“The Voyager” – Americana

I’m excited to start on Americana. It remains one of my go to albums. If you were to ask me what my top 5 sf59, my answer would vary by the hour. First of all, I hate quantitative lists where a numerical ranking is given to describe something that is not numerical at all. Even if I did decide to play along with the numbers game, I would struggle. I would try to divide it up into different categories: top 5 for production quality, top 5 for songwriting, top 5 for guitar tones, etc . . . My mind could not settle long enough to come up with an answer.

There’s really only one ranking criterion that matters to me: what albums do I put on when I feel like hearing some Starflyer. As much as I love Silver and Gold, they don’t rank so high here. Gold probably makes it in about 4.38% of the time; Silver is at a 0.63%. Americana comes in at a healthy 14. 91%. (And in case you think those numbers there contradict my previous paragraph, percentage of time listened actually is numerical. Yeah, I’m ideologically pure when it comes to my statistical methods.)

Americana was the beginning of a shift in how important sf59 was for me. By the time I bought this album, I was in college and had my own car, a red ’91 Toyota Tercel with a stick shift. I had a lot of fun in that old car. I saved up money from pizza delivery tips to put in my own aftermarket sound system. You kids may not know this, but if you wanted good sound in your car in ’90s, you had to make so by force of will. It wouldn’t come to you that way.

I bought some really nice Blaupunkt speakers off Crutchfield that had magnets so big I had to install them with risers because they wouldn’t fit in the door frames. I had a JVC dual CD and cassette player (upgraded to a 12 disc changer in later years). The crowning glory of my system was a 100 watt bass tube I installed in the trunk, angled in such a way that it reverberated through the car and into the skulls of anyone within a 10 ft radius of me. Now to be clear, I wasn’t no wanger who cruised the Kroger parking lot on Friday nights. My system was classy and had no embarrassing door or trunk buzz. I spent many a Saturday afternoon working on that setup to ensure its auditory purity.

I’m putting so much effort in describing this because it was a big part of the shift in sf59’s importance to me. I would put on this album with that system and I could feel my marrow buzz in time with the guitars and the bass in unison (there’s few things in life that I love more than heavy rhythm and bass in unison). sf59 became a full body experience. Things that I could not hear in the layers of sound before I could now feel from head to toe. It was close to a religious experience.

In this song, we have the same guitar chainsaw effect that we heard in “When No One Calls” except now there is more anger and way more cockiness. The vocals are stronger. The lead guitar keeps pulling you in different directions, bending notes, going off beat. It just won’t let you be still. The organ in this song just slays me. It reminds me of one of my other favorite bands, The Black Crowes. I’m a southern rock girl and a church organ going out of bounds is the way to my heart.

This song is a sort of sequel to “When No One Calls”. I suspect it is about the same person. It’s dealing with the same behavior but now the singer is good and pissed about it. I know there was some changing of personnel in the band around this time and I suspect that to be an inspiration on many of the songs on Americana. But I don’t want to get into that to much because that’s not what I’m here for. I try not to tie myself down to interpretations that match what we know to be true about JM and the life of the band. On one hand I feel it is intrusive to do so and on the other, it limits my writing. I want to write what I hear in the lyrics and what I feel in the music.

The lyrics of this song remind me of my relationship with a person with Borderline Personality Disorder. One of the hallmarks of BPD is referred to as “push me, pull me” behavior (you keep pulling me). They pull you in, telling you they all but worship you (you don’t worship me) only to push you away once they feel that they have you on the line (you leave me out). When you question this behavior, they gaslight you and make you doubt your own feelings and experience (left me with the doubt). And they cancel on all your plans. There’s always a reason given for why they just couldn’t come through for you (things never happen, because, because, because).

The singer has figured out the game though. He warns that they are about to get left behind, they don’t know who they are up against (I’m the voyager, watch out). Once the person begins their “push me” behavior again (you keep pushing me), the singer sets his boundaries and walks away (just leave me out, leave me out). He knows he’ll be better off without them and tells them as much (things will all work out with the voyager, watch out).

What is different with the singer in Americana as opposed to what we heard in Silver and Gold is that the singer knows his worth now. He can discern what is happening while it is happening and respond to it in the moment instead of trying to make sense of it in the aftermath of a broken relationship. This opener proudly proclaims that the singer has grown up now and he ain’t going to put up with shitty behavior anymore.

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