My friends used to always say—in that I’m-a-good-American-because-I-hate-America kind of way—that the English language is such an ugly-sounding language. That it’s not pretty in any way like, say, French or Spanish. That it has no romance, no I-don’t-know-what. And like a good bohemian, I agreed with them.
Well, The Beta Band changed all that. Silly friends—haven’t they heard the way the English language rolls out into the street like a perfectly maintained import from 1993 with stuffed animals in the window? When they speak quickly, perhaps they do not realize that they sound like fish popping up to eat mosquitoes from off the top of the water. Oh friends. I want you to hear the beauty of you speaking softly to yourself as you prepare food.
And if there are those who speak the English language better than other people, the lead singer of The Beta Band would not be one of them. No. His enunciation is okay, like if you were hanging out with him and you leaned in close, and he spoke fervently about something that mattered to him, you wouldn’t miss a beat. But there’s something in his speech that makes you aware of it, that the speech itself is just a beautiful thing.
On track five of The Three Eps, “Inner Meet Me,” I am compelled to it like this, imagine it: At a crosswalk, he is standing in front and to the left of me. I press the button again, and notice that he is singing to himself. Not so much singing; it’s more like speaking to himself, and he’s humming while he’s speaking. And it’s not particularly tuneful, nor spirited, but I have to resist the urge to stand right next to him. And as we cross the street, he starts to speed up, and I start to speed up, and I seriously consider maybe following him for a couple extra blocks past my house so I can listen to him mutter and hum. But I suspect he’d eventually notice me pacing him and leaning in. And at the point where I have to decide whether I’m going to follow him or go into my house and eat bread and pesto, I go into my house, but I can’t stop thinking about his speech patterns.
And so as I eat teaspoons of Nutella (after the bread and pesto), I imagine that he’s on his way to my house, and I’m his old friend from his second job, and he’s just coming over to tell me about his day so far, because I live so close by and it’s better than going back to an empty house. And that’s just the way he talks, he hums, and when he gets excited, the rhythm becomes really apparent and he evinces a heavy lilt. And I’m just listening, and I sort of nod my head when he says something really right on.
And the things he says, it’s like he’s saying two things at the same time. He’s telling me what happened, but the way he says it is how he feels. I mean, I’ve known him for a while, and I understand it by now. A stranger might think he’s a really boring and repetitive conversationalist, but he has some real insights and he’s driving points home. But you have to catch it, and I do, and that’s why he comes to see me after work. It’s okay; he doesn’t mind if I do chores, and sometimes we do them together. And maybe sometimes I’ll give him advice, but he’s not really the sort that takes it, you know? He’ll just mutter and hum his way through life, and I’ll see him after work, and he’ll tell me about his morning.