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Tuesday, 09 December
2008's Dumbest Song Announced!

Here today on Izzle Pfaff--your go-to blog for when you just simply need to read something with an idiotic name--I'd like to introduce what I hope to turn into an annual feature: I would like to present to you 2008's stupidest song lyrics. THIS YEAR'S BIG WINNER: Indie band The Airborne Toxic Event, for their lyrics to the song "Sometime Around Midnight"!

Let's go right to the honey.

And it starts, sometime around midnight.
Or at least that's when you lose yourself
for a minute or two.
As you stand, under the bar lights.
And the band plays some song
about forgetting yourself for a while.
And the piano's this melancholy soundtrack to her smile.
And that white dress she's wearing
you haven't seen her for a while.

But you know, that she's watching.
She's laughing, she's turning.
She's holding her tonic like a cross
The room's suddenly spinning.
She walks up and asks how you are.
So you can smell her perfume.
You can see her lying naked in your arms.

And so there's a change, in your emotions.
And all these memories come rushing
like feral waves to your mind.
Of the curl of your bodies,
like two perfect circles entwined.
And you feel hopeless and homeless
and lost in the haze of the wine.

Then she leaves, with someone you don't know.
But she makes sure you saw her.
She looks right at you and bolts.
As she walks out the door,
your blood boiling
your stomach in ropes.
Oh and when your friends say,
"What is it? You look like you've seen a ghost."

Then you walk, under the streetlights.
And you're too drunk to notice,
that everyone is staring at you.
You just don't care what you look like,
the world is falling around you.

You just have to see her.
You just have to see her.
You just have to see her.
You just have to see her.
You just have to see her.
You know that she'll break you in two.

Okay, before we even start in on this terrible set of affairs: when a band's title references Don DeLillo's White Noise--surely one of the most respected novels of the past 25 years--one expects to see, lyrically, the A game. What we have here is surely what can only be described, at best, as a band's R game. This is like filming "The Stanley Kubrick Bozack Experiment" and then showing three hours of international test patterns.

And then there's the title: "Sometime Around Midnight." Do you suppose that the band was slyly referencing JJ Cale's "After Midnight"? Or Thelonius Monk's " 'Round Midnight"? Or do you suppose that the title simply reflects the hard sort of thinking that leads to razor-sharp observations such as "the band plays some song" or a white dress that the singer hasn't seen in "a while"? I have my own guesses.

Sonically, it's not a terrible song. It's not a good song, by any means, but it certainly is better than these terrible lyrics. It begins with an oddly downsweeping string figure, whose motif is repeated later in the song when it gets, like, dramatic, man, but by then the lead singer has adopted a particularly strangled style of vocalization that leads the amateur diagnostician to suspect a thoracic fistula, and anyway, by the time you get there, if you've paid attention to what the man has been saying, you're praying for death yourself. But the tune lurches along somewhat compulsively for all that; it wouldn't be out of place on a Coldplay album in a universe where Gwyneth Paltrow let Chris Martin chastely spank her every now and then.

But there's no getting past those lyrics.

The first stanza sets the tone: the singer is a chronic alcoholic! I guess. Which, if you're Brendan Behan is pretty awesome, but if you're, say, anyone else, is pretty terrible. As he stands "under the bar lights"--as opposed to on the bar lights, or inside them--he notices that a band is playing "some song" and then he sees his old girlfriend in a white dress he hasn't seen in "a while." Hey, enough with the excruciating details! We don't need to know everything!

The second verse is actually the least offensive of all of them, and that's saying something, considering it contains the phrase "She's holding her tonic like a cross." Over her shoulder? Nailed to her wrists? Clasped reverentially near her chest? I'm going to go with the last one, because I really enjoy breasts. At any rate, this sort of aimless grope at religious imagery is comically hopeless. It might be my favorite line of all.

