Lance frowned. “Nope. I don’t get it.” The music sounded flat, drained, an odd form of experimental disco.
“That’s OK. No problem. We’ll just back up. Sex Pistols?”
“I’ve heard of them. I’ve never actually listened to them.”
“Obviously, you’ve had a deeply deprived upbringing.”
LaCoss embarked on a crash course. He plucked twenty albums from the mystery crates, explaining that he was starting from the very beginning, the point of conception, with the Ramones. Static issued from the speakers, then wild hyperactive music roared in Lance’s ears, startling him. He knew in a loose passing way that the Ramones had biker jackets that were too small, mop top hair, and an unmentionable frog man on lead vocals. Corporate powers had deemed them unworthy of radio play. The song was crunchy from LaCoss listening to it every morning for the past three years. Lance fixed his gaze on Sophia Loren on the far wall, let his arms hang to the floor and let go. Then their brilliance sunk in: they had stripped rock down to the raw stuff; they were The Crickets, post plane crash, taking up secret drug habits behind the auditorium after a sock hop. The song “I Wanna Be Sedated” blasted, and a feeling of liberation swept through him like realizing some good news he’d been trying to remember for days. A euphoric smile dented the upper reaches of his cheeks. he imagined taping LaCoss’s collection, the hours of blissful discovery, a new soundtrack to his life. LaCoss cracked the volume to eight, the loudest setting possible on the Krako. Then he sprung into the air repeatedly like a human pogo stick. He pounded straight arms against his sides and thrashed around unpredictably, twisting with seizure-like intensity; he knocked over his chair and bounced against a wall.
Lance gripped his chair, alarmed. Then he laughed and howled in camaraderie. He jumped into the air also, thrashing, jumping, happily possessed by the music, inhabiting a new body, until he was out of breath and the song ended. With other songs they headbanged to the beat and shook their fists, Lance accentuating a satisfying guitar lick with air licks of his own. How had this musical category been missed? Where had he been?
He was deprived, but resolved to make up for it with strict focus.
LaCoss covered the rest of the New York punk scene, playing Television, putting special emphasis on Richard Hell and The Voidoids. These brave souls cross-pollinated with Brits to produce the Sex Pistols, Gang of Four and The Clash (who Lance was perfectly well aware of; I mean, come on). Crunching guitars filled desolate landscapes. Inexperienced fingers rattled and twanged in guitar wires. The voices were scratched, imperfect, though earnest. They told tales of warped joy, of embracing one’s torment — an emotion Lance well understood — and taking ownership of it. He ran his fingers over the nubby edges of albums, read liner notes and looked at washed-out backstage photographs: the band in some trashy poorly lit backstage dungeon. They didn’t care about their unsightly t-shirts, about their sneering faces or self-imposed wounds, maybe nothing at all, save their music. The songs were rocky, crude, as if recorded in dank alleyways using abused equipment. He took in these sounds hungrily, astonished, moved by their power and relentless rage. Lance dropped his eyebrows low, concentrating: it had never occurred to him to rage against society, that there were reasons to spew frustration about the status quo or scream obscenities into a microphone, so the feeling was unfamiliar. But not completely.—page 35, The Pursuit of Cool