When I was younger, I took my step-mother Megan’s copy of Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged in NYC. I remember those summer days of just sitting, listening, and trying to understand just what it all meant. Every word, every chorus, and every piece of it was something I wanted to grasp. I wanted to understand what it all meant. I wanted this music to be a part of me.
I had a small group of middle school friends who I could talk about Nirvana with. Some I fell out with long ago and others are no longer with us. They didn’t want to discuss it how I wanted to discuss it. They wanted to talk about how cool Kurt was or what happened to him. What I wanted was to understand what it all meant, what they were trying to say with “All Apologies” amongst other tracks. We just wanted different things from our art.
Since then I have always just wanted to have a listening party where we could have those discussions about music. Sharing our thoughts, feelings, and insights about music and lyrics.
That’s what this is. This isn’t a review. This is going to be a series where the GateCrashers sit around in metaphorical bean bags as we sink into them and let it take us.
We are starting the series with Bleachers latest album Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night. Jack Antonoff is a goddamn master of the craft. I don’t want to be coy about this and tell you outright that this entire album is beautiful. I have seen a few reviews comparing it to Bruce Springsteen and I think that is unfair. TTSOOSN is an album drenched in themes that you find so often in music from New Jersey. Of artists wanting to escape, artists dreaming of more, and of facing the darkness that comes from existence. But it’s all built around one central theme: Hope.
Ashley: Opening this album with “91” sets an incredible tone. The line “My mother dances around like there ain’t no rip in the seams” absolutely gutted me. We’re living in an insane moment in time. Compartmentalizing has been a way to survive and no line in “91” affected more than that one did. Would also like to say that the violins in this are so sad and beautiful.
Dan: Fully agree with Ashley, that Mother line was painful. It’s been on my mind so much, the whole track. Being physically in a place but having your mind be elsewhere is something I think so many people deal with. You could be reminiscing on what was, on something that could happen, or the possible worst paths or pasts all circulating at once. The song works in 4 stages of dealing with all those emotions but ends with this feeling of being in this place. Being in a place where you have hope and that existing is so worth it.
Amanda: “I’m here, but I’ve been gone just a little too long now… Yeah, I know what I’m not / But looking at you, I can’t leave” EXCUSE ME? Right out the gate? THANKS, I GUESS.
Reagan: Opening with “91” immediately sets the tone of the album; Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night is introspective and despite the upbeat tone of many of the songs, is pretty sad. It’s dealing with some heavy themes like guilt and grief (a recurring theme in a few of Bleacher’s songs).
The song is focusing on similar events happening at different stages over the course of someone’s life and how their perception and understanding of those events shifts overtime. The first lines of the first two verses, lt’s ‘91, a war is on” and “Storefronts change a new war on” particularly struck me because that’s the way it’s been my entire life. I was born in 2000 and because of that, as far back as I can remember war has just been something that’s been happening my entire life, there’s always one going on somewhere. It’s strange to be able to mark the passage of time with which war is going on but it’s just how it is.
Amanda: Honestly, I think if I play this song in my car one more time my mom might actually disown me. She may love Bruce Springsteen, but there’s only so many times I can scream “I’ll take you out of the city / Honey, right into shadow / ‘Cause I wanna find tomorrow / YEAH, I WANNA FIND TOMORROW WITH YOU, BABY” before she wants to jam a screwdriver into her own eardrum.
Ashley: I’m a born and bred NJ girl. Did Jack just give me Bruce Springsteen and a song about missing NJ? I think he did, and it’s absolutely everything. When you live in NJ (or really most places), you dream of leaving one day. But there’s a beauty and a magic to remembering the state that you came from, and realizing the things you wanted to get away from were actually the things that made you who you are. I love this song and the mascara-dripping romance that is woven through it.
Dan: “My home, New Jersey – it’s a death trap. It’s a suicide rap. Listen to the lyrics, alright. I had to get out, I gotta hit the highway…I currently live ten minutes from my hometown.” This is a statement from Bruce’s Broadway show that has stuck with me. NJ gets the worst reputation but where is your Jack Antanoff or Bruce Springsteen, Delaware? This combination of artists with the feeling of finding a brighter future with the person you love screams New Jersey. Jack said that this song “is going from New York…into New Jersey”. It gives you that feeling of taking a chance, of leaving your comfort, and looking for something new. If I listen to this song one more time, Scarlett may kill me though.
