I sort of swing between paying a whole lot of attention to a song’s lyrics and not paying much attention at all. Today’s song is an example of the latter, as I’m only discovering now that it apparently has a different meaning than I thought.
But I’ll get to that in a second. First a few words about Guster, one of those solid bands that has a strong indie following but hasn’t really been able to break through to mainstream success. I own three of their albums (the three most recent) and like them all quite a bit.
On their first few records, their trademark was a drummer who didn’t use sticks… it was all bongos and congas, and it made for a really interesting sound. When they included a full drum kit on Keep It Together, the album that features ‘Amsterdam,’ it resulted in a minor fan revolt. But I was happy with the shift, mainly because this song kicks major ass in all its traditional drumming glory.
As for the song… I always took it as a standard break-up song, and I loved the first lines about throwing away “your greatest hits” because I imagined myself breaking up with a girl who owned a lot of greatest hits collections and taking advantage of the breakup to dispose of the vile things.
And I suppose that interpretation still holds true. But in reading about the song for this blog entry, I kept stumbling on references to the drug use of the ex-lover. Lines like “you’re wasted,” “up on your cloud,” “this bitter pill” and, well, “your drugs.” And of course the references to Amsterdam, known for its liberal drug laws.
So looking at in that light makes it a little more serious, I guess, than I always thought. The truth is I never really listened to the lyrics beyond those first lines. And sometimes you don’t really need to listen to the lyrics to love a song.
Here they are, in case you want to:
I threw away your greatest hits
You left them here the day you split
Your bass guitar and Shaggs cd
Well they don’t mean that much to me right now
I’m going through your things
These days, i’m changing all my strings
I’m gonna write you a letter
I’m gonna write you a book
I wanna see your reaction
I wanna see how it looks
From way up on your cloud
Where you’ve been hiding out
Are you getting somewhere?
Or did you get lost in Amsterdam?
You won’t get too far from me
Believing everything you read
You’re wasted in the great unknown
And I am finally ready to dispose
Of all your vintage clothes
Your drugs and every secret code
From your red balloon you were
A super high tech jet fighter
Floating over planet Earth
Come back down here I’ll show you where it hurts
Take this bitter pill
Is it easy to swallow?