We will always fill the floors of terrible nightclubs when Mr. Brightside comes on
It’s the song that plays when you should have left
Long after you should have pulled, or bought some food, or gone home, when the clock is striking tragic, when you bought another drink instead, a noise fills the club you’re in – the shit club you’re in yet again.
Male voices, the vocals juddering because they’re shouting, jumping and drunk. They’re all in groups, their arms are around each others’ shoulders, repeating the words they know off by heart, screaming the words they know off by heart, which explode like hand grenades at the end of every sentence: kiss, asleep, cab, smoke, drag, bed, sick, head, chest, dress, goooooooooooo. Every single word represents another layer of dignity shed but none of them gives a fuck. This is the worst part of the night; this is the best part of the night.
Fact: everybody knows all the words to Mr. Brightside and they’re not entirely sure how. It’s something that happened to them, something mysterious, like being born in the first place. As soon as that irresistible riff starts up, from the soundsystem in a Pryzm or a Walkabout or your tragic hometown club, the words come rushing back: kiss, asleep, cab, smoke, drag, bed, sick, head, chest, dress, goooooooooooo. This video from a 21st birthday party at Hamilton Rugby Club is very much the vibe:
Obviously it’s never in a good club. Mr. Brightside is the anthem for every bad night out, for every night you wish you’d stayed at home for. The song itself is more than a decade old and it is a hangover from a time when people made music with guitars, a reminder that you that didn’t need pills to enjoy going out. You first heard it when you were a teenager and songs weren’t merely part of your emotional landscape, they were your emotional landscape.
Mr. Brightside is evocative for that reason. It is romantic, in the hopelessly teenage sense of romance. When you were fourteen it seemed profound but if you stopped and examined it today you’d find the feelings it expresses laughably thin.
But you don’t stop to examine Mr. Brightside. Because you only hear it clubs, when you’re drunk, when you should already be asleep. I think the drunkenness is the most important part. You don’t have to act like you’re better than anything when you’re smashed. You can let Mr. Brightside in, in all its pain, and paranoia, and anxiety.
Mr. Brightside is the obliterating sight of the person you fancy dancing with someone you despise. It’s every botched message you sent to somebody you thought you could shag. It’s not talking about your feelings until they burst out like the release of energy that comes when continents move. It’s the most dismal defeat of your life celebrated like a most magnificent victory. For a song written by a couple of guys from Vegas, it is peculiarly English.
I have around 100 accounts on Snapchat, and on Saturday and Sunday mornings, without fail, there are a few grainy, confused clips of people I don’t know that well losing their shit to Mr. Brightside. This is every weekend and these people are in their twenties. We’re still filling the floor for Mr. Brightside, all these years later, still running over to mates and climbing all over them for three minutes, still seeing people below “It was only a kiss” and desperately meaning it.
Lame as it all is, it’s only ruined by the one person who goes “turning snakes into the sea”. Surely, at this point, they know the words?