The reason I started Slept On is because a lot of shit that I like never gets paid attention to. Sam doesn’t have that problem. He has incredibly prescient taste, some combination of critic, superfan and swami, music he likes often first seems obscure because the artist only has three songs they recorded in a trash can in Saskatchewan. And then later they are Animal Collective or they are Drake or they are some enormous, impenetrable force unimaginable as anything other than universally beloved. But occasionally things don’t totally hit and this is one of them. With his guest post, Sam Hockley-Smith is here to sway you as he done us so many times before. — Matthew Schnipper
Pure X, “Please Don’t Leave”
Last summer was the hottest summer I can remember. I lived in a first floor apartment and my bedroom had only one long, narrow window like the kind you see on the turrets of a castle. I didn’t have an air conditioner so I kept it open all the time, laying on top of my bed and sweating. Mostly, I would just think about how it was hot. Sometimes I would watch TV on my computer so I would stop thinking about heat. I saw something about a penguin that wore a backpack and went shopping around Japan. People fed it and sprayed it with water so it didn’t die because it really, really was not supposed to be wandering the hot city streets with a tiny backpack. Other than those two things, I mostly listened to “Please Don’t Leave” by Pure Ecstasy. Due to legal issues they are now called Pure X.
“Please Don’t Leave” is a song with a singular direction. Singer Nate Grace barely says anything other than Please don’t leave, over and over. The drums shuffle, the guitar drifts and he moans. Tape hiss is the most dominant element of the whole song, but I can’t tell if it’s supposed to be like that or if I have a bad MP3 recording of a cassette I never owned. All of Grace’s emotion is devoted to one sentiment: Please don’t leave, don’t leave me now, I’m down on my knees…etc. The word “leave” is the entire song. The dominant idea. The rest? You can fill in the blanks.
I don’t actually remember this, but apparently when I was little I went to Toys ‘R’ Us for the first time and immediately started crying because there was too much there. I wanted everything and probably wasn’t going to get any of it. The feeling lasted five seconds before I was over it, but right then I couldn’t cope. As an adult, not getting what you want runs much deeper. You can’t have a cathartic tantrum—or you can, but it would probably result in jail time or at the very least an awkward conversation about why you were screaming in the middle of the street. Instead, you try to find a solution. When there isn’t one, it feels worse. We’re conditioned to believe we can do anything, and when we can’t, if it’s a heavy enough situation, it’s brutal and crushing.
“Please Don’t Leave” is that brutal moment. It’s not a clever or nuanced song. It just is. It’s not something you can play for someone else. Even writing about it feels weird. You can’t put it on at a party and can’t really play it on the radio. You have to just arrive at it. It’s a hermetically sealed song.
I ended up getting an air conditioner eventually. It was too late to actually use it, and I’d already discarded any remains of the bizarre, fucked up pride I had from making it through months of ludicrous humidity with nothing but a faint breeze and unnecessary tenacity. This song is forever connected to a lot of personal moments during that period. When I come back to it, I miss the gummy intake of breath at 4AM in my sauna of a bedroom and nothing else. All that other stuff is too far away.