Back in April, I posted a song by Marah titled ‘Barstool Boys.’ I used them to illustrate how sometimes expectations get in the way of your enjoyment of an album, a film, whatever.
In Marah’s case, the band came highly recommended by author Nick Hornby but initially failed to live up to his hype. Around the time of that post, however, I’d rediscovered their music (through the album Kids in Philly) and was starting to understand all the praise.
Well, since then I’ve jumped fully on the Marah bandwagon. I haven’t gotten any more of their albums (yet) but I definitely plan to. Kids in Philly, though, has emerged as one of the best records I’ve heard in recent years.
I even convinced my English teacher wife to use one of their songs in her classroom as an example of metaphor. Their song ‘My Heart is the Bums on the Street’ is a one long string of them.
Examples: “My heart is a saxophone solo from a third story window
just before dawn,” “My heart is the ghetto at midnight teeming with beats that reverberate fear,” “My heart is a barrel on fire that blows burnin’ ashes at a telephone wire.”
That song is a beautiful look at a lovesick man walking through a big city and seeing his loneliness reflected back at him by everything he sees. It’s a brilliant piece of work, and I have no idea why it took me more than one listen to recognize that.
Kids in Philly also features ‘Round Eye Blues,’ a song from the perspective of a soldier in Vietnam:
With swords dangling from their chest
The old guys down at the taproom swear
The Japs could kill you best
But late at night I could still hear the cries
Of three black guys I seen take it in the face
I think about them sweet Motown girls they left behind
And the assholes that took their place
This is just great, great writing… the sort you don’t come across very often in rock songs. There’s a reason authors such as Hornby and Stephen King call them the best rock band in America.
‘Point Breeze’ is another fine song from the same album. Read this song before you listen to it and tell me it doesn’t paint a hell of a picture. I particularly love the verse about the waitress.
Stoppin’ in the corner bars or rollin’ to get home
Orchestrated stars go laughin’ at the weather charts
Reflectin’ off the moon and Mars
Like they were spinnin’ in a bowl, baby
Well, waitress your tips are heads or tails
And surely luck would never fail you
Hang your apron on a nail
If this work doesn’t pay
As the diners sign the air for checks
Sayin’, “Put your coat on, she’ll come over”
Wind their watches like you’d expect
They’ve got tickets for some ballet…
Thinkin’ I thought I was
Beginnin’ to see the light
I was beginnin’ to see the light
And now there ain’t no doubt about it…
(Baby all right)
TV tubes do glow in ghostly white and blue
Panning cameras, Action News, your dinner on a tray
I got the sound check blues, baby…
Up the bottom, blow the fuse
Call for whiskey, tie your shoes
Up in Point Breeze there ain’t no trees
To shield the moonless sky, you’re seen
To walk the streets in baggy jeans and never say hello
And it’s half a fifty gallon drum at a
Barbecue for everyone…the old folks chat,
The sodas flat, and there’s not a single white…