When I first saw that The Front Bottoms had made a music video for “2YL,” I was stoked. I immediately watched it.
And then I watched it like five more times.
Their music video are known to be quirky and simple. Although sometimes what appears “simple” has more layers and effort involved than you’d think. “2YL” is presented similarly to their music video for “Laugh Till I Cry.” In both videos, TFB are doing pretty simple stuff–sitting around in “Laugh Till I Cry” and playing instruments/ mucking around in “2YL.” In the background, the “real” music video plays on a screen. While the use of these added layers and the intentional distance from the “real” narrative are interesting to examine, “2YL” drew me in for a completely different reason.
It felt like a metaphor for my post grad life.
The first verse is about sex, and the whole song is about a relationship’s redemptive qualities (“cause I am numb / numb to the feeling / looking for that sexual healing,” “I could fight the rain clouds in your life,” “smashing bottles and stepping on glass / has never felt so good in the past,” “I’m only human with my flaws / just a fool without a cause,” “I could be the rainbow in the sky / shooting stars above your every night”).
I don’t know what you’ve been told, but people tend to paint your twenties as an era of sex and romance. College hook-up culture! Casual dating! Meet your soul mate! Marriage by thirty! If you don’t believe me, just look at the latest literature category, New Adult, and see that narratives for twentysomethings are pretty heavy on sex and romance being a BIG part of that stage of life.
That’s great and I adore this song for so many reasons, but the notion that sex and romance are a big chunk of the twentysomething experience really bothers me. There is so much else to learn and do, that exploring your sexuality and trying to find a decent date can feel burdensome when figuring out how to make friends in this new phase of life seems impossible. And what if you’re perfectly content on your own? Where’s the novel about getting a job or filing taxes or doing a lot of super boring adult stuff?
This song is society’s idea of your twenties. It’s sexy and romantic, full of flawed people (not too flawed, though, because crippling anxiety and depressive episodes are totally NOT sexy). The whole story and endgame is the perfect relationship, finding your soul mate.
Cool, but there’s so much else to do.
The Video Projected in the Background
Similar to the song, the video is the narrative that you’re expected to experience during this phase of life. Sure, statistics show people are putting off marriage and kids, but that doesn’t stop your grandma from asking if your dating anyone or if you and your partner are going to get married.
And it’s in the background of this video, like a reminder of the life you should be striving for. The story your character would totally be living if you were in a book or movie.
It’s the expectation that presses down on every twentysomething at some point, whispering, Aren’t you forgetting something? And it’s also the viewer’s expectation to have a narrative like this paired with a song like “2YL.”
But, reader, this is The Front Bottoms.
The Actual Video
What plays out before us starts with the band play their instruments as they would on stage and as you’d expect them to perform in a music video. Sort of like working a job you’d expect based on the college degree you have.
But alas, post grad life is about exploration and learning about yourself and your interests! So Brian sets down his guitar and gives percussion a try with those shakers. But they don’t seem to be his thing, as he returns to the guitar. His return is a bit scrambled too as he doesn’t have time to put the strap on.
The bassist, Tom, also feels the urge to try something new and swaps jobs with Ciaran. Tom’s playing the keys and Ciaran’s running his hands all over the bass’ neck.
Tom returns to his bassist duties just as Ciaran disappears behind a curtain and Brian leaves on a bike. We’ve all lost contact with friends, whether because they just lose interest in our lives or they’re so far away that keeping in touch can be difficult. And the vacancy can be hard to ignore and confusing at first.
But friends return, sometimes as totally different people. Just like Brian returns on his bike and starts playing the keyboard. Those reunions can be weird–“it’s you, but it’s not you” kind of moments.
And sometimes those friends who’ve fallen off the face of the earth (or at least your little piece of it) come back in blazing glory, kicking over chairs and all, just as Ciaran does. Their return can be just when you need it too. Sudden thoughts of “I should text them and see how they’re doing” met with a text from that very person.
There’s plenty of times too where you shirk your adult responsibilities and major roles in society to have a drink or do something on a smaller scale that’s still meaningful. Tom wanders a bit with a beer in hand, pulling the curtain back to reveal Ciaran. Brian sits at the bar drinking. Sometimes you need to sit back and take it all in. Even if the moment you’re in the middle of is a bit chaotic.
Sometimes it’s hard to find your place in this zoo called life. Tom returns the guitar to Ciaran and Brian grabs Tom’s bass before he has a chance. So Tom wanders for a bit before trying something new–Brian’s acoustic guitar.
Eventually, everyone finds their way back, more or less, to how they started. It’s like when you and your college friends reunite. It’s so easy to slip into each other’s lives again because the comfortableness is instantaneous. It feels like old times, but it isn’t, because you’ve all experienced and done so much sense you were last together.
And as TFB departs at the end of the video, so will we all from this era of our lives.
I know I’m probably reading too deeply or projecting too much of my own experiences onto this, but it’s all perspective. Besides, the album this song appears on is very much about growing up and settling into adulthood. “Laugh Till I Cry” is a prime example of that realization that growing up is inevitable and there will come a point when you don’t long to party your days away.
So what are your thoughts on this music video?