The Inside Track: Memory Boys - 'What Data's Done'

I get the sense many of us embrace not just social media but online life in general with trepidation, but don’t see a realistic alternative that doesn’t seem paranoid or unreasonably cut off. What Data’s Done first and foremost paints a bleak picture of an inescapable world where all is known about what’s in our heads and out. Inspired by Yuval Noah Harari’s provocative question: “What happens when algorithms know us better than we know ourselves?” I came up with my own: How much is our personal data helping speed up the transfer of power from people to the all dreaded algorithms?

So let’s start at the beginning. It was December 2019. Danny (drums) and I (guitar, vox) headed to Port Townsend, WA. It was a rare show as a two piece being that our bass player extraordinaire, Alex was recovering from knee surgery. At the Uptown, Danny and I saw Port Townsend band Dr. Light and were blown away. The riff for What Data’s Done started to take shape under the influence of their two guitar attack and long form driving melodies.  We began playing early versions of the song, again with Dr. Light and then others at our, unbeknownst to us, few remaining prepandemic shows.

Then in August 2020, we headed up to Anacortes, WA to record Frown Thrown, our newest full length LP. It honestly got off to kind of a rocky start. Mid-summer, mid- pandemic, totally weird, everybody remembers that. Thankfully we’d been able to practice and cram quite a few new songs but there’s no replacement for shows.  In the new environment we understood we were rustier than we thought and it was only the first day. 

So switching gears, we moved from Red in the Face which we were stuck on, to What Data’s Done.  It came together pretty quickly and saved the vibe of the session. We started joking around again, pet the dog, got more coffee and later that evening Alex and I discussed if we knew every Elliott Smith song. Spoiler alert; Abused is a heart-wrenching rocker if you don’t know it, just saying.

“Goodbye world we loved or thought we loved” are the final lyrics of What Data’s Done and sum up, for me, the whole emotional resonance of the song.  Many people today feel superfluous, unneeded, like the world’s left them behind and this insecurity fuels much anxiety and discord. But if the world’s too complicated, who’s fault is that?  The old world was awful anyway and we should be suspicious of any simple answer. So what becomes clear is that we are fast approaching a situation that might be so nuanced mere humans can’t understand all the angles and only artificial algorithms can navigate such a reality. If that’s true what does it mean to be human? What has data done? 

(Sorry had to do that)

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