Thursday, April 08, 2010


Way back in the early days of this blog, when I hadn't a clue how to post the music I was writing about, I didn't get much response when I waxed eloquent about some of my more obscure music choices. A darn shame, really. Optimistically, I'll blame it on the fact that you couldn't hear the song in question, so I'm giving it another shot -- this time with one of my homemade videos attached. Trust me, you don't have to know who Jill Sobule is to get a kick out of this particular number . . .

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.


Anonymous said...

Well done! And, thanks, I wouldn't have found her music without the help of your blog. Those snarky lyrics bring to mind Sylvia Plath's "Daddy" piece. From "muffled cry" immediately I think of Plath's "barely daring to breathe or achoo." Silenced in both pieces. Seems both speak about the same unavailable quality of some men. Yes, girlfriends would totally get it.

Alex said...

Sadly, Pink Pearl never got the attention of Jill Sobule or Happy Town -- I guess that's what happens when you move from a major label to an indie. Still, it's a strong collection of tunes and well recommended to anyone looking to go a little deeper into her catalogue.

The Modesto Kid said...

Hi Holly, did you know about this film? (Perhaps you have posted about it already and I forgot.)

Holly A Hughes said...

Yes, Geoff Edgers has been rummaging around Kinks world for a while with that project -- way cool! I can't wait to see it. I think I may go up to the Boston Film Festival on April 24th to see it, since there's no screenings announced in the New York area.