- “I Killed Myself But I Didn’t Die”
I have no difficulty recalling the first time I heard “I Killed Myself But I Didn’t Die.” I was seeing Ezra Furman and the Harpoons live for the second time. I had devoured and continually revisited “Inside the Human Body” the year before and now “Mysterious Power” had recently been released and in the weeks leading up to the show I had religiously listened to (and was in love with) it as well. The crowd was small, my friend and I were at the front, and Ezra was sloppy drunk.
As the band launched into “IKMBIDD” I was floored (1) because it was instantly delicious to my ears and (2) because despite having “MP” I was unfamiliar with the song. You see, I had downloaded “MP” (from possibly….no very likely, less than legitimate sources online) and for some reason “IKMBIDD” had been omitted. As a result, the song was unknown to me, until that moment.
As the lyrics to this song fell out of Ezra’s drunken mouth I felt simultaneously thrilled and sickened. The arrangement, lyrics, and instrumentation were just right. So catchy! Punk/pop cleverness! A bassline fit for Kim Deal. But “IKMBIDD” is not a subtle song. In the midst of my enjoyment I simultaneously felt sourness in my stomach. Here was a song about someone trying to end their life (albeit unsuccessfully) which covered both the reasons leading up to the decision, as well as the ramifications afterwards. In that moment I felt strongly that this song was not fictional. I was scared.
At that time I did not know Ezra but I already believed them to be extremely talented. It had been a very very long time since I had fallen so hard for an album or a band (especially something so current). Only two albums in, and already I knew that this was someone who (even if they didn’t know it, or acted like they didn’t know it, or knew it, but were afraid to know it) had the capacity to offer valuable contributions to music (and/or any other realm of their choosing). The idea that a person like this would take the option of opting out of life in order to avoid suffering resulted in immediate physical distress for me and a clench of the heart.
My brother-in-law is a person who can be described as charismatic, funny, clever, frustrating, smart, seemingly selfish, and continuously struggling (among other things). He also happens to live with bipolar disorder. From his mid-twenties to present he has oscillated daily/weekly/monthly/yearly between living and wanting not to live in order to avoid suffering. It is painful to watch, and I suspect a million more times painful to live it.
“IKMBIDD” is seriously one amazing pop song because it tells the story of a life experience that most of us would agree is up there as far as human trauma/suffering is concerned and yet arrives in your earholes with the most palatable of presentations. If/when Brian Wilson hears it I like to think he will be proud as he is another master of this technique.
I simultaneously adore and fear “IKMIDD”. It scared me the night I first heard it and I sometimes can’t listen to it present day. I’m so glad that my brother-in-law and Ezra are both alive. Although my contact with both of them is less frequent (for different/various reasons) than I would prefer I am lucky to know them both. Suicide is scary and it causes a ripple effect of pain and trauma. If you’re feeling like it is an option, please talk to someone and/or get help.
2. Taylor Swift song lyrics
I don’t have kids. But if I did and one of them idolized Taylor Swift I think I might feel some shivers of terror. Please, don’t get me wrong. I have the album “1989.” I listen to the songs and sing along. I turn the volume up. I’ve been known to wag my finger along sassily in the direction of no one in particular during “Bad Blood.” It’s also safe to say that I laugh out loud out with joy when her new song “Look What You Made Me Do” reveals itself suddenly from the speakers in my car.
But, HAVE YOU LISTENED TO THE LYRICS?!?!
From “Blank Check”:
Find out what you want
Be that girl for a month
Wait the worst is yet to come, oh no
Screaming, crying, perfect storm
I can make all the tables turn
Rose gardens filled with thorns
Keep you second guessing like
“Oh my God, who is she?”