Reagan: This song is so hopeful and optimistic, it’s about seeking a bright future with someone you love, about leaving behind what you’ve known together and seeking something new and it’s beautiful. “I wanna find tomorrow with you,” it’s very specifically about finding someone and realizing that you want to spend your life with them, that you want to find what comes next with that person. Like I said, it’s beautiful.
Reagan Anick: Before I get to the more personal aspect of this, something I noticed: this is the second time that Bleachers has mentioned a preacher in a song, the first time being on 2014’s “I Wanna Get Better” off of Strange Desire. Also interesting is the fact that the bridge of “How Dare You Want More” sounds super similar to the chorus of “Everybody Lost Somebody” off of 2017’s Gone Now. Especially since all three songs are more introspective upbeat songs about heavier subjects; depression, grief, and guilt.
I have a good life. I’m lucky to have had the life I’ve had and yet still I find myself wanting more. There’s a guilt that comes with that. There’s also a guilt that comes with being depressed despite the fact that I’ve had a good life, that I’m lucky and privileged to be where I am in life. There’s this voice in my head that goes “how dare you want more” and this song feels like a recognition of that voice and a defiance of it. “Lonely wants to tear us down now/But tonight, we’re gonna drown the sound out.”
Amanda: This song feels like the inside of my brain. Listening to it while driving is dangerous because I try to keep the beat of the saxophones on my steering wheel.
Ashley: This song made me stand up and DANCE. The saxophone solo that starts around the 2 minute mark just evolves into a joyous riot that demands you get up and participate. This song is the happiest sounding jam that simultaneously reminds me (like my therapist does) to remember my boundaries.
Dan: I struggled and still struggle with my identity. I often find myself asking the mirror if this imposter syndrome is earned. This track is questioning why we feel such a discomfort in wanting more. More of ourselves, more of who others are, and more of feeling like the things you want matter. I have come to a place where I refuse to feel bad for asking for more. Of shooting for every star, for every person in my life and for myself. That’s how this song makes me feel. That I just want to just dance away the bad. The sax and guitar bouncing back and forth is VERY reminiscent of Clarence Clemmons and the E Street band.
Ashley: “Big Life” & “Secret Life” are companion songs. “Big Life” is the search for notoriety and the blissful surrender that you’ll give it all up to achieve that. “Secret Life” is the after effects; the time you’ll spend wishing for the quiet life you left behind.
Amanda: Maybe if I sing “I got a car and a bike and I’m free as a wheel” over and over it’ll make me feel something again. “I wanna know what happens when we’re bored in love” BITCH, ME TOO, JACK. ME TOO.
Dan: Big Life is a song about going for it, for going for the biggest version of your life that you can. As I listened, I couldn’t help but think of a track where your partner isn’t on that same path. When their answer to the question “Is it you?” that is posed in the lyrics is no. Did I come here expecting to write about Lil Dicky’s Molly feat. Brendan Urie? No, I didn’t but it feels like one of two paths that come from this theme. Antonoff follows Big Life up with Secret Life where he gets everything he wants but wants to return to normalcy and intimacy. Burd’s Molly explores the pain you feel when you go for that dream but you go at it alone. Exploring the feeling that there is still a chance that if the fame is given up, that you can return to that intimacy.
Reagan: “Big Life” is a very open and vulnerable song about wanting to know the person you’re in love with deeply. “I wanna know the part of you that light doesn’t touch” is saying that you want to know the parts of your partner that no one else sees. That’s so personal and intimate.
Amanda: “I’M SICK OF LOOKING AFTER ALL MY GHOSTS / BEEN TRYINA TELL YOU I LOVE YOU THE MOST”
Ashley: “Secret Life” is what you long for after you’ve found a “Big Life”. Though this song is told through the narrative of a relationship beleaguered by the fame that’s been found. I absolutely love the juxtaposition of these two songs, as I’m always someone who wants something different than I have, even when I get the things I want. It’s a battle to find contentment, and I feel like Antonoff struggles in much the same ways.
