Dears are wicked instrumentalists too, man. And anyway, at least I know that my relationship with the band does not stem strictly from ‘sorry-for-myself’ thoughts. If that were the case I’d listen to the same pop-punk. No, I’ve come to realize that this has been a special connection that has just grown over time, while being stuck in a particular place.
No Cities Left has a few killer tracks on it but it still pales in comparison to End Of A Hollywood Bedtime Story. The Protest EP is the bands most recent release and it also happens to be their most experimental, which is just what they need. But I like the emotional stuff. I like the Dears and I fucking love End Of A Hollywood Bedtime Story. If you dig Arcade Fire and dismiss The Dears, you my friend, are a slave to trend. Anyway, here is one of my favorite songs, ever.
The Dears - Heartless Romantic
- Andrew Iliadis
/apr 15th 2005/