Sammy the Seal

“I hope it’s entertaining, ’cause for me, it’s a bitch”

In music videos, vinyl on Monday, 20 February, 2012 at 22:23


Song: Dog Problems
Artist: The Format
Album: Dog Problems

Yup, those were the days. Sitting on my appropriated mattresses on the floor in my 11′ x 7′ bedroom in New York, January-July 2007. Of course, I was exploring a lot more new artists then, so a fair amount of artists remind me of living there. I downloaded it upon reading a description of this bizarre tune, and was rather impressed. The music is a bit kooky and theatrical, not to mention the utter melodrama of some of the lyrics, but darn it, I like it anyway! Starting from even the first time hearing it, I think what impressed me was that I felt it took a decent amount of balls to record something so overblown and highly personal, using a carnival-style, kitchen-sink aesthetic, no less. And yet, the orchestration is rather creative well-done, if you just listen to it. It may feel like a novelty initially, but it’s not really. The lyrics certainly are a mouthful (I could’ve put up any number of too-clever, cheeky lines up front, see below), and the bridge at 1:55 enters sensitive, singer-songwriter plaintiveness, but it’s hard for me to hold too much against any of it, as I was going through and have gone through similar personal issues myself since then. The overwhelming majority of the time, I’d roll my eyes at something like that, and I do admit it comes dangerously close to maudlin territory, but, I am yet moved. However stilted, I get the sincerity.

The record as a whole is a good example of bitter subject matter glossed over with mostly sprightly, upbeat music, and much of it is is not just upbeat, but quite catchy. All of which is good, because it’s pretty bloody. A break-up record is nothing new, but nonetheless. I’ll always be a sucker for that kind of thing. It’s hard enough to deal with such personal issues, I think energetic and/or creative music is more cathartic than soft, plain-spoken tones, which I personally tend to equate with wallowing. You purge the thought and emotion without it dragging you down too much. I wrote about another Format song before, where I included co-leader Nate Ruess’ livejournal entry about the making of the record, thought I’d include it again. It doesn’t have anything specific about this song, as it did for “If Work Permits”, but it’s still a thoughtful, open-hearted read.

The video is below the lyrics. It’s cute, but a little too precious for me. The visuals I thought were a little too slavish to the words, but then again, I’ve never directed a music video. La parole:

“Don’t you dare speak for someone you don’t know/they’ll feel it in the back of their throat/we know I can’t construct a poem, ’cause words, like girls, get bored and run/c’est la vie/I say ‘I’ve got so many better things’/I’ve got nothing/you should see me/I smoke myself to sleep and blame postmodern things I can’t relate, like summer camp and coastal states/like alcohol and coffee beans, dance floors and magazines/I think it’s safe to say I’ve only got myself to blame, but boys in swooping haircuts are bringing me down, taking pictures of themselves

“And so I walk the web in search of love, but always seem to end up stuck/I’m finding flaws in everyone/I reached the point where all I want is to sleep around in hopes that I will catch back up/we are parallel lines, we’re running in circles, we’re never meant to cross/I’m at a loss, you were my tangerine, my pussycat, my trampoline/now alls I gets are wincing is cheeks and dog problems/I signed a lease, thinkin’ my heart belonged at 93rd and Park/instead I broke a girl’s heart and flew back to Phoenix to finish the year as it started

“Can you hear me? Are you listening?/This is the sound of my heart aching, and I hope it’s entertaining, ’cause for me it’s a bitch/Was it worth it? When you slept with him? Did you get it all out of your system?/I am man holding it all, I couldn’t breathe, coming across I didn’t know I couldn’t get up

“B is for believing you’d always be here for me/E is for everything, even when we’d see it through/C, C is for seeing through you, you are a fake/which brings me to: A/because because you always run away/I never finish phrases I misspell/open arms are prison cells/when I said ‘I hate who I’ve become’, I lied– I hated who I was/so when you start to wonder about the pain in my throat, don’t you ever, no never, ever speak for someone you don’t know”

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