Dan: I share a lot of myself. I constantly want to connect with people with things we love because I never want anyone to feel alone. This whole track for me is keeping something to yourself. Having something only you share with those closest to you. Just something small, intimate, and personal. Lana Del Rey sounds like a dream in the song which was intentional.
Reagan: “Secret Life” is another vulnerable song about the desire to know your partner, only this time it feels a little more personal than “Big Life”. It feels like it’s talking directly to the partner as opposed to being a declaration to the world.
It isn’t exactly what the song is about but the line, “I talk so much because I’m scared to begin” is a line that it’s so damn hard because I’ve been in scenarios where I’m so scared of making that leap and being vulnerable by admitting my feelings that I just talk to the person I like as much as I can to feel close to them without risking the pain of being rejected. I’m perpetually terrified of rejection and despite the fact that this fear always leads to the rejection that I’m afraid of in the first place, I never seem to learn and I stick to talking as much as I can.
Amanda: Much like “I Wanna Get Better” and “Don’t Take the Money”, this is the song I scream while speeding down the interstate with my windows rolled all the way down in the middle of the summer.
Ashley: I second Amanda’s take. This song is definitely living in the same vein as “I Wanna Get Better,” but it is a balm on my post 2020 wounded soul. There’s something very cathartic about listening to lyrics that capture how you’re feeling, and “Stop Making This Hurt” is now officially added to the playlist of songs that allow me to scream my feelings back into the void.
Dan: “We got a dream and a care, we’re like free as the night. So how come every time I take a drive I just see it written on street signs?” This song is angry in the most constructive way. Things aren’t great. The things passed down to us aren’t great. What we are passing down isn’t great either. But you have to remember we are in this together and have to put our hearts into making that change.
Reagan: I don’t have much to add except that the chorus of this song makes me think of a long, painful, drawn out breakup. “Stop making this hurt/Just say goodbye like you mean it.” It sounds like begging for the relationship to just end so that the hurt can be over and everyone can eventually move on with their lives.
Ashley: “And you’re waitin’ to be saved, but ain’t nobody comin’ / If you’re holdin’ on to me, you’re holdin’ on to nothing” might be some of my favorite lyrics on this album. “Don’t Go Dark” is a banger that I will definitely have on repeat.
Amanda: This song is a personal attack on my character. Sorry to anyone who has ever tried to love me and had me go dark instead, I’m just built different.
Dan: Aha ha fuck. Holding onto pain, harboring the dark, and not getting it out is something I have been REAL good at in my life. Sometimes you have to learn to let go. To leave that person and feeling behind. “You’ve just been waiting your whole life to find someone who will stand in your storm”
Reagan: I’ve had a history of shutting people out in relationships. It’s something that I’ve been working on and something that I would like to think I’ve gotten better at. I think “Don’t God Dark” is coming from someone in a relationship like that who is taking a stand, asking their partner not to shut them out and saying that if they do, that’s it. That they won’t stick around for someone who Isn’t there.
Reagan: Finally, a spiritual successor to Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway”, even if only for the fact that it gives off the vibes of a song that would play as I wistfully gaze at my childhood home as I leave it behind. Like a lot of Bleachers’ music, it feels like it was made to be on the soundtrack to a movie and I love that about it.
Beyond that, it’s about the early aftermath of a relationship. “Now you’re just the stranger that I love best.” It’s about still loving someone who you’ve broken up with, still being on their side despite the baggage between you.
Ashley: The guitars that open “45” immediately let you know that this one is going to hit differently, and hit it does. There’s beautiful lyricism built into this song, with my favorite being “Old 45s / Spinning out of time / But honey I’m still on your side.” Antonoff makes jabs at the music industry, where critics have taken some shots at his musical aesthetic. But Jack affirms he wants to pray at the altar of the East Coast Sound, and frankly I want to be right there with him.