I get drunk on jealousy
But you’ll come back each time you leave
‘Cause darling I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream
Because I write content for this blog for fun and because I don’t have a spare bajillion dollars laying around I’m sort of unable to fulfill one of my recent fantasies that involves me (1) going back to school where I (2) work on a Ph.D and (3) write a dissertation that extrapolates on the ways in which Taylor’s Swift’s lyrics match up with the diagnostic criteria for (pick one, pick any) personality disorder while (4) simultaneously working in some feminist theory and a splash of the history of how pop music lyrics are mirrors of societal sentiment in any given time period. But, that doesn’t mean that I can’t tell you dear reader that the lyrics for “Blank Check” are essentially a checklist for Borderline Personality Disorder!!! This scares me.
Taylor’s newest song “Look What You Made Me Do” is equally as terrifying for it’s catchy as fuck chorus that vapidly (and earwormingly) repeats the title of the song over and over again. Any Intro to Psych student can tell you, this is projection. You can also call it by another name; cognitive distortion. These lenses, well I think we can generally agree that they cause a bit of suffering for all parties involved.
Pop music and mixed/concerning messages have forever held close hands. So I’m not sure why Taylor’s content is more concerning to me than say “Johnny Get Angry,” or “Sea of Love” or “One More Night,” or any given blues song that includes messages about violence directed towards women. It might be that I give older music a pass and think things like “Well in the 50s misogyny was rampant,” or “Yes, sometimes it seems like Phil Collins might have had some PFA worthy thoughts or actions but….” etc.
I guess what scares me about these Taylor Swift lyrics is that they seem to carry the same old twisted up themes but are being presented in what feels like a very deliberate (this is our marketing strategy and we are marketing personality disorder) way. Also, is this what young people are going to think feminism sounds like? Is a tenet of feminism the right to manipulate, control, and degrade our partners? Is it wrong to hope for more than the next generation thinking being a “nightmare dressed like a daydream” is something to aspire to? Is the goal of being intimate with someone really to get “drunk on jealousy” and keep them “second guessing”?
There is no doubt, love is tricky, difficult, confusing etc. Relationships even more so. But when I imagine the little people who are playing “Blank Check” on repeat and possibly mixing those messages into their own preadolescent or adolescent fantasies/realities I feel scared. I’m generally opposed to the type of logic which presupposes that artists or athletes should be held to a certain set of expectations due to being possible role models for children. Yet at the same I guess I just wish that we might be evolving in a different direction by this point in time.
Taylor, I don’t mean to scapegoat you. It feels like overall things are quite scary in our country these days and maybe it’s just easy for me to focus on you. Additionally I recognize my predilection to seek solace through music, so you’re sort of getting caught up in the crossfires of that need here. Your lawsuit against that guy who groped you was heroic. But, can you do me a favor and try to make your next hit song a little less scary?
3. “Mad Lucas” by The Breeders
In the spring of 1993 I have a very distinct memory of going to Camelot music with a person who at that time was a fairly new friend, but who is now a long-time friend, in search of new music. We had traveled about 30 minutes away from the cornfields that surrounded our neighborhoods and towards our local mall which was located in “the city” (as everyone liked, and I suppose still likes) to call it.
This was 9th grade. We were devoid of driver’s licenses and cars. Whichever parent (likely my Mom) transported us has been erased from my memory. What is still clear as day are the display racks at Camelot. Racks and racks of glossy, sealed, hot(ish) off the presses compact discs. We stood in front them, serious, studying, considering. We had money, but not much. Enough for each of us to buy an album. That meant dropping close to, if not more than, $20 each.
I chose the album “Live Through This” by Hole. She went with “Last Splash” by The Breeders. We knew that each of these albums contained at least one or two good tracks thanks to MTV, “Alternative” radio, and that bald headed music nerd turned everyone’s hero Matt Pinfield.
Here’s where (we thought) things moved from 90s and mundane to scary. Back at her house we followed our typical routine. Go immediately downstairs to her room in the basement, light some incense, listen to our newly purchased albums, lay on her waterbed, and talk about 120 Minutes, boys, and make up strange nuanced inside jokes that we (and only we) thought were genius! Hilarious! Hysterical!
