This week I hopped on a plane and headed back home. Not my current home in NYC. But my childhood home. It is always a strange experience going back to this small seaside town. Though it changes, in my mind still trapped in amber like a Jurassic Park mosquito. One of the ways this resonates strongest is through music.
When I think about music it is often through the lens of where I am and what I’m doing. It’s rare that I just sit down and put something on. Instead, I’m looking for it to amplify whatever is going on. The knock-on of this is that time and place are indelibly marked with that music, for better and worse.
So when I arrive home, to a place I haven’t lived for 15 years, it is loaded with nostalgia. Which also drags back songs, albums, and artists that punctuated those moments.
The kitchen is the main hub of the house and it is where the family Hi-Fi lived. Most of the time there was one artist spinning: David Bowie. When my Dad was home it was nonstop Bowie. Regardless of what we were doing. It soundtracked countless dinners. Family gatherings. Or board games (and the subsequent fallouts if we caught my Dad cheating!). Then as the album finished my Dad would opt to just replay it, instead of putting on one of his other 20 different Bowie options. It was infuriating. I’ve since learned to appreciate Bowie and his multitude of personas, but I used to hate it.
When I head up to my old room, it is now a spare room. It has been completely decorated. Gone are my gig posters, dark walls, and piles of CDs. But my old stereo still sits proudly in the fireplace. I can’t help but feel some Linkin Park bounce around my head. So many nights channeling my broodiness and teenage resentment into Chester’s lyrics and screams.
Walking across the landing to the bathroom, you end up right outside the door of my brothers bedroom. It’s from here I remember the muffled playback of Avril Lavigne or Brighton legend Fat Boy Slim. Those big beats muffled whatever mischief my brother was up to with his neverending entourage of friends.
When we finally leave my home and drive around town, I’m always reminded of sitting shotgun in my friend’s Nissan Micra as he speeds needlessly around the back roads (you know who you are). Even if I’m sat in the car with my mum, going at a pedestrian pace. I can’t help but feel the bass from The Prodigy smashing our eardrums, from my mate’s self-installed subwoofer. Driving anywhere. It didn’t matter.
Then as we head to the beach to take my parent’s dog for a walk, we amble past the go-to teen hang-out spot. Underage drinking, embarrassing forays into talking to girls, and terrible football games. And most importantly music played from our iPods on tinny little speakers. Local heroes The Kooks and The Ordinary Boys. Later on The Maccabees. So many endless summer days doing more or less nothing, but talking about music.
I guess whenever I head home it’s always this big wave of nostalgia as I don’t visit that often. It blows my mind that being a place conjures up so much. The good and bad. But the music that ties it together always makes it all the more visceral.
Words by Matt Paul