In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week, we’re picking songs about living in the city.
For a kid who spent the bulk of his life living in suburbia, a move to the city felt like a total change in lifestyle. While I had a working familiarity of Chicago—due in part to constant trips to shows, record stores, and the like—there was an equal mix of excitement and worry built up inside of me by the time I made the decision to leave the comfort of Northwest Indiana and take root in its neighboring metropolis. That move was largely uneventful, but the adjustment period that followed made me confront head-on how I fit, and perhaps where I fit, into the grander scheme of the city itself.
As I adjusted to my new routines I was troubled by the fact that, in a city of millions, it’s occasionally hard to feel like your presence makes a difference. It’s a struggle to be dropped into a new community and both respect its past while also trying to find a place within it. It’s a search for relation through trips to coffee shops and bars in the hope that they can be turned into places that feel safe and warm, and it’s those exact feelings that made me turn ever more to Bridge And Tunnel. The New York City post-hardcore band took a jab at itself—and the fact its members had previously called various locales home—by adopting a term of derision for commuters to New York City as its band name. A fitting moniker for a band that so routinely dealt with the often overlooked political underpinnings for city life.
“Call To The Comptroller’s Office” from 2008’s East/West serves, at least partially, as a follow-up to “Location, Location, Location” from the band’s four-song demo. Where “Location” tackled the issue of gentrification, “Call To The Comptroller’s Office” takes a more personal look at struggling to feel at home in place that houses countless others. Vocalists Jeff Cunningham and Rachel Rubino shout in harmony about the struggles of relating to others in a city that can feel cold and desolate when they pine, “Don’t ever let these bright lights / Or bustling feet / Make us feel small again,” a nicer take on Cunningham’s earlier comparison of New York being the “biggest fucking pothole” he’d ever seen.
By the song’s end, Bridge And Tunnel finds a way to resolve its struggles with city life by embracing the small gestures that can make it feel manageable. Ending with an affirmation, Cunningham powerfully bellows, “We can build something greater / Than the tallest building in the city,” becoming a call to plant one’s feet and let roots grow however wildly they may, knowing that eventually they’ll bloom.