Youth Lagoon- “Montana” Music Video: A Perspective on 9/11?

I’ll start off by adamantly declaring that this is my personal opinion, and I am using the music video as a vehicle for my analysis and interpretation.

For the past week, wherever you look,  there’s a reference towards 9/11. A feature on the heroic first responders on NBC nightly news. Yahoo front page recalling the top 25 iconic photos of that day. The conspiracy theorists coming out of their caves (seriously, fuck them). Of course, there’s also the aftermath (Two wars in the Middle East). Tomorrow is the tenth year anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center (and the Pentagon). What I am trying to say is that tomorrow is the day in which the past and the present aren’t as distinguishable from one another as they usually are.

In the New York Times, Michiko Kakutani  wrote that after 9/11 “There was… an outpouring of art, like Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising,” Neil Young’s “Let’s Roll”… Such works served useful purposes — cathartic commemoration, therapeutic expression, public rallying — but in retrospect, many of them now feel sentimental or heavy-handed… Some critics have argued that not enough time has passed for artists to gain sufficient perspective on 9/11. Tolstoy, after all, wrote about Napoleon’s invasion of Russia more than 50 years later; in this respect, it may be decades before larger narratives (concerning American vulnerability and American decline) surface as animating ideas in ambitious works of art. Then again, Picasso created “Guernica” in 1937, only weeks after the savage bombing of that town during the Spanish Civil War.” Of course, the question is, where in the spectrum does 9/11 fall into? In the story, a very interesting point was raised: “How does one bend art forms more often used for entertainment or artistic expression toward the capturing of history?”

Naturally I wanted to see if there was any news in the music world that may reflect this situation, and I’ve found the perfect thing. I posted about Youth Lagoon’s “Montana” a few weeks ago, but I just came across the recently released music video. In terms of the style technique, the video is combining a then and now time frame, where you first see a middle aged man sitting despondently on the front steps of a house. Then the video then cuts to a young boy walking through the woods with his baseball bat and glove (is there anything more iconic, more American thing than that? The image of the young boy playing ball?). As the video cuts back to the man rolling out a 1950s (?) looking red car, at the 0:41 mark there shows a view of a soldier in his green uniform in the rear mirror, which introduces another element towards the story. It shows the soldier with his wife, standing in front of that red car…with the young boy seen earlier in the video. The man and the boy are the same, and the video becomes clear that this story is about the past and present, and how sometimes they mix with one another. At the 1:10 mark, the man looks over to the steps he was just sitting at and recalls the memory of him as a young boy crying while his mother comforts him. Noticeably the father is absent, and there’s the first implication of some form of loss, considering that the dad is a soldier.  Sure enough the next few seconds showcase the father’s last tender moments with his family before shipping out (including a beautiful shot of him in his field gear walking along the forest trail with his sun as the sun goes down 1:17 mark).

From there the video splits into three distinct storylines, the story of the father fighting in war (in a very distinctive video choice of having him patrol alone), the story of the young boy, and of course the story of the man in the modern time. I got shivers from watching the video,  watch the video carefully starting at the 1:52 mark, with each note of the piano chord, the video cuts to a different camera shot, as multiple story lines interweave with one another.  I think that’s a very important element of the video in that although it appears as if it’s a jumbled mess with all those different timeframes, I think it’s very fitting. After all, is tomorrow not  the symbolic intertwining of both the past and the present? There’s this particularly powerful series of moments in which the video shows the mother looking at the father watch his son swing the bat, a few moments later there’s a scene of the family happily walking along, later juxtaposed with the gray, somber interior where the man in the present age works now. As the song starts hitting the last two minutes, the momentum of the song is absolutely amazing, and combined with the visuals, it’s breath taking. You have beautiful shots of the forest interspersed between time frames, it just becomes a gorgeous depiction of quiet isolation and peace. You have all the range of emotions: Despair, grief, pent up frustration and anger, and eventually in the last minute… quiet acceptance and serenity. The final seconds of the video shows the son getting the approval from his father to burn the photo album, the final vestige of that period. As the album burns, the man is left to consider what’s left, as he appears to make peace with the past. In that moment, it’s just him by himself. Incredible.

Tomorrow will be a day for remembrance, but as the video seems to suggest that… nah we’ll leave it at that. Peace in everyone’s hearts tomorrow.

Youth Lagoon “Montana”

Read the New York Times article on 9/11 and its impact on the artist world.

Read my earlier post about Youth Lagoon.

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