There are two reasons why I decided to write this article series:
1. I’m still a little baffled that some of my favorite albums are now the same age I was when I first listened to them
2. I can write about something other than fitness.
Music has always been a huge part of my life. I was lucky enough to have grown up with Napster/Limewire/Bearshare/Morpheus and every other site used online to download music. During my teens, and I assume this is true with all teenagers, music helped define who I wanted to be, added to my identity, and it helped me navigate the tumultuous teenage angst I felt in high school, and around girls.
No genre of music has been more important to me than emo. So I’ve decided to spend my summer diving back into old emo albums and writing about what I hear or feel fifteen years later. Do these albums hold up? Does the music speak to me differently at 31 than at 15 or 16?
And the first album I decided to dive back into is from one of my favorite bands of that era, Something Corporate.
Leaving Through the Window
In 2002, Something Corporate released their first major label album, Leaving Through the Window. Before this, they’d released an independent album Ready…Break in 2000, and then an EP titled Audioboxer after they signed with MCA and Drive-Thru Records in 2001. The EP landed them a spot on the Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn.
Because of the turnaround time with their first studio album and their debut label release, Leaving Through the Window included songs that had been previously recorded on both Ready…Break and Audioboxer. Lead guitarist Josh Partington described their first studio album as a “conglomeration of songs that were anywhere from three months to three years old … like a greatest hits of our early stuff.”
That doesn’t make Leaving Through the Window a bad album by any means. And for thousands of people across the country, SC’s older material was still new material for those just discovering the band. What drew me to Something Corporate was the combination of the piano and Andrew McMahon’s vocals that captured the ennui haze that permeated my teenage mornings.
Fifteen years later, Leaving Through the Window still rocks. I can still feel some of those old feelings pulsing through my veins once again. But, as I listened to the album nearly a dozen times, Leaving Through the Window feels like a tale of two different records. And in an odd way, that feeling makes sense.
A Tale of Two Albums
If there’s one thing Leaving Through the Window does well, it’s that (at least for me) it captures all those awkwardly anxious apathetic adolescent emotions I experienced in high school.
The initial track, I Want to Save You, hits your ears with a peppy kick drum and a piano riff that feels as warm and welcoming as the Southern California sun where Something Corporate began.
And then the lyrics come in—the story of a girl lost in the world of passionless sex, unseen for who she is by her lover, told from the perspective of a young man suffering from teddy bear syndrome who wants to show this young woman that he, and his love, can save her from her agony.
That’s exactly what every emo kid wanted: to pour out his/her heart and shower someone with love; because deep down we didn’t love ourselves and thought we’d find rescue from our own problems in someone else.
Something Corporate’s biggest hit in the US, If You C Jordan, is one of my favorite emo tracks ever recorded. Pretty much everyone had, or knew of, someone in high school who made their, or someone else’s life a living hell. Since humans tend to love nostalgia, it doesn’t surprise me that this song still resonates a decade and a half later. And I won’t lie. I’ll sing this song at the top of my lungs thirty years from now and still remember the asshole who made high school feel like hell for me.
Then and Now
For the most part, Leaving Through the Window reconnected me with some memories or old emotions from the past. But not every song brought something out of me. Fifteen years ago, Cavanaugh Park might have made me wish I had a better father. But I’ve worked through much of those emotions about my dad since then. So it doesn’t hold the same power, at least for me, as it once did.
And as much as I’d love to dive deep into each song on the album, I’m not looking to write a journalistic article about Leaving Through the Window and the impact or meaning of every single song then and now. (But it does give me more to write about than glutes, shoulders, back, and ab exercises.)
However, there is one song that as I listened to it, and spent some time looking at lyrics, I realized that I had been interpreting this song all wrong for years.
Until about a week ago, I thought I Woke Up in a Car was a song about a young man longing for a girl miles away from where he lived. And then in a moment of desperation decided to drive cross country to be by her side on the West Coast because he felt at home with her.
But that’s not what the song is about.
According to Genius.com, and a video from a live performance of I Woke Up in a Car, McMahon wrote this while on the road with Something Corporate in 2001. It’s not about driving cross country for a girl. It’s a song about self-realization. A song that tells us that we can’t wake up and discover pieces of ourselves if we don’t escape the life we feel so lost in. And that your greatest epiphanies may happen in the most unlikely of places. Or, at least that’s what I get from the song now that I’m 15 years older.
But here’s why I think that Leaving Through the Window could still resonate today, and why at the end of my sophomore year of high school it became one of my most cherished albums. Permeating throughout the album is this feeling we all felt as teenagers: the unshakeable fear that we don’t fit in, that the world we occupy and who we are don’t fit together like a puzzle piece.
Somethings Stay the Same
Do I think the band did that on purpose? No. They’d recently been signed to a major label and they didn’t want to force out new music that wasn’t up to their caliber. They could record old stuff, have it sound better, and then focus on a few new tracks as opposed to a creating entirely new tracks for their first album. By doing this, and by absorbing some of the sounds and general style of other emo bands they played with on tour, Something Corporate created an album that provided a full spectrum of the teenage emotional landscape.
They weren’t mad or pissed off at failed or unrequited love; Andrew McMahon was a hopeful hopeless romantic who, as he once described, was “a pudgy, outgoing, artistic little kid who never quite fit into the California scene.” And that’s what Leaving Through the Window captures so well as an album: an overall sense of trying to figure out where you (and they as a band) belong in the world.