words by mitchell goudie
photo by olivia hemaratanatorn
I wake up and everything has become stationary; time surges onwards but the hands on the clock do not follow. My mother’s face is a concrete smile and Medusa’s shadow glides over the tiled floor. I see photographs of forgotten friends stuck up on the fridge and as I smile they appear by my side, smiling back at me. We spend the day laying on our backs in the sunshine, talking about the same old stories that we always talk about. “Remember when we were in Italy and…”, the question and answer already known. The sun sets and my friends are gone. I go back to sleep and a flurry of lights dance beneath my eyelids in a bid to keep me here.
Nostalgia is something that we are all very susceptible to. It appears to have wriggled its way into our daily lives, coaxing us into the security of what we already know in what appears as an innocuous, comforting activity, but is actually a slow march towards becoming institutionalised within ourselves, unable to connect with the real world. The saturation of nostalgia can be seen throughout the media, with songs and movies in particular capitalising on our obsession with the phenomenon. The world is wrought with other toxins as well however; apathy has become a household name as detachment develops into a feasible lifestyle, and irony has become so twisted that sincerity is put on the back burner. In a world where commercialisation is key, how do we create earnest and sincere art that evades the surreptitious arms of nostalgia or even the enticing glance of apathy?
Beautifully merging the process of making art, the desire to create it sincerely, as well as conflicts and emotions that Rattigan has confronted before, A Different Age encapsulates a myriad of meanings and symbols that will differ for everyone that experiences it. Existing as both an audio and visual experience, the album has multiple facets that need to be explored when pulling together your own opinions and conclusions. Opening track “Become the warm jets” gently introduces us the notion of having a toxic relationship with nostalgia, yet with relaxed guitar strums and lackadaisical drum beats we can’t help but be pulled back to our own fond memories. The conflicting notions within the song reflect the struggle that we face, do we give in and allow ourselves the comfort of reliving our past, all at the risk of our future?
A Different Age feels like what follows a coming of age movie. The protagonist managed to get the grades they needed for university and they came to terms with leaving some of their friends, but what about being at University? What about all the existential turmoil that rises during the time that they’re there? Anxiety and it’s crippling effect are handled on “Fear”, something that Rattigan admits affects him a great deal. “I never felt it when I was young/I never knew where it came from” he cries, simultaneously developing on his personal issues and unveiling one of the struggles faced when creating honest art.
Revealing the most vulnerable parts of yourself appears to be a requisite when forming something substantial, but that doesn’t mean it becomes any easier to do, especially when you’re not even sure if those parts of you are valid. Fear is not the only thing that seeps into your life post coming-of-age however, as our own preconceived notions and expectations fail to be met, we slowly drift and gently detach ourselves from reality. We spend more time inside our heads, staring at the blank walls and analysing the past, present, and future versions of ourselves. We imagine who it is that we want to be. We want to be exciting. We want to have stories to tell that demand be retold again and again that don’t begin with the typical opening line “We were drunk and…”. We want to be eccentric, in a way that makes us the most interesting individual in the room at all times. The very thought of existing as a mundane, run of the mill, secondary character is totally out of the question; it simply can’t be the case.
At the same time however, we struggle to find our true selves, chasing our ideal vision through a snowstorm that with every step further obscures another part of who we are at present. Current Joys delves into the many nuanced emotions and conflicts we fact internally in this paradoxical struggle. On “Alabama” he describes running away from himself to become a different person, one that perhaps he may like better. Diverting from oneself doesn’t involve a lot of effort, “just a little noise” to distract from the calls of help of the abandoned self and to provide more space to manoeuvre. With this space to manoeuvre comes the opportunity to reinvent, to become the protagonist we see ourselves as. Begin to rapidly alter our behaviour to appear more interesting, abandoning what morals we may have once had.
Apathy and it’s infatuating properties find themselves lodged onto the reinvention process, allowing us to say, think, and do things that we believe will make us better. “These sentimental feelings lead to ordinary lives” – an uttered statement on “Way Out Here” that shows the progression into the dissociated thought pattern. The track itself is ripe with gorgeous, melancholic guitars and crooning vocals that liken it to a love song, but one of strain that cannot be fulfilled due to the enticing new developments with apathy. This too is indicative of the creation of art; while we believe it is necessary to experience an intense emotion to create, perhaps the honesty lies in detachment from a situation.
As we stray further from what we know, our self separation becomes so prominent that our past selves become a different entity which we observe through the stained glass windows of nostalgia. We may patiently await for our voices to penetrate through, but as the tragically magnificent “In a year of 13 moons” iterates, sometimes it just isn’t feasible. Even if communications are restored, our self divergence has now reached a point wherein the languages we speak are completely different. We have strayed so far into apathy that our core foundations have shifted into a different time, a different age.
The most important step to take to fix a problem is recognising that you have one. Rattigan’s music is rife with references to anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts, and it’s on “My nights are more beautiful than your days” that we begin to see more blatant acknowledgement of these issues. He describes how this “new disease” is creeping through his memories, and will soon come for the present version of himself. Recognising the disbelief and invalidation that comes with mental illness, Rattigan hammers home an incredibly powerful line – “Too young to be part of a dying breed/too young to see that it’s the breed that’s killing me”. Acknowledging a personal issue through the twisted gauze of apathy and nostalgia is frustratingly difficult, and so instead of a sigh of relief, we hear the track rumble into remission as he recognises the futility in fighting such a problem when he doesn’t even know where he is. Lost in the midst of finding himself and how to be sincere in this fabricated world, he becomes defenceless.
Now isolated within himself, Rattigan reaches out for anything to grasp hold of. “All I really need is somebody to drive me insane/and feel one more time before the feeling goes away” – a plea to experience any sort of emotion. Our aim to become apathetic and enticing to others has succeeded, and yet now we rely on the people who symbolise our past for a vicarious thrill ride that we cannot enjoy by ourselves. The transience of life is reflected by the comparison of the self to rain – “and just as we came we will go away”, and indicates that despite the hopelessness of tone, there is an assurance that this time will pass and sentiment may be restored.
There comes an album once every 13 moons that changes the way that you perceive things, the way that you experience life; A Different Age is one of these. It takes us on a haunting journey of honesty, apathy, and nostalgia in the creation of art and the formation of the self. Cathartic in many ways, it reminds us that sentimentalists are not the enemy as they are often found within ourselves if we just look deep enough, and even if you do want to abandon them, there are some things you can’t leave behind; it’s impossible to outrun the times.
A Different Age is out now
Order it here