As we slide into the back half of High Fidelity’s ten episodes, the characters’ plotlines begin to shift toward their endpoints. Everyone is offering something to someone else in “Weird … But Warm,” with varying degrees of success: Clyde most likely wants to be way more than friends with Rob. Liam wants Rob to accompany him on tour and Rob maybe wants to go (though she might turn out to be better at being his mentor than his sexy muse). Cherise wants the world to hear her music, but can’t fully describe it. The Cute Barista wants Simon to recommend some music to him, and Simon very definitely wants to do some recommending, and perhaps more. Some local thieving teens want to make music, and Rob wants to sell what they create.
This episode also dramatizes the problem of vulnerability for people who work really hard at maintaining masks of cool detachment. All of the things each character is offering to another could be transactional, and would be successful on that level, but that doesn’t feel like enough anymore. It makes sense that in the sixth episode, each member of our core trio gets private moments where the audience sees their respective masks drop, and with them, the toll that mask-maintenance takes on a person nurturing a fervent, if only partially articulated, secret hope. Rob, Cherise, and Simon are all beginning to recognize that although a mask is protective, in the long term, it crushes their hopes just as completely as being rejected does.
This episode’s structure is Three Days in the Life of Rob, using repeated references to and appearances by certain musicians to revisit and put its narrative threads in conversation with each other. We open on Saturday, when it seems like all of Brooklyn is at the shop to browse, listen, and buy. Rob is mostly on cash register detail, while Cherise and Simon advise shoppers in their own distinctive styles (enthusiastic hectoring about Talking Heads and gentle “hmm, try this William Onyeabor record,” respectively). Fun fact: Talking Heads founder David Byrne released the first U.S. compilation of Nigerian artist William Onyeabor’s work on his Luaka Bop label!
Into this whirlwind of sales and recommendation activity steps Clyde, offering some cute and flirty banter about The Sopranos, which Rob has never seen. Clyde is a very different person than Rob usually hangs out with; rather than mocking her for having never seen the show that launched contemporary prestige TV, he’s really envious that she’s going to see it for the first time ever. I like this guy more and more with each scene, but I can also see how his unabashed earnestness would come off as deeply uncool to Cherise, who dismisses him as “the guy in khakis that you’ve been eye-fucking for the last ten minutes.”
On Sundays, everything is looser and less busy. Rob expositions that people are all out at brunch or laundry “or whatever makes them feel better about their shitty life choices.” Speaking of which, Rob is texting with Liam, who is back in town after completing a leg of his tour. Cherise makes a few digs about Liam’s age, but also very much wants to attend his show and hang out backstage with the cool kids, even though they know the sound quality onstage is garbage.
As the Replacements’ loud, bratty “Rattlesnake” rings out, a couple of thieving teens bolt, clutching a bunch of LPs, and manage to outrun Rob and Cherise. As they’re gasping for breath, Rob spots the thieves on a flyer advertising a gig for their act, Peachy and Shane, in their nearby rehearsal space. Peachy and Shane swear they were just borrowing the records so they can create their own samples. Rob, fundamentally not a hardass and impressed with their good taste, agrees to let them keep the records on the condition that they return them unharmed the next day. Cherise is incensed, but Rob blows her off because she’s got to meet Liam at the recording studio.
Unsurprisingly, Rob has always wanted to date a musician. It’d be so cute and fun to recognize their private jokes in lyrics, and maybe a little glamorous to go on tour. This prompts a segue into her Top Five studios of all time, and just as I’m about to have a heart attack because she hasn’t yet mentioned Electric Lady Studios, phew, it’s number five on the list. (If I had been paying more attention to the song playing under this scene, I’d have known it would all turn out okay: It’s “And the Gods Made Love,” by the Jimi Hendrix Experience.)
Rob’s excited delight in this scene is so cute and endearing. She’s in a place full of history she knows and cares about, a boy she likes is singing soulfully into the mic, and for good measure, the guy at the sound engineer’s desk is Jack Antonoff. Best of all, when Liam asks for Rob’s input on his vocal, he takes her advice to try something a little weirder with the next take, to make it less earnest and more Prince-ly. Jack loves the result, and the next thing we see is Liam and Rob making out and collapsing on his apartment floor in a heap of triumphant lust. I guess the age difference isn’t a problem after all!
