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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.

Note: Comments are closed on old entries.


Do I know you? You are fucking hilarious, and now my idol of petty gripes. Rock on.

Comment number: 017677   Posted by: LigSchmig on December 10, 2008 07:42 AM from IP:

i love this song...everyone has seen their ex when drunk at a bar and it describes that stinging feeling perfectly...that totally hot chick you used to be able to have sex with just left with someone else...perhaps you never had a hot chick..wouldn't surprise me

Comment number: 017678   Posted by: on December 10, 2008 05:12 PM from IP:

I have never, ever seen my ex while drunk at a bar and I am 39 and HAVE LIVED. Honestly? a life, maybe? stop swimming in the communal pool?
I dunno. I stand with Skot.

Comment number: 017679   Posted by: Alyxherself on December 10, 2008 07:20 PM from IP:

"everyone has seen their ex when drunk at a bar and it describes that stinging feeling perfectly"

You mean the part about how she bolts as she walks?

If it describes that stinging feeling perfectly, I, too, am glad I've never seen my ex while I've been drunk at a bar, because the stinging clearly comes from being punctured by deadly inanity.

Comment number: 017680   Posted by: Kate on December 11, 2008 07:39 PM from IP:

Hang on a freaking second... what happeend to the first "Izzle"?? It used to be "Izzle! Izzle Pfaff!" Now it's just "Izzle Pfaff!" ??? WTF? You can't just lose and Izzle and not tell people!

Explain yourself Skot!

Comment number: 017699   Posted by: Christian on December 20, 2008 03:15 PM from IP:

So I'm thinking you might've missed the point of this song.First off, the song is describing the helpless moments of being stuck somewhere between the current reality and a memory - which is in this case partly brought on by the subject trying to forget himself in alcohol. This is the reason for the vagueness (some song, in a while). It's a sort of tongue-in-cheek description of how lost he is. This technique has been used by authors like Phillip K. Dick and Douglass Adams. As far as the substance dependance and lust, I didn't realize that makes a song "terrible." I suppose I'd better reevaluate Johnny Cash and the ROlling Stones. Not to mention the Beatles and Neil Young. Ignoring for a moment your statement that waves can't be feral, I'm not sure what your issue with the entwined circles is. It's two circles linked together, like in the Olympics logo - they share space and yet still maintain their own distinct shape. Which is appropriate for the simile. I'll admit that the Blood is boiling line is an overly exhausted cliche, but it doesn't clash with "YOu look like you've just seen a ghost," because this line isn't so much referencing his pale demeanor as ironically pointing out that he was just swept up by the ghost of the dead relationship, the ghost in the memories (although anyone who doesn't think it's possible to have boiling blood and a pale face must not remeber High school very well). The refrain, cliche as it is, is at least appropriate because it shows that his desire for the girl is like his alcoholism, and even though he knows how it will feel, he just wants to see her and be broken.. he's really a wreck.

Comment number: 017847   Posted by: Tim on February 16, 2009 10:56 AM from IP:

Why thank you Tim, for trying to explain to these people the deeper meaning of the song since their simple minds cannot fathom the purpose of these lyrics. I personally love this song , and cannot stand when a "holier than thou" person decides to dissect and belittle something that their brains cannot process. If you don't understand something, keep your mouth shut, please. Also, I am sorry if I offend but I do understand when a person simply does not like a song. However, do not just completely insult and rip the song because of your personal preference. If you care that much about a song that you so obviously dislike, then please get a life. I'd rather hear how passionate you are about a song you actually enjoy and feel.

Comment number: 017852   Posted by: Shannon on February 18, 2009 12:54 PM from IP:

this song is pimp as fuck i love listening to it while im stoned

Comment number: 017872   Posted by: Andy yo on February 28, 2009 06:21 PM from IP:

I think you're analyzing each word and stanza beyond what you should.

It's a good song to listen to when you're ditched by a girl you used to have, and you're pissed off driving around feeling lonely and angry, and at least there's some song on the radio that kinda relates to your feelings.

Comment number: 017925   Posted by: Nathan Lee on March 25, 2009 01:35 PM from IP:

Hey Skot, I've never met you, but I suspect, just by the way you have torn apart a pretty unique and in my opinion, a pretty decent song that, when standing, you are less than five feet tall. I could be wrong.


Comment number: 017927   Posted by: Tony on March 27, 2009 08:35 AM from IP:

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