Life makes more sense with pop music.
Life makes more sense with pop music. That’s why I’ve gone back, year by year, and chronicled the song that meant the most to me then. This song may not have been released that year, it may not have been big that year, but it was relevant to me in a personal way that defines that period of my life.
Also, I didn’t do too much research to make sure I got these years right. This is my life, after all, and if I confuse 1998 with 1999, well, that’s my right.
2001: “Jesus, Etc.” by Wilco
This song is about September 11, 2001.
I know, of course, that this song is not about September 11, 2001. The song was out by then. It had already been recorded, mixed, and released. It had been leaked on websites, burned to Cds, and passed around town. In fact, there was a copy in my car stereo the morning that it happened, when I was teaching English to my first period eighth graders.
In the ten years that have passed, we have obsessed about the events of September 11 to such an extent that we sometimes forget our initial bewilderment in the aftermaths of the attacks. It was an unfathomable morning that led to weeks of incomprehension and disbelief. Not much made sense back then as things went from unimaginably bad to unimaginably worse. Watching the news all day long, I felt that I was watching the demise of the world through the wrong end of a telescope.
Jeff Tweedy’s voice made sense, and “Jesus, Etc.” with its mournful violins and earnest melancholy made me feel slightly better. Even the “Etc.” in its title reassured me. Other things are coming—this is not the end. Our love is all we have.
Tall building shake, voices escape, singing sad, sad songs.
It didn’t make me feel any better on September 14, when the president stood on the smoking ruins at ground zero and promised that “The people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.” I didn’t feel any better three weeks later when we started out bombing raids in Afghanistan, or in October, when George Bush threw out the first pitch to the World Series and life was supposed to be back to normal.
This song is not about September 11, 2001.
It’s not possible. “Jesus, Etc.” must be about something other than the collapse of the World Trade Towers. But I can’t imagine what that could possibly be.