Review: Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield

“And you’re the kind of girl I like because you’re empty and I’m empty and you can never quarantine the past.”

This review is a mix tape.

Love is a Mix Tape

Rob Sheffield writes about music and memories through songs recorded on cassette tapes. He writes about regrets and school dances and religion and brief romances. He writes about aimless driving, singing along on the radio, making up lyrics, singing harmonies, washing the dishes while listening to random Top 40 hits, raging crushes, fighting over stupid stuff, and dreams. He writes about love, life, loss, pain, and everything else in between. He writes about the boy that he used to be and the man that he is now. But mostly he writes about “a real cool hell-raising Appalachian punk-rock girl” named Renee, with whom he had spent seven years of bliss, gold sounds, and electric dreams.

Side One: Before

  • Dyslexic Heart – Paul Westerberg
  • Semi-Charmed Life – Third Eye Blind
  • Mmm Bop – Hanson
  • Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
  • 1979 – Smashing Pumpkins
  • Til I Hear It From You – Gin Blossoms
  • Gold Soundz – Pavement
  • Let’s Stay Together – Al Green
  • Best Days – The Softies

This mix tape begins with songs that set the tone for an anthology of memories. From Paul Westerberg’s infectious chorus of na-na-na’s to Nirvana’s anthem that woke up an alternative nation, these songs celebrate the glorious days of the ’90s, which was easily the best decade for music. Sheffield writes:

“I get sentimental over the music of the ’90s. Deplorable, really. But I love it all. As far as I am concerned, the ’90s was the best era for music ever, even the stuff that I loathed at the time, even the stuff that gave me stomach cramps. Every note from those years is charged with life for me now.”

The first half of the mix is about Sheffield’s reminiscences filtered through the favorite songs that he shares with his wife. The last two songs on the first side of this tape provide the soundtrack to a love letter written for a magnificent “alien creature” whose “voice was full of the frazzle and crackle of music.”

Nighttime on an empty shore foggy like my head
Drifting off to sleep to all those silly things you said
Waking for a moment to say that we’d be fine
You hid your smile with one hand
And with the other you held mine
These are the best days

Side Two: After

  • Linger – The Cranberries
  • Everlong – Foo Fighters
  • These Days – Nico
  • Runaway Train – Soul Asylum
  • One Headlight – The Wallflowers
  • Run – Collective Soul
  • Oh My Love – John Lennon
  • Five Years – David Bowie

The second half of this tape is a collection of songs about lingering moments, sitting on corner stones, thinking of getting somewhere yet somehow ending up neither here nor there, living in the past, buying back memories, feeling the sorrow, feeling the dreams, and finally seeing that everything is clear in this fractured world that we’re living in.

(These are songs about love and everything else that is associated with it.)

Rob Sheffield writes a haunting memoir that focuses on the two loves of his life: music and Renee. It celebrates the little joys of life, the tender trap that is love, and the life that a superhuman punk girl has lived.

We got five years, stuck on my eyes
We got five years, what a surprise
We got five years, my brain hurts a lot
We got five years, that’s all we’ve got

Countless people have tried to extract the true definition of love but Rob Sheffield has it all figured out: Love is a mix tape.

This was a post by Hanna, who is being serenaded by David Bowie at the moment.

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Review: Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield

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