"You Don't Love Me" / The Kooks
28 DAYS OF LOVE SONGS
Okay, so I'm writing about the Kooks again--wanna make something of it? I like this young band, with their cheeky retro BritBeat sensibility. They may have released this song in 2006, but it isn't all bogged down by irony and bogus postmodern lassitude. It's about a guy who's in love, and it's not working out for him, and he's upset about it -- what a refreshing throwback.
I love songs that start in mid-argument: “But you don’t love me the way that / I love you,” he sings, in a mournful mumbly tone (though the jaunty syncopation and thrusting guitar strums save it from sounding mopey or bitter). It's like he's been listening to her go on and on, blah-blah blah, and now finally he's getting a word in edgewise. He already knows that the relationship's doomed, and he's even willing to blame her: “Cause if you did, girl, you would not / Do those things you do.” (I love the two-beat pause between lines, the way it makes you wait for the other shoe to drop.) Going even further, he claims that she does this stuff on purpose, just to toy with his affections: "You kill my heart just to see if /I will rise / Above your anger and / Above your lies." It's like she's the sorority sister of that girl in the Buzzcocks song the other day -- a real bitch on wheels.
And furthermore -- since they're talking about it -- he has another bone to pick, in the bridge: "And all I see of you / Is when you're 'not so busy.'" As the line soars up into his falsetto range, the doubled vocals put this "not so busy" line in quotation marks -- that's what she calls it; but he's not buying it. He comes back in a short punchy line, "Oh, you're not so busy!", his vocals curdling angrily. Do we think she's seeing somebody else behind his back? I bet he does, and I bet she is.
Up to now, this has sounded like a doormat boyfriend finally speaking up for himself. If she's really this mean, why is he still with her? In verse two, though, he adds a little depth, with a poignant line: "You turned my life around / For that I am glad." For just a minute, I wonder if he's going to back down, but then, with a few more fierce grating strums, he girds his loins: "However much I love you / This love is getting bad." (Weak glad/bad rhyme, but it's the closest he's come yet to breaking things off.
I don't think he's totally made up his mind to leave her, though. In the second bridge he switches back and forth, complaining about "the words that only you could use" and then swearing "But you know you'll always be my girl, girl." And the fadeout (the track I'm listening to is the acoustic Live at Abbey Road version) is him fretting over and over, "But you don't love me, you don't care!" He hits that word "love" with such intense frustration, and peters off in a lonely wail on "care" -- poor guy. He's a hopeless romantic, isn't he? He wishes she'd change, and he knows she won't, but he wishes she would...it's the essence of being Unhappy In Love.
You Don't Love Me sample