Song of the Day #3,880: ‘Free Time’ – Michael Penn

This is Michael Penn’s first appearance on the blog in three and a half years, when I named his sophomore album Free-For-All my second-favorite of 1992. Today’s song comes from the same album.

I have a theory on why Penn never became a bigger star. I think his lyrics are just too inscrutable. His one hit, ‘No Myth,’ was easy enough to decipher. “What if I were Romeo in black jeans?” is a great, memorable line that doesn’t make you scratch your head like so many of this later songs.

Take a look at today’s random SOTD. It’s not exactly written in code, but it doesn’t make immediate sense, either. Not the way most hit songs do.

To be clear, I don’t mean that as a criticism. I love Penn’s wordplay, even when I have no idea what those words mean. I just think he might have sold more records if he had dumbed things down, or cleared them up.

I won’t ever get used to this
A blank spot
temptations
do resist.
The other shoe will drop
just an aftershock

Nice hat; you look like a referee
Nice watch; but why are you timing me?
Its spring has come unwound
I was not out of bounds
This is not out
I drew that line
when I was handed free time.

Bells clang
I guess it’s a holiday
Did that rhyme?
Shit! I’m a poet now.
So give me stuff for free
and if I do somehow

Into the soft whites
of beautiful lies
stare down
stare
I don’t apologize
I’ve never been the kind
to close an open mind
so leave behind all that extra free time.

Picked a lock and hopped some fences
that won’t do
Burning these = a bad example
finding out = a Roman candle

If I’m pale, it doesn’t mean something’s wrong
If I’m blue, I just held my breath too long
So if you wouldn’t mind
just do the deal and I’ll be real sublime
when I get all your free time.

One thought on “Song of the Day #3,880: ‘Free Time’ – Michael Penn

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    Your theory may be right. Meanwhile, I really like this song. I need to play more of this album.

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