2:00 AM: Ranting and raving about my favorite song lyrics, vol. 1

So, ever since I started to go 'serious' with this blog, I've wanted to share some of my favorite lyrics with you guys, and explain their importance, try to analyze them, or just tell you why I like them. There aren't any real guidelines to how I wrote about these lyrics, so be prepared for all sorts of rambling and gushing. Will there ever be A volume 2? Probably not, but we can dream, can't we?

Radiohead-No Surprises

A heart that's full up like a landfill,
a job that slowly kills you,
bruises that won't heal.
You look so tired and unhappy,
bring down the government,
they don't, they don't speak for us.
I'll take a quiet life,
a handshake of carbon monoxide,

with no alarms and no surprises,
no alarms and no surprises,
no alarms and no surprises,
Silent silence.

The first thing that you notice about ‘No Surprises’ is that there are two people represented in the song’s lyrics. In the last six lines you have your average tired, defeated member of the American working class, sitting in his cubicle, staring at his computer, giving into the isolation and lack of fulfillment that comes with working in the modern technological age. The first six lines are made to represent the voice inside that person’s head, trying to spur him towards an escape from his misery, the government, or any sort of submission to the environment he’s living in. The voice inside his head is defeated in the end, and Thom Yorke makes his point: Technology will only lead man into more isolation, vacuousness, and inescapable agony. Seven years after the release of OK Computer, after the Dot Com bust, and as the internet and e-mail plant themselves even further into the mainstream, we can finally start to grasp what Thom was trying to tell us.

Modest Mouse-Paper Thin Walls

Its been agreed, the whole world stinks
So no ones taking showers anymore

This kind of pessimism thinly disguised as humor is what is going to define our generation (Generation Y, or what ever buzz word people are using to describe us these days). Our mantra is: The world is full of ugly things, why even bother trying to do anything about it? The answer is, of course, why not? Any kind of optimism is seen as stupidity or immaturity to us, when in actuality, the opposite makes a lot more sense. Who would you rather be around: A pessimistic or optimistic person? We can’t complain our whole lives. Yeah, the world can be a shitty place, but there are enough of us out there to change that, or at least clean it up a little. ...but don’t try telling Isaac Brock, the lead singer of Modest Mouse, that.

Pavement-Summer Babe

Ice baby,
I saw your girlfriend and she was
eating her fingers like they're just another meal

These lyrics don’t seem to have any deep meaning to them, but I really like the mental image they conjure up. The timely (this song was released in ‘92) Vanilla Ice reference is a nice touch, as well.


I was dressed for success
but success it never comes
And I’m the only one who laughs
at your jokes when they are so bad
And your jokes are always bad
but they're not as bad as this

Every time I hear this song, I think of two bickering twenty-something friends at a funeral, looking over a former friend’s dead body. Something about the last four lines leaves a weird feeling in my stomach, even though I think the lyrics supposed to be funny. The first two lines are an extremely accurate depiction of the disappointment America’s youth feels ...who hasn’t gotten really excited about that big job interview, only to have their resume thrown in the trash as soon as they leave the office? Or studied up for that chemistry exam, only to fail not only the exam, but the class? Life is full of disappointments, especially when you’re young, no matter how optimistic you are about your prospects.

Desaparecidos-The Happiest Place On Earth

I want to pledge allegiance to the country where I live
I don't want to be ashamed to be American
but opportunity no it doesn't exist it's the opiate of the populace
We need some harder shit now the truth is getting around
and each public school is a halfway house


I got a letter from the army so I think that I'll enlist
I'm not brave or proud of nothing I just want to kill something
Too bad that nowadays you just point and click
Swing low satellite hot white chariot in the computer's blue glare
the bombs burst in the air
There was a city once now nothing is there
Our freedom comes at their expense

The main criticism of lyrics like these are that they’re overstated, exaggerated, and desperate for attention. That’s a completely unfair analysis. A liberal viewpoint is no worse than a conservative ‘fair and balanced’ view of America’s governemnt, and it’s increasingly controversial actions. Conor Oberst is giving a State of the Union address of his own, and he speaks for millions of Americans who are stuck financially supporting a war that they morally, ethically, and logically can’t agree with. Conor’s sick of being lied to and manipulated, and after listening to his song, he hopes you are too.

Pink Floyd-The Final Cut

Thought I oughta bare my naked feelings,
Thought I oughta tear the curtain down.
I held the blade in trembling hands
Prepared to make it but just then the phone rang
I never had the nerve to make the final cut.

Forget The Smiths, Weezer, or Sunny Day Real Estate: Pink Floyd, on their final album, The Final Cut, invented Emo. Roger Waters uses the title track to showcase his vulnerability and depression, rather than his excellent bass and vocal talents, culminating in an account of a failed suicide attempt. When this album came out, honest, confessional, vulnerable lyrics like this were very hard to come by, and even today, it’s hard to match Waters’ outbursts of emotion without sounding hokey. The kid-friendly, mall-punk ‘emo’ bands of today could certainly take a cue from Mr. Waters. Emo isn’t about crying over the glass of milk you just spilled, it’s about releasing inner demons, and making something beautiful out of something ugly (i.e. Depression and suicidal tendencies+musical talent=The Final Cut). It’s a form of therapy, not an easily marketable way to sell records.


We live in the shadows and we had the chance and threw it away
And it's never gonna be the same
Cos the years are following by like the rain
And it's never gonna be the same
'Til the life I knew comes to my house and says

I love the irony of these lyrics. After a string of mediocre releases, and dozens of empty promises for the new record in the form of in-fighting between the band, release date postponements, and a virtual revolving door of producers, don’t you think Oasis themselves wish that the popularity and song writing ability that they once knew would come back to them and say “Hello." I wonder if Noel is regretting ever writing these lyrics. Oh, Oasis, how far you've fallen...here’s hoping the sixth proper record can pull you out of the downward spiral of cocaine abuse and megalomania you find yourselves in now.

The Beatles-Hey Bulldog

What makes you think you're something special when you smile?

A lyrical bitch slap courtesy of The Fab Four! What A way to put A bitchy, overconfident woman back in their place. Just kidding, ladies!*

*But in case my apology doesn’t seem sincere to you, send your angry e-mails to sarlik@gmail.com Thank you!

Thankyou for reading all the way through, and leave some comments for Pete's sake! It's the only feedback I get from this blog. How am I supposed to know what you guys want me to write about when you don't speak up? Tell me some of your favorite lyrics...