My Morning Jacket – Circuital (ATO)
by Scott Creney
Did My Morning Jacket change, or did I change?
We met in 2003. I had just finished college. Ready to get the hell out of Boston and return to the southwest, I moved with my friend — the improbably named Matthew Moon — to Prescott, Arizona to start working on my first novel. Matt and I had passed through Prescott, a small town in the Arizona mountains, a couple of times on poetry tours, and we really liked the place. Once there, I got a job at a local high school teaching kids with learning and behavioral disabilities. Most of them were a lot like this guy.
Thankfully, I was much better at it than the teachers in this video. After a month, I added the job of bus driver (it was actually a large van) to my duties. I drove the Chino Valley route, about 10 miles each way. These kids have gone to the trouble of filming an excellent introduction to CV.
One day one of my Chino students gave me a drawing his friend had made of the town. It featured that same McDonald’s, a man fucking a goat behind the grocery store, lots of spiders, and a self-portrait of the kid sitting in a cardboard box in the middle of a field and crying.
My personal life at the time was nearly as dramatic. This girl back in Boston had flown out to visit me for a week and we both fell into a love that was complicated, exciting, and ultimately impossible. Within a couple of months, however, she would insist we ‘take a break’. Later, it turned out she had started dating the singer from Idlewild. A month after the ‘take a break’ call, she would be calling me from Roddy Woomble’s cabin in the remote Scottish highlands, reminding me that one day she and I would be together, that she was just ‘trying to figure some things out’. The situation felt, at the time, like a horrific emotional nightmare of the soul.
Matt Moon and I had to drive nearly two hours into Phoenix if we wanted to buy any non-chainstore music (the downside of which was seeing Roddy Woomble’s face in the magazines I picked up). And one of the albums I picked up on our monthly trip to Phoenix, because I’d read some good reviews — though not in Pitchfork, which gave it a 7.1 — and because it was used, was At Dawn by My Morning Jacket.
Let’s cut the bullshit. There is no such thing as an impartial music review. Your response to someone’s music is always rooted in the personal. Whether it’s the music you’ve heard leading up to it, or your particular emotional needs at the time, it is impossible to listen to music objectively. Just like it’s impossible to fall in love objectively, or to divorce someone objectively. This is music. It’s personal. It’s pheromones, not Trivial Pursuit.
So for whatever subjective reasons — the high desert of Prescott, my own personal heartbreak, driving those early mornings to Chino Valley and back, the fact that hundreds of bands with a similar sound hadn’t come along yet — I fell in love with My Morning Jacket. That September, Matt Moon and I decided to move across the country to Asheville, a town in the North Carolina mountains. A bunch of writer friends from college were moving there, and it seemed like a good idea at the time. Our first night there, the entire group took mushrooms together as some sort of initiation/psychic bonding experience. That didn’t really happen, but I do remember lying underneath a pool table listening to MMJ’s new album It Still Moves, which someone had picked up on my recommendation. I have to admit it sounded really good under the circumstances, but less so, the following morning.
One of our group was, like My Morning Jacket, from Louisville, Kentucky. So we decided to go on a road trip to catch the record release show. This was my first time seeing MMJ live, and it was everything I could have hoped for. Even better, earlier that night I had been able to convince the waitress that we — my friends and I — actually were in My Morning Jacket. And on the way home that night, we passed the six hour drive trying to decide what was the worst song of all time. When ‘The Living Years’ by Mike And The Mechanics came on the radio, it narrowly brushed aside The Beach Boys and ‘Kokomo’.
As my year in Asheville progressed, my friends and I gradually drifted apart. When MMJ came to town the following spring, a few of us went and saw them at a sold-out show in Asheville. The Orange Peel held around 600 people or so, but it just wasn’t the same. A month later, The Fall came to town. None of my friends wanted to go with me, and there were only 25 people there. My friends had been saving their money to go see Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band. That show would end up selling out.
Clearly, it was time for me to be leaving Asheville.
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