rewind: Messages - To My Boy
rewind takes you back to a previously released album that we don't want you to miss.
words: Matt Latham
Communication is a giant oxymoronic concept with multiple sides to it. It's a vital skill you need to do anything at all in life, yet it can also be the hardest thing to master. There are several ways to communicate with each other, and some people are better at certain ways than others. But here lies the complexity: you have to deal with people with completely different levels of communication skills. Not only that, you then factor in their personality and interests and by the time you've initiated conversation you regret it and want to hide in a ball forever.
Then the internet happened. A world of people similar to yourself that you talk to and engage with. There's less anxiety as you can think before you speak. You can craft your communication the way you want to. You then prefer this way to normal speech. You find it easier to write emails, texts and messages to other people. You can say what you can't in real life. But is this to the detriment to ongoing social development?
Questions such as this are asked by To My Boy in their 2007 debut Messages. A hybrid of distorted indie and synthpop surrounding a concept album on communication. A theme that's still just as relevant now, a decade later. One half mirrors the late 00s post fuzzy indie phase blending in a lot of synth-pop reminiscent of The Human League. Dueling musical styles blend alongside the theme of this contrasting nature of communication. It’s very much expanding on the indie-synth hybrid that The Killers were doing a few years previously.
Technology plays a big part in many of the metaphors throughout the album - using them to describe humanity. "Tell Me Computer", the album’s opener sees the song’s protagonist repeat the questions that the album will ask: “who am I and are you helping”? The song is a poetic way of describing the process of using Google to ask whether you’re “normal”.
"Eureka" is about that quest for the epiphany you’ve been searching for, while "Outerregions " details existing on edge of society but finding those with similar niche interests. The process of interaction continues throughout as interacting with strangers or new friends becomes more apparent. The album even starts to criticize this method of thinking in In The Zone with a denial that everything is alright. But in the album highlight "Talk", the message (pun intended) is clear: yes the lines of communication on screen may not fully be social interaction in person: but it’s still interaction. This was 2007 - so the concept of “stranger danger” was high on the agenda. Ten years later, and the idea of that is more apparent - but friendships and romances have started via the internet. People have become friends offline - so to write this off is ludicrous. That’s the message (sorry) the song continues to provide.
The album then continues to explore these themes of online communication with "I Am X-Ray". "The Grid" that explores the feelings of self-doubt of human interaction and again links it to technology, “telling you how to find your place”. Leading to the epic closer "Fear of Fragility" that sums up the main theme: fear of being broken and not being able to deal with the bad things life throws and informing of the decisions people make to find happiness.
To My Boy released another album The Habitable Zone in 2010 which was more ambient and varied in its topics it covered - but the band has seemingly vanished from existence. If you’ve ever connected with similar minded people online there’s something in this album that you’ll relate to. If you’ve struggled with that whole concept of “being social” this album will speak to you.