Saturday, October 6, 2007

Miko Mission - How Old Are You?


Download Miko Mission - How Old Are You? (12").mp3

Download Miko Mission - How Old Are You? (Edit).mp3

Since March, Italo Disco has steadily become what is most likely my favorite genre of music. Excluding all Euro Disco (which would bring Fancy and Lian Ross' "Fantasy" into our discussion) and focusing solely on Italo, I think the most awe-inspiring individual track would have to be Koto's "Visitors". But Koto is instrumental, and leans more toward a spacey sound. But when it comes to a true vocal pop song, nothing quite touches the majesty, the mystery, of Miko Mission's "How Old Are You?", which I have presented here in two forms: the original 12" mix and a much shorter edit. For the full effect, definitely go for the 12", but if you want it to be as poppy as possible, go for the edit. But please go for both, if you have the time.

One thing Miko Mission is known for is having fairly non-sensical lyrics, and How Old Are You? is no exception. It's not entirely clear what the hell he's talking about if you think about it logically, but if you feel the lyrics and the vocals, I think they actually pack quite a punch, and make quite a lot of emotional sense. I think you can figure out what they mean just by listening to the music. The opening synth line is absolutely incredible; it's so simple and is deceptive in its power. Then he sings:

When the people go
Then my mind is crying
When the children leave
And tearin' the world with thee

And the most beautiful little flourish rises out of nowhere. It feels almost fantastical, like we are being entered into a fantasy world. Do we really need to be logical here? There is an other-worldly feeling surrounding this and all of Miko Mission's songs, and we must accept that. Obviously, in the first verse, he is talking a lot about absence, and he throws in mention of children being amongst the departing group. Lost innocence, perhaps?

When the music plays
In your fantasy
In the moonlight time
I remember the games of my life

Now he starts going wild. Just like I was talking about in my last post about Stockholm Monsters' "Fairy Tales", here we are dealing with the creation of a mental musical soundtrack to a thought - although here the word "fantasy" is more vague, and may not be a memory. Nevertheless, it implies the thinker as a director of sorts, choosing music and creating scenes of a fantasy. And then he refers directly to memory. It may seem strange, but I think that, in the context of the whole song, the final two lines of this verse are some of the most powerful in the history of pop music. In the moonlight time, I remember the games of my life. And they are clearly important, since they echo and then lead into the mind-blowing chorus. But what do they mean? For me, this is where the core of the song lies. This song, for me, is about bravely facing the loss of your past, of your childhood. These games are done. At night, he is remembering them, and you just know that they are powerful. I am immediately taken back to playing baseball with my parents when I was very young, and going on scavenger hunts arranged by my wonderful babysitter, and laughing and joking with my childhood friends. I also think of college, and the carefree fun I had there, watching horror movies and talking about early 90's NFL teams and flirting with girls at parties. Those days are all gone.

I see an emerging trend here, and perhaps a big window into what has been going on in my mind recently (or, one could argue, over the past several years). Pop songs are obsessed with the past, and with remembering it in a certain way. Even the ones that are descriptions of the present are their own artifacts from personal pasts, since the people who made them did so in the past (duh). All art and movies and so forth are about remembering the past and bringing a bit of that past into the reality of the present. We inundate ourselves with the past in order to make our present make sense, and to come to terms with time. Pop songs give us a soundtrack, a framework, with which to look at the present and our past - and even our future. And while I believe that "living in the moment" is extremely important, we are constantly thinking of the past at every instant, for that is all we have ever experienced. It's kind of like field of vision - we can only really focus on like 1% of what we see, and while we see everything else, we don't see it clearly. But the line is blurry between what is in full vision and what is peripheral, just like with the past and the present. Everything, reality at each moment, is constantly becoming the past. Everything is constantly becoming what no longer exists. Everything is constantly ceasing to exist. Yet isn't everything also coming into being? Isn't the world, our vision, our minds, constantly born anew? It is just hard to grasp it sometimes, and to feel it fully. It is hard to be aware of the present, and the past and present are constantly flowing into and out of the other, creating a nexus far too fragile and complex and of such great movement that we may never hope to grasp it.

At the moment where Miko finishes singing "I remember the games of my life", we are struck with the birth of a new moment, a new reality: the start of the chorus. The synth line we know from the beginning still plays, but dominated by an expansion of itself - the beastly hook that dominates what we hear. The past is there, but with a new layer, a new look for itself. And the very first word we hear is "Now". But the brilliant part is that he asks, "Now how old are you?" In the moment we are brought back to the present, we are asked the one question in life that is entirely about the present but also entirely about the entirety of our past, and completely non-contradictorily. Past and present merge into one at exactly this one concise point, and the answer for each person is unique (if they want to get really precise), just as each person's past and present realities are their own and no one else's. Does this make sense? How mind-blowing that question actually is? I hope I've explained it well enough, because for me, it's pretty intense when you think about it in this light. Or maybe I'm still loopy with joy from the Rockies' win tonight. It's also just so powerful because I think that, in the song, it is loaded with concern with the extent to which the person is connected with his/her past, and how far removed they are from it. Doesn't remembering the games of our lives make us feel old? Or maybe they remind us that we can still have those games, that our youth hasn't yet slipped away entirely.

And then ole' Miko continues:

Where is your harbor?
Have many things to do
Open the door

Yes, I live so true
Without my lover
But tell me if the sky is blue
How old are you?

And so, with the second line above, we enter consideration of the future. It's all falling into place. And is the absent lover the song's "you"? I kind of feel like it is, except with the question of "How old are you?" That seems universal to me. There's something triumphant in this song, albeit deeply melancholy at once. It's so mysterious. What is he feeling here? What are we feeling here? It can be wonderful and magical to remember our past, but there is also pain in our knowledge that it is gone. My childhood will never be back, and I can never experience things in the same way as I did then. I will never feel the same wonder over baseball cards as I did then, and I will never be able to believe that Santa Claus is real ever again. But there is joy in those memories, and I can still "live so true" without their reality. I can still play movies of them in my mind. It's interesting too, the line "Tell me if the sky is blue / How old are you?", because it seems to jokingly refer to the empirical reality of the sky being blue, evoking thought of what is truly "real" and factual. It also reminds us of things that are constant in life, such as the color of the sky. Then the final new verse comes:

Memories of dreams
Something out of date
I saw the light of ray
But remember the days of my life

How beautiful is that? And again we have memories of the past, but not the past we think of as typical reality, but of dreams. Something out of date, reflections of other mental states. Aren't dreams such totally unique mental states? We know that, at each moment we dream, our minds are in a precise state which they have never been in before and will never be in again. But aren't dreams also "out of date" in that they are timeless? Dreams can provide insight and information, but aren't they still ultimately a mystery? Are memories of dreams real memories? Are they memories of reality? How are we defining reality? Is it only empirical, or not? As I discussed in the last post, empirical reality, time, is often cold and indifferent, or at least it feels that way. It's the way we react to it and understand it, both consciously and unconsciously, that makes reality, reality. How can we possibly comprehend reality outside of our own personal reality, our own frame of reference? Aren't dreams part of our own personal realities; indeed, sometimes the most intimate part of them?

How Old Are You? is about how we feel about our past, our present, and our future. It is about how we encounter reality, and our passage through it and through time, how the past can become the present and the present the past, how a memory can be very real. It invites us to explore what we remember, what we have lost, and what we still have. No matter what, we will always have our memories, our dreams, ourselves - in all our unfathomable mystery.

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