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Thursday, April 17, 2008

“Do You Wanna Fuck?”

posted by on April 17 at 11:05 AM

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how music can make lines that read stupid on paper sound absolutely amazing. Call it the New Order effect. This occurred to me the other day, as I was walking home, and the Black Dominoes remix of of Vampire Weekend’s “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” (recommended) came on my portable music player.

Like a lot of lyrics, “Do you wanna fuck / like you know I do?,” doesn’t look like much typed out, but damn if dude’s voice-cracking howl doesn’t just sell the shit out of it, disproving every dumb trend piece about what lilly-frail preppies these guys are with the most blunt, appealing come on indie rock’s heard in years.

Possibly related: “In a town so small / there’s no escaping you” from Belle & Sebastian’s “Dirty Dream Number Two,” although that line holds up a little better on paper (or an lcd screen), it still benefits mightily from the head-hanging, weeping violins that underpin its delivery.

If I were a comments-thirsty sort, I might open the floor for suggestions of other possibly questionable lines made poignant by their musical accompaniment, but that would be gauche, right?

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Feist lamenting/insisting, "we...we could...hold each other tight tonight" on "So Sorry" at about minute one. One of the most oft-uttered sentiments/phrases in pop, but the tremor in her voice on the word "could" fucking kills me.

Also, possibly questionable lines that are made OK by musical context are super super all over anything Rick Danko sang, I feel like. Possibly questionable lines are everywhere!

Posted by joan | April 17, 2008 12:56 PM

"Squeeze my lemon till the juice runs down my leg."

Posted by trent moorman | April 17, 2008 1:28 PM

Not that I'm trying to undermine your thesis, but this could be said about close to 90% of everything in Neil Young's catalogue -- and I know that it's true for many other singers whose vocal timbre and sense of utter conviction transcends the banality (or inscrutibility) of their lyrics.

Posted by littlewilliejohn | April 17, 2008 1:30 PM

no degree of conviction, regardless of vocal timbre, could save Neil Young's "Restless Consumer":

Don't need no nausea
Don't need no side effects like diarrhea or sexual death

i cringe everytime i hear it.

Posted by brian cook | April 17, 2008 1:46 PM

Well, #3, that would actually prove my thesis, although it's not so much a thesis as just something that recurred to me the other day—news flash: music makes mediocre poetry sound awesome!

Posted by Eric Grandy | April 17, 2008 1:47 PM

pretty much the whole song hey boy by the blow

Posted by tiffany | April 17, 2008 1:55 PM

Yeah, you're right. I wasn't undermining your thesis (or observation) -- it was more like reducing it to a truism. But the positive spin on this is that, as you say, it highlights the potential power of musical expression. BTW, I just had a late 60's flashback involving an after-degree program I took to get a certificate to teach high school English ('cause I needed some marketable credentials). One of the instructors was pushing some "hip" texts that encouraged the teaching of pop/rock song lyrics as poetry ("connect with your students through poetry that speaks to their generation, etc., etc."). I tried it a couple of times as a student teacher and bombed miserably. I thought for a long time that it was just because I was a lousy teacher (which I was), but I finally realized that I was ruining some really good music (Cream, Doors, Jefferson Airplane) by actually forcing the students to study the lyrics. Bad mistake...

Posted by littlewilliejohn | April 17, 2008 2:31 PM

I still wince whenever L. Cohen sings a line about the moon as a woman, and vice versa -- "If the moon has a sister, it has to be you" -- but you know, as lazy as it is, he's still a doom stud.

Posted by Chris Estey | April 17, 2008 3:59 PM

Frightened Rabbit: "It takes more than fucking someone to keep yourself warm" from "Keep Yourself Warm"

Basically any song by Frightened Rabbit, it looks like shit but the guy's voice is so unassuming and nervous that everything becomes epic.

Posted by Mischa | April 17, 2008 4:41 PM

Killer on the road
Your brain is squirmin' like a toad

--Jim Morrison, the Great American Poet, according to a U District hackeysack dude who's apparently never heard of Walt Whitman

Posted by Jeff Stevens | April 17, 2008 5:30 PM

"i'll buy anything you want me to buy you if you just stay here and make love to me..." the ike & tina version of 'i've been loving you too long'

Posted by helix | April 17, 2008 6:33 PM

in a town so small, there's no escape from view

Posted by ndrwmtsn | April 18, 2008 5:42 PM

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