Sammy the Seal

“I never asked for the truth, but you owe that to me”

In music videos, vinyl on Tuesday, 11 October, 2011 at 13:57

Song: Game of Pricks
Artist: Guided By Voices
Album: Alien Lanes

“Game of Pricks” is more about deception and lies, and not knowing what’s the truth or what’s real or if someone’s giving you bullshit. People can lie to you so much, it pricks away at you, just life itself, the deception in it… it had to do with dealing with people who I didn’t think were being straight-up with me, and that’s… that’s the game of pricks. Turns out I was totally paranoid– it’s not as bad as I thought it was… I don’t think anyone’s out to get me… It’s complicated, it’s one of the things in life you just have to accept. It’s like, “if you’re gonna fuck me, at least make sure I’m comfortable.” — excerpt from Guided by Voices: A Brief History: Twenty-One Years of Hunting Accidents in the Forests of Rock and Roll 

I’ve tried to see what the all the cool kid fuss over GBV is and I have to say I’m having trouble. For one, each song clocks about ninety seconds on average. It’s over before I know if I like it. I did just find an interview with Robert Pollard where he says, of the 1993-6 era: “it’s more punk. The songs are shorter from this period. They got longer and more complex as the band progressed and lineups changed. Lyrically, the songs are also more whimsical.” So it’s not just me. Actually, I remember being at Bumbershoot in 2001 or 2002, (whenever Isolation Drills was released) and seeing them on a whim, knowing of them as all hip and cool. Usually, it’s hard to enjoy or even sit through songs you’ve never heard before, but I remember it being a really good time. (I also remember there being a kinda-cute girl next to me so I pretended to sing and be extra into it like I was a fan.) I felt like I knew the songs despite having been completely ignorant. Or else they chose a catchy setlist. (I don’t recall this one being played though.) It was not a lo-fi show at all, they’re pretty rock live.

Anyway, this is one of their most well-known songs– Bob says it’s one of the best he’s written– and with good reason: it’s phenomenal! Sadly, this is one of the ninety-second songs, so it’s impossible to listen to this song just once, but not just because it’s short. The melody is completely marvelous. There’s something mournful and bittersweet about it. If this tune doesn’t stick to your brain, I may have to crack open your head to check for malfunction or missing parts.

They recorded another version for an EP, that hits more, sonically, but it’s just too slick. The intro is okay, but it feels tacked on. I’m no lo-fi aficionado but that approach feels right for the song, it’s more affecting. Well, at least the lyrics are clearer in the polished version:

I’ve waited too long to have you hide in the back of me
I’ve cheated so long I wonder how you keep track of me
You could never be strong
You can only be free
And I never asked for the truth, but you owe that to me

I’ve entered the game of pricks with knives in the back of me
Can’t call you or on you no more when they’re attacking me
I climb up on the house
Weep to water the trees
And when you come calling me down, I put on my disease

You could never be strong
You can only be free
And I never asked for the truth, but you owe that to me


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