A twenty four hours interlude
Twenty Four Hours, twice, and I would be home.
From the moment I pressed play, as I stood up on the bus, to the moment the key lodged itself in the front door of the suburban house I lived in with my family, I had Twenty Four Hours by Joy Division, twice. "It made sense", I told myself, to go around the clock twice, if only to appreciate the song's fast changing pace and time my footsteps to its powerful drums.
Besides, the last verse hit better the second time. Reaching home on time required that I match the song’s final dash, and that meant reaching right as I was getting inside the somewhat hopeful last line “Gotta find my destiny before it gets too late”. With that last sentence, I crossed the threshold with a renewed sense of purpose, the confidence that eventually, destiny would reach me, even if I hid in my bedroom for the rest of the day because it simply wasn’t too late for me yet.
At 16 I already had a taste for symbolism, so that song became a favourite of mine: Ian Curtis’ deep voice guided me from the dark corners of his mind to mine, paving the way for inner debates about solitude and creativity, and most importantly, his words gave meaning to the time I had for myself on the way home.
That walk back home is how I came to understand that time and freedom could be one and the same if I so much as paid attention to what I put in that short amount of time. In those few minutes of freedom, standing between me and the rest of my day, I could create as I pleased.
I could stretch the short kilometer into a complete Archive’s Lights if I wanted to, taking in my surrounding, all the familiarity of neat gardens and predictable intervals of lamp posts and mailboxes sharp against the anguish of echoing “The hurt is killing me … turn my head”, or dreamy with the eery “Turn it off … forever”, that dragged the 15 minute-long piece. Or I could speed to Pulp’s This is Hardcore, a full minute ahead of the double Twenty Four Hours run, deeming all of my life’s decor unimportant as I walked briskly past neighbours and houses without even a glance while Jarvis Cocker was mellowing “Oh, this is the eye of the storm / It's what men in stained raincoats pay for / But in here it is pure, yeah /This is the end of the line / I've seen the storyline played out so many times before.”
I could delay by a full hour the moment of going back to my family if an album required my full attention, ready to withdraw from the world in between the bus stop and my house if a song so much as hinted at a hidden meaning in its drumline or lyrics. Life’s secrets were written in there, I knew it, it was only a matter of finding the perfect song to come home to.
Songs from my routine travels heralded lessons that went straight to my hungry, feverish heart :
Ra Ra Riot described perfectly the symptoms of love with Can you tell: “My heart sinks to my feet / Oh what am I supposed to do? My bed’s too big for just me / When I look in your eyes / Or when you smile at me / And I get nervous every time you speak.”
Julian Casablancas assured me that love could solve everything: “Everywhere I go I feel like a tourist / But if you stay with me I’ll always be at home”.
White Lies argued that it exposed you to heartbreak: “He said to lose my life or lose my love / That’s the nightmare I’ve been running from”; but thanks to Hard Fi I learned early on how to get over a bad breakup: “Get on a plane, it can’t be wrong / Moving on, moving on” ;
For a 16-year-old who had yet to live her first relationship, I must admit that music had awfully well prepared me for heartbreak. But I suppose this is where I truly was too, in between inexperience and experience, so all I could do was take other people’s words for it and explore any and every feeling infused in music by wise rockstars. And not all of them ended up obsessed with relationship, thankfully, so I grabbed a thing or two about deep topics such as:
Bloc Party’s remedy to bereavement in Biko: “So I keep writing these songs for you / To steal you from your grave”.
Or Coldplay’s useful mental health mantra in Lost: “Just because I’m losing / Doesn’t mean I’m lost / Just because I’m hurting / Doesn’t mean I’m hurt”.
Every song, in reality, had a nugget of wisdom that helped me become the person I am today because at the end of the day I wanted to be the kind of person who takes words and coincidences seriously, and pop music has always been full of those.
I wanted to be the kind of person who thinks that One of Us by ABBA playing on the radio on my way to my last day of high school is nothing short of a sign that I should move to a bigger city, choosing to interpret that forever elusive “you” as an address to my hometown: “They passed me by/ All of those great romances / You were, I felt, robbing me / Of my rightful chances / My picture clear / Everything seemed so easy / And so I dealt you the blow / One of us had to go. “
In a way, I may have to thank Birdy Nam Nam for not making Manual for Successful Rioting an actual song with lyrics and Kings of Leon for not singing Sex on Fire intelligibly, given these song titles’ potential and my propensity to follow lyrics to the letter.
I’d let songs dictate my fate, truly, taking every word and every random correlations as orders given to me personally. And if sometimes I would luckily shuffle and land on Jimmy by Moriarty urging me to come home, other more unfortunate times would give me the dangerous suggestions of Zero by Smashing Pumpkins: “Throw out your cares and fly / Wanna go for a ride ?” and “I’m in love with my sadness”. I lived for those signs because they were proof that anything was possible between the very real dullness of school and the very real dullness of family life. After all, was there a better place to put all my hopes than in the liminal space between school and home?
I marked the beats of beloved songs with my feet and I’d drift on that space between reality and hope. Stuck between a present that I couldn’t yet articulate and a future dreaded and anticipated in equal parts, I followed the adventurous and dramatic, and thrilling music that flowed in my ears into my fantasised future life. Music was drawing a splendid fate on the blank facades of the houses I passed by on my uneventful way home and the soundtrack of my life then became the backdrop of my expected eventual day-to-day. My mind escaped to more exciting times, where Acid Food by Mogwai would transport me in my commute to a great and important and exciting job, or Alice Practice by Crystal Castles would bring me to the doorstep of a party full of artistic and passionate and joyful people.
Maybe I would have embarked on more thrilling journeys if I had paid more attention to the top 40 instead of the electro and rock I listened to, even though Macklemore would have only brought me to the thrift store and Lady Gaga at a poker table (or whatever this song is about), but nothing at the time could have better excited me for life than the haunted, somber voices of Alice Glass and José González.
The two-song migration was where I explored along my own music snobbishness and rebellion against the parental curfew, my own character. It was in that space that I became who I wanted, so close yet so far from the passive life, I led at school and within my family, where it felt as though I was always following someone else’s rules. If I was only ever trading one persona for another, as all teenagers are prone to think, I also knew that I was never more true to myself than in the shedding of the characters I’d crafted for everyone else.
The automatic porch lights set off by my passage as only witnesses, I’d tamper with time and become my very own person following the siren voices of teenage heroes.
It’s in those precious moments when I was no longer a high school student and right before I was back to being a daughter and a sister that the emotions sparked by voice and guitar and drums felt like time’s only meaning: this perpetual potential for growth and excitement.
Time’s intangible, impossible truth could never be measured without music, for me at least,
and making sense day and night, hours and minutes still means diving into music.
This interlude, this predictable moment of familiar music came to be home in its own right. And in a way, time still is always about home for me: looking for home stretches roads and songs endlessly, and being home makes the dreadful ticking of spinning clock hands mere background noise behind good music.
After all those years, all those commutes between childhood and adulthood, I have Twenty Four Hours, twice sometimes, and all the songs that I want to guide me home.
Depinal, born, unsurprisingly, in Epinal (France) in 1994, discovers »Les Yeux d'Elsa« at 14, falls in love with »This Must Be the Place« by the Talking Heads at 19, oscillates wildly on the page ever since.