image © 2008 Aline Giordano
text © 2013 Aline Giordano
The first time I heard ‘Something vague’, I was overwhelmed by my own feelings which had been awakened by the stark story that Conor Oberst sings about, written and delivered in such a way that it could be autobiographical. I remembered climbing the stairs to the apartment that I was sharing with my brother. I remembered wondering why he used to do the things he used to and did not do the things he probably should have done.
When I heard Oberst sing ‘And I’m standing on a bridge in the town where I lived as a kid with my mom and my brothers and then the bridge disappears and I’m standing on air with nothing holding me’, I remembered the first time that mother confided in me a few weeks after brother died. She said that she wished she’d made different decisions in her life. ‘If only I had, your brother might still be alive’.
‘He might still be alive’, she kept repeating. I took her in my arms and comforted her like she had comforted me when I was a child. I mumbled ‘it’s ok, it’s ok’ a few times. I knew nothing was ok. How could it be? She had lost her son and father was proceeding with the divorce. How could it be ok?
Listening to ‘Something vague’ reminds me of this moment, when I realised I had become an adult and it was my duty to comfort my mother from now on. Yet, it is a song that also manages to make me feel like a child again. I experience it ‘on an emotional and visceral level’ because it speaks to the child in me. The child with the indescribable wound that needs care, the child who needs a mummy to cry on, a super-hero to help along, and sometimes, just…, just… ‘something to fill up the days’ (Oberst, 2000).
Every image that Oberst evokes in this song, I have lived it, dreamed it, or dreaded it.
Friedlander, P. (1988), ‘A Systematic Approach to an Understanding of Rock Music ‘. Popular Music Studies, 1 (1).
Oberst, C. (2000), Something vague, Fevers and mirrors: Saddle Creek