Amanda: The first time I heard this one I didn’t really like it, but I think that was because it came out at the same time as “Chinatown” which had the unfair advantage of featuring my good pal Bruce Springsteen, so I ended up playing that one to death instead. But listening to it again in the context of the whole album, Jack Antonoff had the NERVE to make “But if I can learn to love your shadow / When your shadow hits the light / And there ain’t no trace of what we’ve been through / Then I’ll shout it ’til the day that I die” the closing verse and? RIP me. “Hang the words of a perfect stranger / In the hallways of my heart” I’ll just be screaming this into the night off the roof of my house.
Dan: Something about the opening to this song just gave me that same feeling that Thunder Road does. I couldn’t listen to this track and not put on 45 by another Jersey band, Gaslight Anthem. Both songs deal with the parts that make us and the fact that we change but those pieces remain. “I can move on and I can’t stay the same” is a lyric from Gaslight Anthem’s 45 that I think returns me to Antanoff’s 45’s lyric “Sold my bedroom from my home” to reexamine it through the East Coast music lens I have been given with both tracks. You keep moving forward because things don’t ever stop. You never stop changing and moving forward. But those pieces or versions of you, that’s still something that others see. But who’s to say that they can’t learn to love all the pieces?
Ashley: Now stay with me for this one, but “Strange Behavior,” to me, sounds like Simon & Garfunkel had a tryst with some of the experimental ramblings of Fun.’s Aim and Ignite album. It’s a beautiful song, where the entire album’s examination of shadows are further explored here. There’s also a killer saxophone solo to close it out.
Amanda: I wish I loved these kinds of songs more than I do, but here and “What’d I Do With All This Faith?” are where the album loses me if I’m honest. I’ve come around to most of Bleachers’ other ballads though, so this will probably just take me a couple more listens to feel like it fits. I just much prefer Bleachers’ bigger, louder songs.
Dan: The shadow and the self are themes constantly toyed with in this album to me. The repetition of “In two” is that examination of the two selves, the shadow and the true. The shadow who was chasing this idea, putting their faith that someone else would make them whole with their self. Then the other, the self who exists and knows that the only thing that can make you whole is you but cannot face that fact so instead lets the shadow lead.
Reagan: “Look at you/you’ve been chasing shadows,” who amongst us hasn’t chased shadows because they thought they would make them whole. “Can’t believe what I thought would save me/A pretty girl,” learning that a partner isn’t something that will magically make me whole and unbroken was both one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn and one of the most important.
Ashley: The acoustic guitars in the latter half of the album really hit you where it hurts. “What’d I Do With All This Faith” is a sad, wistful closer that leaves us right where the opening began. It’s a circle that, frankly, has me wanting to restart the album all over again. Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night is a killer album with achingly beautiful lyrics that speak to this exact moment in time while simultaneously invoking the nostalgia of the past.
Amanda: Like “Strange Behavior”, I can take or leave this one. My first impression of a song is primarily the beat and less the lyrics (unless something really just punches me in the face with Emotion), so anything that feels overwhelmingly sad flies right under my radar. I’ll give it some more listens, though; I love the lyrics a lot, I just don’t know what to do with them when I don’t really vibe with the music.
Dan: With an album that is filled with hope, love, and so many other emotions, it ends with the question of where to put all of it? Where do you guide your faith when you don’t subscribe to a belief in a supernatural higher power? Do you put that faith in Art, in songs and paintings that give you hope that things get better? Do you put that in your fellow human, that they’re going to do whats right to make the world exist tomorrow? Or do you put that faith in yourself, your true self that is going to live to the fullest and support those around you? It’s a heavy question. It’s not even one that is answered. The doors open.
Reagan: “What’d I Do With All This Faith” is a song that poses a big question. One that looks at all of the hope and faith that permeates the rest of the album and says “ok, but what do we do with this now? Where do we put it?” There isn’t an easy answer, there isn’t even one single answer because for everyone it’s going to be different. Do you put your faith in a higher power? Institutions? Others? Or do you put it in yourself?
As I was writing this, the album looped back to “91” and I cried. Because “91” is looking at the issues that continue to exist despite the fact that so much has changed and “What’d I Do With All This Faith” is, despite the big question it poses, a declaration that people still have faith that things will get better even if they haven’t in decades. I often question how I’m still an optimist, how I’m still able to believe that things will get better. But I am. And I always have been.