Music Geography 101: Broadway Calls (Oregon)

I recently assigned my Geography 101 course a writing project whereby they select a song with geographically-oriented content and report on all of that song’s inherent regionalisms. In the body of their assignment text, I include a list of suggested songs for anybody who may be interested in them or may have difficulty selecting a song on their own. The following is one of them.

Broadway Calls – “Back to Oregon”

Anybody who knows me outside of Academia (and most inside, to be honest, too) knows I am an unapologetic fan of pop-punk music. I grew up listening to the usual suspects (MxPx, Green Day, Saves the Day) and upon discovering The Ergs!, I dove headfirst back into it as an adult, and I regret absolutely nothing. As Jason Heller once wrote for the Onion A/V Club:

Pop-punk remains a readily dismissed, ostensibly disposable form of music—the kind of high-fructose junk that adulthood is supposed to spurn, regardless of the fact that some of the best pop songwriters of the past 40 years, in any genre, have come from pop-punk. But the sweet tooth lingers, and pop-punk’s timelessness is no longer in question, no matter how much critics and purists might want to wish it away.

That being said, Broadway Calls is an interesting case. Their production is pretty clean and their vocals are stereotypically high-pitched and melodic, but unlike many of their three-chord forebears, their ostensibly sunny disposition quickly plummets into a wholly depressing vortex whereby they “suffer the kids that inherit this world.” The first track on their self-titled album doesn’t even hit the one-minute mark before declaring that we’re bombing “ourselves to hell and back again.” A lot of pop-punk is political and nihilistic, of course, but rarely is it this effectively two-faced.

Track three of their self-titled album, “Back to Oregon” is a welcome change of pace. It’s actually a love song, a trope into which pop-punk is highly associated yet Ty Vaughn and company rarely cave. This song, however, seems to straddle the line between traditional love song sung to an estranged lover and a pastoral declaration of love for the band’s home state. It’s one of many great examples of emotional geographies at play; places have amorphous, subjective meanings that vary greatly depending on whomever’s mind they are on.

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