November 6, 2003

Test Spin: Explosions in the Sky

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Back in the spring of 2001, kids at A&M Consolidated High School were getting ready to get out of that hell-hole and go to whichever piece-of-shit junior college their mothers had coaxed them into. I lucked into college (thanks to a gaffe by Cornell’s admissions committee), and so I decided that I owned the school. When graduation came around, I skipped town to see Explosions in the Sky bring an official end to my primary schooling. I first heard of Explosions in the Sky when I was seventeen. My friend wrote reviews for some shitty gutter-punk indie-zine, and I dreamed about building computers out of transistors. I was hyped up about seeing Built to Spill, but my friend tried to sell me on one of the opening bands. He said, “I really think Explosions in the Sky is one of the more amazing bands in Austin today.” We downloaded MP3s (I heard a cacophony of guitar, bass, drums, and noise), but I was unimpressed. He said, “Even my mother likes Explosions in the Sky.” “So what,” I thought.

But Explosions in the Sky’s startling brand of stone-angelic instrumental death metal made the forty-something indie-legends look geriatric by comparison. And so the summer of 2001 began to form in front of my ears. My friend and I drove around the grand state of Texas listening to rock music with the windows rolled down, taking that last breath.

And although there was definitely a first time, and no other time like it, that fourth, fifth, sixth time I saw them perform, they never disappointed. And when I heard the music, I felt like hope and faith and love were palpable, and my heart sped up and beat a little faster. And when it was quiet, I held my breath, and when those crescendos came, I was lost.

Last weekend, I drove to Ohio with the new Explosions in the Sky record. As I rode there I thought, “The Earth is not a cold, dead, place, it’s lined with warm deer carcasses.” On the way back, I played “The Only Moment We were Alone,” listened to the muffled heart beat of the bass drum, and closed my eyes.

Archived article by Walter Chen