16. “New Damage,” Soundgarden

This song is the soundtrack to a novel. (“Um… duh, novels don’t have sound.”) Very astute of you, Imaginary Reader. (For some reason, Imaginary Reader sounds like a cranky Valley girl, which, I assure you, is no reflection on you, Real Reader. That’s just her voice. I have no control over it.)

My apologies for the interruption and ensuing parenthetical tangent. Yes, Imaginary Reader is correct, novels don’t have sound. But they do if you’re listening to music while reading the novel. This song, for me, is the soundtrack to the immortal (get it?) Dracula by Bram Stoker.

(“That book is so 19th Century. Ew. And what’s the deal with Keanu’s accent?”)

I’ll say this for you, Imaginary Reader, you know your timelines of English literature.

I was listening to this album, Badmotorfinger, a lot the first time I read that book, but somehow this is the song I most associate with the book. I hear that opening, screeching lick and I’m instantly transported to Carpathian precipices, I can feel the vein-vicing tension of Stoker’s words, I can see the Count climbing down the walls of his castle, I can smell the cold mountain air mixed with the ancient musk of immortality. (“That doesn’t even mean anything.” Thank you, Imaginary Reader. Let’s just call it a line from the vampire novel I’ll never write.) There’s something wilting about this song, in that descending bass line, like a vampire stuck outside at dawn.

I first read Dracula over the summer between my second and third years of university. Prior to that, I found reading to be kind of a chore for the most part. (“No kidding.”) It was something I had to do for school. (“Ew.”) Which is a weird admission for someone who was starting to become infatuated with writing his own stuff. Very occasionally I’d read some sort of comic fantasy novel over the summer, but that was about it. But Drac sucked me in. (“Is that supposed to be some kind of joke?”) It made me a reader. I looked forward to just about every book I had to read in school the next year. And rather than taking a whole summer to read a book, I was able to read a book over the course of a week or so — and enjoy doing it. (“Looo-ser.”) And I’ve loved to read ever since… I just don’t have quite as much time to do it anymore.

Soundgarden first came at me that spring, the spring of ’94, when Superunknown came out. I was a little late to the party, I know. (“Um, no. Fashionably late is the new on time. Lame. I show up an hour early.”) It was their fourth album, then I went back and got their third, Badmotorfinger, in the summer. There was a darkness to their music (“What are you, goth or something?”) thanks to their alternate tunings and unconventional time signatures, that really put me under its spell, not unlike Drac — both the novel and the Count himself. It was so heavy, thanks to those thick guitar riffs and powerful, unique rhythm section. These were amazing musicians making music that was alive, music that bled. (“Bled? Is that another Dracula joke?”) Then there was Chris Cornell’s voice. Pure power. Pure control, piercing through. (“Piercing? Ugh.” *eye roll*)

Okay, it seems like Imaginary Reader is getting particularly irritable, so I’ll leave it at that. The moral of our story? Just as music enhances life, it can also enhance fiction. (“Get over yourself.”)

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