Bob "I See Rainbows" Boilen, resident enigma at NPR Music.
Is it just me, or did anyone else notice that Bob Boilen, in his post yesterday about tunes to get you through your teens, picked one of the most horrifying album covers of all time as an example of something that calmed his nerves as a kid? He said he kept the artwork for King Crimson's In the Court of the Crimson King by his bed and stared at it every morning and night, and that the hellishly red image of a man screaming in abject terror "grounded" him.
Seriously? If that was the last thing I saw before turning out the lights, I never would have slept, or would have at least had nightmares.
When I asked Bob about it, he said that angry or high-octane music was cathartic. That is, when he was wound up about something (which, knowing him, was probably an all-day, all-night kind of thing), an image like the one of the screaming man, and music that sounded like that artwork, helped Bob purge whatever was keeping him up at night. He couldn't believe I'd never experienced the same thing.
As a teen, the tranquil tones of Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here helped me redock at the mother ship. These days, I'd reach for Bon Iver or Elliott Smith. In Bob's case, it seems like he's trying to put out the fire by listening to fire, which is sort of like someone eating cake to lose weight — or my friend Murray, who drinks two cups of coffee and smokes a cigarette just before going to bed so he can sleep better.
How about you? What do you need to listen to when:
— You return home after spending yet another day in the unrelenting hellscape that is your job?
— You've just had a particularly explosive argument with your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner/spouse?
— You're crushing it at the gym?
— You think no one likes you at school, you're failing algebra, your older sibling won't stop harassing you, and that zit on your forehead makes you look like a cyclops?
— You've just had the single greatest day of your life?
Come to think of it, even though I put together a heart-pounding mix of songs to work out to, the truth is, I usually listen to Sparklehorse or some other mopey music when I'm at the gym. Go figure.