Deep Dive / Museum Mouth Made Me Love Music Again
BY SAMANTHA WOLFE
I listen to a lot of music. That’s probably pretty obvious. In school, I was the weird kid who ALWAYS has to have at least one headphone in, taking it out only when called out by a teacher, then immediately placing it back in. At some point they usually started to pretend not to notice. This carried on after graduating, always listening, all the time.
At some point, I started to lose my passion for it. I had trouble finding new music that gave me the same feelings I had when listening to Green Day at 13, Panic! At the Disco at 14, All Time Low at 15. Upon turning 20 I gained the ability to objectively reflect on my adolescence (a story for a another time) and I started to realize that I had often used music as a coping mechanism for a time when I felt I had nothing else. I used it as a way to feel falsely superior over people that I felt were somehow beneath me, or just those who would now be referred to as “normies.” These past few years, my love for music has been placed on the back burner as I’ve discovered my love for writing, film, and comedy; love that’s likely always been there, but I never let myself explore, as I truly believed music was all I had.
This all went out the window the first time I listened to Alex, I am Nothing by Museum Mouth for the first time.
Suddenly feelings that I didn’t know I still had came rushing back. I listened to every track, wrote my favorite lyrics down in notebooks, myself, wherever I could, just like I did as a teenager. “I remember, the first time I saw you, I knew you would be important” is the album’s opening lyric. It’s also exactly what happened to me.
The album itself, a 33 minute concept album telling the story of frontman Karl Kuehn, a gay man who meets a straight man named Alex at a party, and falls in and out of love with him over the next ten tracks.
Alex, I am Nothing opens with Alex Impulse, and features some of my favorite lyrics of all time. “You reassured me that I had gold in my bones, said I didn’t deserve to spend my whole life alone. You told me that I was really something… I guess that’s better than nothing?”
From the first seconds of the second track, Drool, which opens with a lightweight guitar riff that transitions into something I might normally refer as “punchy,” but with more listens, every note of music on this album takes on a different feeling as you begin to know what’s about to happen.
This is especially true as the the third track, entitled “Strange,” begins. Every time I hear the first seconds, my heart gets so immeasurably heavy. Because I know what the song is about, I know the feeling of being obsessed with a straight person, and I know the difficulty in having to come to terms with letting the person go. Even though the song doesn’t yet reach that territory, the inevitability of it all is clear. “I’ll try to keep my mind from wandering to thoughts of you and me, specifically the ones between the sheets. Because those are a pipe dream.”
As the album continues, Just Friends appears to be one of the lightest tracks on the record, at least lyrically. Within the story, it’s the point Karl declares the ultimatum: I would rather die inside than spend one more night as just friends.
Handsome and Boring was my first favorite song on the album (these days, I don’t think I can choose.) I think my friends are tired of me performing this song for them. It’s the song that I can burst out in its entirety on a moment’s notice. “He’s so fucking perfect, I’m dreaming or I must be dead.” I’ve never heard a song that makes me feel so seen, not only in its subject matter, but in its general attitude and personality. A point where Karl exclaims “Why am I alive??” somewhat unexpectedly, alongside putting surface level shared interests such as video games and Morrissey on a godlike level: is that just the LGBT+ experience? Anything in common makes the person in question worthy of being your soulmate? I don’t know. I do know that we’ve all been there.
Throughout the next few tracks, the story unfolds into something more tragic as it becomes clear that the relationship between Karl and Alex is destined to fail. “Saltwater” finds Karl melodramatic and self-pitying, “Crocodile” find him frustrated and yearning for something to just work itself out. “Nickels and Dimes” it finally happens, “it” being nothing at all. Because Karl and Alex would’ve never worked anyway, and Karl accepts its. “So what happens now? And what am I doing here?” Karl states, the simplicity of it all cutting deeper with each listen.
On the final track, Alex Decider, Karl is reflective and casual as he goes over the events one more time and seems to move on. “A brief moment of clarity recalls a time and place where you were happy. So you lay it out, weigh the pros and cons. Analyze what you’ve been doing wrong. You find something you like, and then you move on with your life.”
And that is essentially what I love about Alex, I am Nothing. Things didn’t work out the way Karl daydreamed it to be, but the world moves on. So does your life, whether you like it or not.
I initially discovered Alex, I am Nothing after Max Bemis wrote about it in his essay where he announced the end of Say Anything, along his own bisexuality, and cited this record as a massive influence on both his coming out and his album. The appeal, beyond the fact that the music is just genuinely great, is that the story is crafted with enough honestly, enough messiness, and enough humanity that every word spoken cuts into your soul. It shows you that others relate with the things you didn’t know others could relate to. Alex, I am Nothing is an album for the people that have felt weird and different their whole lives, even if they’re really not. But most of all, its a Gay Album. In the words of the wise Kevin Abstract, “This is a gays only event. Go home.”