Radioactivity: “The Last” (from their self-titled record, Dirtnap Records 2013)
If you read last week’s newsletter or keep a close eye on our social media, you might know that my friend and bandmate Osamu Sueyoshi passed away. This past week I helped choose some music for his memorial service. I needed about five minutes of music to go along with a photo slideshow. We knew we wanted a No Love song, and we ended up choosing “Dear Mrs. Nelson” from our demo because that’s the only No Love song for which Osamu wrote the words and the music. Osamu wrote the lyrics when he noticed the host of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 (one of his favorite shows) was wearing a wedding band, so he wrote a love song about missing your wife while stranded with a bunch of robots watching movies. It’s pretty clever. No Love had long since disowned our demo-era material (we even turned off the tracks on our bandcamp page) because the band changed a lot after that period, moving away from pop-punk and more toward the punky, song-oriented hardcore where we ended up. I was a little nervous bout revisiting that material, but it surprised me how good it sounded. Osamu was a brilliant musician, and he wrote a perfect little pop song with a guitar hook at the beginning and a key change in the bridge. I even thought the recording sounded pretty good. It’s one of the last things I recorded myself, because by then other people like Jeff had gotten way better at recording than I was ever going to be.
Aside from the No Love song, I needed another track to fill up the five minutes, and I knew immediately that it was going to be “The Last” by Radioactivity. Radioactivity was an important band for No Love. We were all huge fans of the Marked Men, and when this record came out we were all playing it a lot. “The Last” is one of the standout tracks, and I remember whenever Radioactivity would come up, Osamu would just say “The Last” and look down and shake his head, like it astonished him that a song could be that good. Further, some of No Love’s last out of town shows were with Radioactivity and Night Birds, and that little weekend tour was hugely important to all of us (eternal thanks to Brian from Night Birds for inviting us!). I listened to a bunch of other potential songs, but doing so only made it clear how perfect “The Last” was. My partner Jet, who put together the slideshow, would burst into tears every time it played, which definitely slowed down the editing process.
Listening to “The Last” so much last week made me realize that I close myself off to letting music move me on an emotional level, which is strange because that’s the most important part of music for so many other people. I listen to so much music for Sorry State that I’ve developed this habit of checking something out, giving it enough attention to understand it on some level and slot it into (or outside or in between) a category, and then moving onto the next thing. When I listen to things over and over, it’s usually because the music is more complex or unfamiliar to me in a way that makes understanding it on that intellectual level more challenging.
However, “The Last” isn’t like that at all. It’s pure emotion and it hits me right in the gut every time. It’s so evocative that I don’t have time to think about the chord structure or how it fits in with the history of Texas punk or garage-punk or pop-punk. I just hear it and feel it. And now that I will forever associate that song with Osamu, its emotional resonance only grows stronger. More than just a piece of music, it’s like a celestial ringtone that I can use to call him any time I want.