Wait, just kidding! Honestly, this is my very favorite line: "And so there's a change, in your emotions." Has a person's mental state ever been so incisively, so pithily described? Why, just the other day, when the wife asked me, "How are you dealing with the death of several of your friends who all perished in a terrible bus accident?" I replied, "There's been a change in my emotions." She nodded her head and said, "I know exactly how you feel."

It's at this point during the song when the listener is forced to ask himself: "Why are the lyrics in the present second person?" And the listener replies to himself: "Because it adds to the horribleness."

This verse is where the frenzy starts. What could the phrase "memories come rushing
like feral waves to your mind" possibly mean? I used to body surf a lot when I was a kid; I never encountered a feral wave. I do like that the singer specifies that the memories rush to "your mind," as opposed to, say, your skin. Another good one is "like two perfect circles entwined." If circles entwine, don't they stop being circles? Listen, I'm not a topologist, though I'm trying. Maybe he wanted "toruses," but didn't want to confuse listeners or doughnut consumers.

Oh, the next verse is another bore, though it doesn't skimp on the inane cliches--"blood boiling," "you look like you've seen a ghost." Hmmm. Niggling point here, but wouldn't someone whose blood was at a boil look exactly the opposite of someone who had seen a ghost? Oh, never mind. This song is terrible. By now, the string figure is in full deployment, and the singer sounds as if he's being eaten feet-first by Nyarlathotep.

And then there's the end, where the singer wails insistently that "You just have to see her" five times, and then concludes that having done that, you know that she'll just "break you in two." Someday, I'm sure Donald Fagen or someone will write some knotty song about being broken into three, or broken into an algebraically complicated set of numbers to be debated by Marilyn vos Sant and the Mythbusters, but for now, you are, once again, forced to deal with being broken in two.

This is really embarrassing.

Listen, I know that there are any number of worthy candidates out there--I can practically hear people screaming "WAIT! What about 'My Humps?' " or whatever (I know, not really on the timeline) and whatnot, but really, what I'm after here is songs that genuinely pretend to be a step above and fail ridiculously. I'm confident in my choice. I'm rubbing my hands, 2009! Don't let me down. I know you won't.

Monday, 01 December
Avignon, Meal Two

You try to not violate your travel rules. Inevitably, you fail.

I don't know why this is hard. The wife and I learned this early on: Do not eat anywhere close to the town square, for you will be served fucking garbage. We violated this rule on our trip--again--and paid.

It was nearing ten o'clock in Avignon, and we had not eaten. Yes, we were in the fucking town square; yes, we were hungry; yes, we fell prey to the siren song of a godforsaken eatery on said square. We sidled up to it like you might approach a bored whore.

It should have been a sign all by itself. A waiter hollered to us--we apparently stink American, since he didn't even bother to try our awful French--"You better get a table! We close in fifteen minutes!" He really was very friendly, in a harried kind of way; I like to think of him as the Luc Besson of waiters. He didn't really care about the overall experience of his clients, but was mostly concerned with how efficiently he could cycle them in and out of his worldview. Which is why I suppose we were served the gastronomic equivalent of The Fifth Element.

I ordered a simple steak, which turned out to be, in Moe Scyszlak terms, the size of a toilet seat, generously marbled with copious amounts of gristle. The wife opted for a truly grievous pasta pomodoro thing, which she proceeded to salt the everloving bearfuck out of. I must have stared a little bit at her, since she eventually hissed, "It doesn't taste like anything." I dipped my head ruefully and continued sawing away at my sinewy colossus of pure meat; an unappetizing gruel of over-sauteed vegetables stared at me accusingly and greyly from the side of my plate. I ignored their vegetized grumping and concentrated on chewing my astounding gristle-slab while the wife continued to strafe her dismal dish of bloodied pasta with killing fusillades of sodium.

It's simple. Don't eat on the public squares. This is a lesson that we should have learned--we have learned--over many years of shared travel. We still fuck this up.

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