songs you don’t know: Guster, “Parachute”

15 Jul



(also published on

There we stand about to fly

Peeking down over land,

Parachute behind

What was that moment for which we lived

Without a parachute about to dive?

It’s a warm, misty night in Wellesley, MA, July 1995. The campus has been hijacked by hundreds of geeky, freaky, smart, talented teenaged misfits from all over the globe. The girls all seem to be brilliant and beautiful and Jewish and from New Jersey. The boys all seem to be dorky and funny and from everywhere. I’m from about an hour north. My roommate, Sharfie, is from the DC area. My new best friends are from Wisconsin and California and North Carolina and Rhode Island, and by the end of the three-week session I will have a collection of awkwardly scrawled phone numbers and achingly sincere promises to write.

Found myself convincing

Blindly falling faster

Tonight, though, there’s some band playing. Yes, it’s an educational summer arts/sciences camp, known to those in the know as Explo (or, to the optimistic kid from Philly I sometimes eat breakfast with, “Sexplo,”) but that doesn’t mean we don’t know how to get down. Earlier this week, there was a neo-Luddite demonstration on the quad, where some counselors smashed televisions and toasters in a tongue-in-cheek act of rebellion. Someone’s always finger painting or jamming, poetry slamming, multicultural cramming into nooks and branches of trees where pilgrims hands meet pilgrims kiss. Also, there was Ultimate Frisbee.

How easy

Know the place I am leaving
And the rest is just gone

This band that’s playing tonight, they’ve just had to change their name. Like, last week. Their merchandise still has their old name – Gus – all over it. Their CDs and posters still have the name, so grab one while you can, kids, these guys are going places, those things will be worth something some day. There are Gus stickers all around campus from last week when they played, under their original name. I think they’re students at Tufts or something, friends of one of the counselors, and that’s how they got the gig here.

How much strength does it take

For Exploration for split decision

Or are you stronger to remain

I watch them set up, and they’ve got bongos. One of my friends asks if I want to go do something else, and we head off to do that for a while, and I haven’t the faintest idea what we did. Probably had something to do with an RPG, which I never really was into before, but thought I might give it a go this summer. I come back down to the Quad, in my tie dyed shirt and my pale, paint splattered denim shorts and my Tevas, my gimp lanyard nametag around my neck, and they’re playing “Down In It” by Nine Inch Nails. On acoustic guitars. With bongos.

I hang around, watching the band, watching the people move. The cute girl from North Carolina with the Daleks shirt is dancing and she seems happy. Incredibly happy. She was normally quite shy, and a little melancholy, but she’s having a really good time tonight. People are dancing like mad to this band, running to the merch table and scooping up posters and CDs. At the end of the night, I will somehow acquire their set list, scrawled on the back of a tour poster, with their original name on the front. One of the guys in the band will even sign it and draw a picture of Super Gerbil for me. Don’t ask.

Crept up on me

Ignored all my pleas

Begging to leave

Justice to name me fell out of the sky

Then they play the title track from their album. It’s called “Parachute.” It is the most beautiful, most perfect, most moving and amazing song I have ever heard ever in a thousand years (or, more accurately, fifteen.) It seems to swirl and ebb and flow and go on forever and ever and it’s amazing and I stand there, nodding my head awkwardly, and I see a friend of mine and we spin around in the New England mist until we fall down dizzy and we lie on the ground and look up at the stars and it’s magic. We can hardly breathe from the laughter and the exhilaration and it’s magic.

Ceasing to be

Without a reply

Gravity fails me

I didn’t buy the album that night. I’m not sure why. I wound up getting it after Christmas that year, at the Newbury Comics in Harvard Square (back when Newbury Comics was a very exciting and urban place to go, mind you), and the first song I listened to was, of course, “Parachute.” And then the rest of the album. And “Parachute” again. By this point, it was freezing cold and one of the snowiest winters I had seen and my room had two exposed walls and a busted heater. I was wrapped in a cocoon of blankets with my headphones while an electric Christmas candle burned white in the window, and I thought about my friends who I missed from the summer, and how quiet the outside was, and how I was going to see my friends from home at Julie’s New Years party the next night. It was melancholy and peaceful and heart-wrenchingly melodramatic, like all the best teenage musical experiences are.

And when I awoke

I knew what was real

Hope to convince you

With lies they all torture me

Nowadays, I listen to Parachute and I think about how Gus(ter)’s song writing really improved in the twelve years since its release. Back then, you could tell they were starry-eyed college boys trying to sound deep by talking about how nothing was everything to them, whereas nowadays their best songs strip away the sentimental and tell you that this time, you’re not homecoming king. “Parachute” itself, though, is one of those perfect songs. The way it sounds on the record, the way it sounds when performed live, sounds at once like a lullaby and a call to arms, a love song and a suicide anthem. It sounds like a slow, steady, trust fall into the arms of a lover or friend, stretched out over six minutes. It’s about taking risks and leaving home and life meaning nothing if you’re afraid to fall. It’s exactly the sort of thing I needed to hear when I was fifteen years old. It’s exactly the sort of thing I need to hear right now.

Open the door

Knew it was me

Finally realize

Parachute over me.


Posted by on July 15, 2007 in music, nostalgia, songs you don't know


Tags: , , , , , ,

3 responses to “songs you don’t know: Guster, “Parachute”

  1. beth

    July 15, 2007 at 8:01 am

    *slow applause*

  2. Bill D.

    July 15, 2007 at 8:45 am

    I hate to begin anything following a piece like this with the word “dude,” but… Dude! This was amazing. Quite possibly the best thing I’ve read from you yet. At least my favorite, anyway. Well-played, sir.

    And Explo sounds exactly like the sort of thing I would’ve loved when I was younger, as well as the sort of thing my parents would balk at for being too expensive and too far from home (read: too far from their ever-watchful eyes), and they’d sign me up instead for some summer sports thing with all the kids from school I hated so I could be home and “safe.” But I’m not bitter! Okay, a little.

  3. Lauryn

    July 15, 2007 at 3:31 pm

    Mmm…well, speaking as the then-“new best friend from Rhode Island,” I have to agree completely with your take on this song and the memories/feelings it evokes….whenever I listen to it I get totally caught up in it and it’s sort of a transcendent thing…

    And maybe *I’m* goofy and sentimental, but reading what you wrote also was really evocative of that hazy July night almost exactly 12 years ago, and really made me feel like I was back there…God, were we ever so young? It was the perfect reminiscence of a perfect moment.

    Here I am, on the cusp of turning 30 next year, and you made me feel I was 17 again (in a really good way)…thanks for that, little brother….

    Now, before I devolve into hopeless sentimentality (perhaps it’s too late for that!), I’m gonna shut up and go play my copy of “Parachute.”



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