Monday, January 01, 2007

"Guy Who Doesn't Get It" / Jill Sobule

Jill Sobule's like this great girlfriend you can sit up late with, drinking margaritas and eating Doritos and giggling and getting slaphappy. Her songs are so perky, her voice so kittenish, you don't realize at first how snarky her lyrics are; then suddenly you catch her winking at you and you're in on the joke and you love it. She's like the patron saint of insecure misfits and underdogs, with a Geiger counter in her brain that ticks wildly at every absurdity. Even when life doesn't work out for her -- like in this brilliant song from the Pink Pearl album (2000) -- she can't help but sketch it with sick, dry humor.

The joke here is not that the girl singing the song is suicidally depressed -- although she is -- it's that her obtuse boyfriend hasn't got a clue. "Can't you see that I am dying inside?", she starts singing, in that sweet-and-innocent voice, even before the listless acoustic guitar and bored-sounding drums lurch in -- "Can't you hear my muffled cry?" On the second verse, a lazy slide guitar joins in as she wearily elaborates: "Don't you know my life's a quiet hell? / I'm a black hole, I'm an empty shell / Does it occur to you that I might need help?/ You're the guy who doesn't get it."

Okay, that's the premise; we've all known/dated/married men like this, and we're smiling in recognition and shaking our heads. But then, Jill being Jill, she keeps on pushing the scenario further: "Say I'm in the tub with a razor blade / You'd walk in and ask me "How was your day?" / Then you'd lather up and start to shave / As I bleed on the new tile floor..." The NEW tile floor; that's the detail that grabs me -- trust a woman to notice, even as she's slitting her wrists, that the blood's going to ruin her nice new floor.

"I'm sure that you really care for me / And your heart's as big as Germany," she goes on, and of course the word Germany is not idly chosen: "But you're as blind as they were back in '33 / You're the guy who doesn't get it." Sure, it's stretching the point a bit to compare the guy to a Nazi collaborator, but what the hey -- he's not listening anyway, is he? She could say anything and he'd never notice. She hauls out one more melodramatic scenario, upping the ante for shock value: "Say the car exhaust engulfs my brain/ The Nembutol is racing through my veins / You come in and ask "Are you okay?"/ As I close my eyes forever." And still . . . no reaction.

A plunking piano ambles in next, slapping down a few discordant notes, as if it's not even worth the effort to get them right. Jill tries the chorus one last time, asking wryly, "What's going on inside those vacant eyes?" And of course she has no answer -- none of us do. None of us ever do. But sometimes, the only thing that keeps you sane is knowing that at least your girlfriends know just what you're talking about.

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