Monday morning, you sure look fine. Did you know that Zoë Kravitz can make herself look like the literal cat who swallowed the canary? Because she can, when called on to play a woman who went to bed with a rock star ten years her junior and is very, very pleased with herself.
Before Rob can slip out and head into work, Liam, clad in black briefs and a smile, invites her to stay for a cup of coffee, which leads to chatting about his upcoming tour to South America. He invites Rob to meet him at his gig in Mexico City. She thinks he’s just bullshitting, but he’s serious. Huh.
The writer Alanna Bennett has a theory of the male romantic lead: his most important skill is to look at his on-screen intended in a way that shows he sees them. This type of look combines longing, charm, sexiness, amusement, and more, and Liam has The Look down cold. Or smoldering. You know what, it’s both. Young man, be careful with that, it’s a dangerous weapon, please use it responsibly!
Simon and Rob are listening to Peachy and Shane’s music (it’s actually a band that Shazam informs me is Wastewomxn, playing their eponymous song) and it’s so good that even Cherise grudgingly likes it, but the last straw for her is when the teens return the records on time and Rob offers to sell their record if they press one. Cherise is really hurt that Rob would offer to help these little strangers, rather than herself, a known musical visionary and Rob’s actual friend. Rob blows her off and snaps that Cherise is always talking and never doing. Cherise storms off, Rob yells, and then asks Simon, “What the fuck was that?” Rob is so used to bravado-filled Cherise that a Cherise expressing hurt feelings is illegible to her, and she reacts badly.
Simon begs off attending the show to stay behind and work on his mixtape for the Cute Barista, who had swung by the shop on Saturday looking to flirt and get some music suggestions, adding the Replacements’ “Skyway” to it and shredding my heart to pieces in the process. What a flawless, delicately hopeful song choice for a mix for your crush, and what a thoughtful development from the earlier, thrashier Replacements song used in the chase scene. Sadly, like “Skyway”’s narrator, suspended above his love interest on the sidewalk below, Simon sees the Cute Barista through the coffee shop window, chatting up another guy, and bails on his attempt to deliver the tape.
Outside the venue, Rob walks up to Cherise, both looking smoking hot in their respective Ladies at the Show ensembles (lace-up Doc Martens and a barely there T-shirt dress featuring Bob Marley for Rob, a plunging low-cut blue denim jumpsuit and a perfect gold necklace for Cherise). They’re over their blowup from earlier, and ready to embrace being backstage. Unfortunately, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, for either of them: Rob’s thoughts of joining Liam in Mexico City are scrapped because he’s booked a performance slot at the Glastonbury Festival. It’s a huge deal, and Rob is thrilled for him, though she knows it likely means the end of anything substantive between them.
Meanwhile, Cherise has an intensely mortifying encounter with Liam’s manager Brad; she just can’t find the words to properly capture and pitch her visionary sound and he blows her off. This is the second time an unworthy dude has broken Cherise’s artistic heart this episode, and I will not stand for it. Back on Saturday, some guy in a fluffy hair metal coiffure, T. Rex T-shirt, and pale stonewashed flares read her wonderfully detailed Seeking a Band notice in the shop, saw her, and left without engaging further. My solemn vow: If that guy doesn’t reappear in the next episode with at least one buddy to beg to be in a band with Cherise, I will drive to Brooklyn to fight him.
Cherise and Rob are by the side of the stage during the gig and … it sucks, so they bail and go for slices. Rob reassures Cherise that Brad was awful and they segue into a bonding session of Top Five Musical Underdogs, scored to Ike & Tina Turner’s “Workin’ Together.” Now that’s a perfect evening with your pal.
1) On Saturday, as Cherise is schooling an eager young listener, basically throwing Important Records of the Past at him, she insists that he purchase Paul’s Boutique, and I have to agree. Go ahead and listen to it now, it’s a gift to yourself from a bygone era of lawless sampling that Cherise and I firmly agree, still sounds dope as shit. Also, this is the third major nod to the Beastie Boys in the series, and I agree: MCA forever.
2) The song of the episode: “Skyway,” by the Replacements. It would just thrill me to the marrow if the Replacements found their way to a new audience in part because of this song placement.
3) There’s a cute, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment where Simon is standing in front of the Biggie poster so that the crown looks like it’s resting gently on his own head.