On Saturday I spent the bulk of my afternoon in downtown Montreal, and for about 4 hours I was not only shopping, but also revisiting AUSTRA‘s mindblowing new album Feel It Break. For 2 of those hours I kept pressing repeat on one of the most incredible tracks on the album, “The Beast”, and with each and every listen my mind was overwhelmed with memories of what unfolded on September 11, 2011. My skills as a writer are far too inadequate to ever penetrate the surface or approach the scale of the infamous events that erupted ten years ago today, which is all the more reason that I find myself clinging to the words of artists far more gifted than myself — such as AUSTRA — in order to navigate myself through the profoundly emotional waters that make up our world’s collective memory of 9/11. While listening to “The Beast” yesterday, the words and music resonated so intensely with my mind’s churning thoughts of September 11th that at one point I found myself inside of the Hugo Boss store on Crescent Street wiping tears from my face. A woman who worked there took notice and asked me if I was OK, and it was at this moment that I realized just how deep this song had taken me.
There lyrics are structured on two repetitions of the following stanza: “The morning that I was born again, I was made into a beast. Am I free now, am I at peace? Is that the ground below me, or your feet?” The words sent my mind shifting alternately between images of the men and women who jumped from the World Trade Center in order to escape the smoke and vicious heat, as well America herself and her head-first dive into an ocean of fear, sadness, and rage. The United States was in many ways born again that morning, and even though she is quite possibly a “safer” country, she is most certainly not as free as she was before The Beast reared his evil head on that devastating day and brought Lady Liberty to her knees. She is slowly but surely rising out of the ashes of this tragedy, and has made it painfully clear to us that Freedom is most certainly not free. Just as there are things in this world that are worth living for, there are things worth dying for as well.
Listen to AUSTRA’s haunting and powerful song “The Beast” as loud as you possibly can (i.e. laptop speakers are not an option here), and take a few minutes to shut down everything that is going on in your life in order to reflect on one of the darkest days in modern history. As Christopher Hitchens once wrote, “Here we are then, in a war to the finish between everything I love and everything I hate. Fine. We will win and they will lose. A pity that we let them pick the time and place of the challenge, but we can and we will make up for that.” To learn more about AUSTRA’s music be sure to visit AUSTRAmusic.com.
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