Time passes so quickly when you’re talking about absolutely nothing but everything you’re talking about means absolutely everything. We had just finished enjoying the repetitively catchy “I Just Wanna Get Along” when suddenly there were strange noises coming out of her speakers. Spooky, fuzzy, buzzy, what the? sounds. Like someone was, in your room hiding in your closet or under your bed and they planned on murdering you, while singing, sounds. We stopped talking. I think I shouted “Skip it! Skip it!” She bolted upright, stood wide eyed, and immediately skipped the track. From that point on we had a rule. Never, ever, listen to “Mad Lucas.” It was too scary.
I listened to “Mad Lucas” multiple times recently as part of prepping to write this piece. Certainly the song is unusual. But scary? In hindsight, I’m not so sure why we got so freaked out. Except that, when you’re in 9th grade and you finally find a friend who is an equal match when it comes to levels of silliness and music obsession sometimes it is fun to have inside jokes. Lots of them. Even really nuanced jokes about “having” to skip a particular track on “Last Splash.” It felt good to share clothing, music, notes in class, knowing looks across a room, and also fear. The bright side to this story is that luckily (for us) we got into “Last Splash” before this same friend moved that thrift store chair, which we were convinced someone had died in, into her room. “Mad Lucas” and a haunted thrift store chair would have been simply too much for us. Boo!
The band FEAR. Where to start?
Do they confuse me? Yes!
Do I have anxieties about openly confessing my enjoyment of their music? Yes!
Do they scare me? Yes!
I got into FEAR after watching the Dave Grohl after school special “Sound City.” “The Record” may actually be one of the few punk albums that was produced and produced well (IMO).
Here’s what I want to believe. I want to believe that the homophobic and sexist lyrics on “The Record” are high level satire. I also want to believe that the FEAR performances featured in “The Decline of Western Civilization” are satirical. If this is the case, if FEAR was poking fun at some of the short sighted, adolescent, angry, and limited thinking which existed (and I’m sure still exists somewhere) in the punk community then they are the most amazing band ever to exist. I want to believe that their provocations and violence towards people in the crowd as featured in TDOWC is all tongue in cheek. Because, well, if it’s not, then I’m not exactly sure how I feel about FEAR.
“The Record” was re-released in 2012 and content and lyrics were edited in an attempt to erase the distasteful stuff. No one liked it. I haven’t even given it a try. The original album is just so nasty and good. Why would you mess with such a good thing?
In short, when it comes to FEAR I am in a never ending slam dance with myself. I lean into the satire idea because it comforts me from believing that I gain enjoyment listening to Lee Ving shout “I just wanna cum in your face! I don’t care if you’re dead” (shuddering as I type up those lyrics).
It has to be satire. Please, please let it be. Because otherwise, it really scares me.
5. Metallica + Driving
Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only person from my small town who remembers the Metallica death legend. Occasionally, when I mention it to others I start to get a nagging feeling that I might be making it up. I suppose I should probably have talked to some other people from back home and fact checked this story, but since only a small handful of people will probably end up reading it I feel pretty much in the clear.
When you live in the country people tend to love their cars. They also tend to love to drive their cars fast. At night. On windy backroads. This results in accidents. When I was in middle and high school it seemed that they happened annually. Often they were minor but occasionally they were serious, and sadly, at times, fatal.
And so this brings us to the legend of Metallica. After several bad accidents that took place from the late 80s to early 90s rumors began to spread. Remember that time when Ozzy showed up at so and so’s door with blood dripping down his face in the middle of the night and asked her to call 911? They were listening Metallica that night….just before the crash. See that broken and bent telephone poll? That’s where so and so totaled their car. I heard they were listening to Metallica…..just before they crashed.
I never learned if there might be a specific album or song by Metallica that should be avoided at all costs if you are either driving, or being transported in, a vehicle. Hindsight is 20/20 and something tells me that teenagers+cars+loud music+being out late at night+a strong possibility of alcohol or other substances possibly being in the mix will inevitably result in car accidents. But logic does not always prevail. Only within recent years have I felt that it actually might be safe to listen to Metallica while driving. It isn’t easy to shake a legend.