Guest Post: “Music or Misery” with Tommy Barbee

Today, we’re trying something new because what better time to experiment in the middle of a societal breakdown?

Tommy Barbee is my former professional colleague, current colleague over on South Side Hit Pen, a daily source of creative inspiration, an excellent partner in conversation (ranging from modern philosophical and moral issues to extremely low brow humor), and, most importantly, we can get into fights and recover. I would certainly refer to him as one of my besties. Is the feeling mutual? Who’s to say? 🙂

Recently, he shared some musings of his own about this strange time and how it relates to a question originally posed by High Fidelitya book turn movie in 2000 (and seminal Chicago film) now turned show on Hulu. Enjoy.


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“What came first, the music or the misery?” – High Fidelity

As I sit here observing the now commonly accepted social distancing in affect as we attempt to offset the latest wave of impending doom that 2020 has thrown society’s way, I find myself coming back to this question. It’s a simple question, but an indelible idea that has stuck with me since my formidable teenage years. Sure, like every other angsty teenage boy that is now on the older fringe of Millennials, I spent more time than I’d care to admit listening to the likes of Weezer, Radiohead, and Coldplay mixed in with the more socially accepted hip-hop music of the time.

Was I anxious and depressed because I listened to OK Computer and later Kid A one too many times? Sometimes it felt that way, and I still refuse to listen to a Radiohead album from beginning to end so as not to spark a sudden bout of existential crisis.

As an adult that has distanced himself from the awkwardness of adolescence, I find myself feeling as isolated as ever in this time of unwavering panic. Once again, I’m turning to music to make sense of things.

It’s true, too much Elliott Smith can bring you down. Even so, he conjures such depth of emotion that somehow your life, or a generational experience, can be summed up in mere minutes. Right now, finding something– anything– that can help reflect or make sense of the emotions felt today is exactly the kind of “misery” needed.

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Feel free to connect with Tommy on Twitter: @kindableu.

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