Everyone, while talking about The Walkmen, talked about “Angela Surf City.” I have no bone to pick with that song, it is also a great song. But what everybody kept saying was that “Angela” was going to be held up in their great song canon right up next to “The Rat.”
I never quite bought that. Sonically, I felt the only similarities they had were really fast and awesome drum fills. But to be honest, I don’t think “Angela” is the kind of song a band would want to be held up next to The Rat.
“The Rat” was a song that only a younger band could (should) have written. It was angry and petulant and full of relatable self-loathing. It was thrilling, because you could easily put yourself in that friendless lonely situation. “Angela” is a little too vague to be a sequel to “The Rat” (At this point, I realize that people probably aren’t arguing that “Angela” is a “thematic” sequel to “The Rat,” just a “sonic” sequel, but I feel like if you’re going to compare songs, you should go all the way).
“The Rat” is painting an intense picture of a certain time and place, and above all a certain feeling of that time and place. “Angela” isn’t doing that. It’s a nice picture, but it’s strength is in the strength the odd specifics of the song’s lyrics are said.
For me, the standout track of “Lisbon,” and the best (new) song of the year (bam), was “Woe Is Me.” Before I get back to the above ideas, let me outline why this song is great. It’s so summery, it’s a shimmery warm weathered tune, perfect for late afternoon sunsets with a slight wind. And Oh, GOD was that the drippiest Yanni BS I’ve ever written.
But what I mean to say is: this song is perfectly alright with itself. It doesn’t need the rip-roaring shouted chorus that “Angela Surf City” has to be fantastic. It’s lyrics are much better suited for it’s music than “Angela”‘s are. With that song, you get the feeling that anything could be sung/shouted. But with “Woe Is Me,” it’s the perfect pairing.
That said, I do believe that lyrically, this song sits fine with me as a sequel to “The Rat.” It’s no stretch for me to imagine that the person that “you should know” is the same one who previously “had the nerve to be calling [his] number.” But time’s passed, things are different, and those things that made the singer so angry don’t really matter anymore. He’s painting a really simple picture of the daytime memory, a pleasant one, rather than the angry nighttime of “The Rat.” When he’s saying “Woe is me,” he’s saying it with a wink. There was strife then, but that was then, not now. He’s moved past it.
For me, the whole song is really made in the bridge:
now the street lights, bright and pale
as we sip our ginger ale
i kiss you by the blinking sign
don’t get heavy, let’s be light
It’s like, what, a whole three minutes of a memory? It’s a nothing moment, you’re sitting on the curb having a soda with your girlfriend. But it’s those nothing moments that mean the world to you, they’re the ones you want to keep. And “don’t be heavy, let’s be light”? I don’t think I’ve heard a better lyric to Live By in years.
It’s really that line that makes me play the song on repeat more than any other song from this year. There was a lot of a sort of “optimism in the darkness” kind of vibe to this year’s music, but “Woe Is Me” goes further— it’s saying “Hey, don’t even worry about the Darkness.” It’s a reminder to remember that you’re still alive, you’re still living your life— go with it.
The thing is, I could be reading way too much into that song with all that. But that’s what makes a brilliant song— if you want to, you can read too much into it. A great song should let you jump into it, see yourself in it, let yourself live it. And if you come out of the song feeling better, then… wow, even better.
Happy new year.