I can’t remember whether I read S.E. Hinton’s book first or saw Francis Coppola’s adaptation of The Outsiders in the theater. While many people would put down The Catcher & The Rye as the formative book of their adolescence, for me it was always The Outsiders. It wasn’t as if I could identify with Ponyboy or the other characters much. I grew up in a middle-class town with both my parents. Maybe it was Pony’s realization that, despite many differences, the Socs were also far from perfect. And it was hard not to respect Darry and his tough love, born from the recognition and appreciation that Pony was different and special. He wanted a better life for him; one that he couldn’t have.
When I heard that the Roadside Graves were doing a concept album based on a book that meant a great deal to me growing up, well, let’s just say I was excited. I don’t think I could have picked a better band to take on such a task. They didn’t set out to retell this familiar story – that would come off as cheap and unambitious. Instead, their perspective is more subtle and dives deep in character exploration. As Gleason said, ” We tried to emphasize the sensitive, frightened sides of the characters, instead of showcasing their thick skin and greaser toughness.”
The album starts with “Outside,” which speaks to the mentality of the greasers. The songs dredge up the “us against the world” mentality that so many of the characters felt throughout the book. “Double Feature” is inspired by the time when Ponyboy meets Cherry – an encounter which eventually leads to the death of Bob Sheldon, and act of violence that turns the book on end. The chorus of “I don’t want to fight but I will,” alludes to the confusion that both sides felt upon the almost compulsory need to fight.The staggering “Teenagers Are Tired” is an acoustic ballad that makes you feel every bit of fear and ounce of exhaustion that Ponyboy and Johnny must have felt while hiding out in the next town over. The heartbreaking “Love Me More” speaks to so many of the characters who had issues with or were abandoned by their parents.
The album stands on its own, even for those unfamiliar with The Outsiders. But if you’re a fan, it’s going to hit home. The talent and ability exhibited by Roadside Graves in breathing new life into something sacred to me is something special. While I wind up seeing the movie once a year on cable, I haven’t read the book in 20 years. After spending quality time with We Can Take Care Of Ourselves and digging into every last lyric, I found it necessary to download The Outsiders to my Kindle and explore it again with a new perspective.