Do you think about your youth? Now that my teenage years are quickly disappearing behind me I find myself more and more often thinking of the simplicity of life that it afforded. I suppose that’s one of life’s strange little paradoxes: the young crave to be older, to be independent and take control of their life. Then when you actually pass into adulthood and the weight of responsibility begins to bear down on one’s self, you begin to pine for those carefree and exploratory times, even perhaps to go back and unwrite the errors of your youth.
For that very past, that stupid and immature and young version of ourselves has a lingering weight and power over us, events moulding us into the people we are today, in some cases making scars that cascade through time. This much lauded and hyped transition to “grown up life” isn’t some earth-shattering event that metamorphoses us instantly into a new and different person, but rather maintains a depressing continuum of existing self, with all the unforgotten flaws and pains of youth coming along with us.
Second Shift dwells heavily on the past, in all its heartbreak and slow dissolution, cracking open with a scythe of noise as the wound of time splits again. Opener “Still Remember” crinkles and writhes like a tortured beast, splitting open to the echo of some ancient blast wave reverberating through our minds and hearts. “I still remember the first time you told me you loved me” Finney whispers, “Still remember what it was like when you told me you were getting married to some guy…he was old enough to be your dad”. Synth strings croon mournful arias in the space behind his words, drones seeping into the hole she left behind.
“Chloe + Unfinished Houses” finds Matt moving on, the flexibility of younger minds and lives to accommodate hardship demonstrated in this new encounter, and in perhaps one of their best tracks to date. Those idiosyncratic synths return to haunting effect, carving a dreamlike expanse of eerie tones that slide over these places we knew like a veil, lost in thought. It sinks slowly into the mire, this dreamlike melancholia descending inexorably into unhealthy, regretful thought, the sweetness of the memory dying to time and age. Scouring noise eradicates this reminiscence in forceful and demanding erasure, tired of its own nostalgia. Matt concludes simply, elegantly:
I’m sick of wishing I was young again
It trickles into “Youth”, a life on the cusp of chaos. Some mindless advert for air-conditioning loops in the background, a throwback to the off-kilter Americana of their first record Familial Rot, before tumbling into the most crushing noise yet. The very fabric of reality seems to be tearing, life crumbling around us in angry, ripping textures. Then she’s there, suspended in some painterly moment, telling him she’s “thinking about keeping the baby”. This lurch into chaos is apt, visions of life upended flash before us: “I could feel my life slowly turning to shit” he creaks, the realisation of adulthood’s undesirable baggage arriving all too soon.
Then there’s the title track, the closer; the end starts like the beginning, another obliterating pulse of noise moving like some evil wind or crushing storm surge. A jumbled mass of hurt and pain, this passage into adult life, this “Second Shift” of our existence, is a heavy and cruel affair, grinding and stabbing with exacting motions, knowing just where to prod the hurts. Another girl gone and the world is slowly revealed as a dark and bleak place, lightless without love and companionship. Quiescence undercuts the noise, humming in numbness as it stares out into the void, wondering if we can ever love again or feel the way we felt.
Finney’s vision of the past certainly isn’t a rosy one, his reminiscence upon it a sick perversion in many ways. But the desire to go back and feel again is strong, stronger perhaps than the desire to return to correct the mistakes. What’s done is done, but is there any way to make it stop hurting so fucking badly?