Sammy the Seal

“Every time when we lied, I kept my legend by my side”

In vinyl on Monday, 21 May, 2012 at 16:48

Song: The Uselessness Of Friends…
Artist: The Reputation
Album: The Reputation

Elizabeth Elmore, folks! Everyone’s favorite charmer, ain’t she? Actually, it makes sense when one knows the backstory instead of just assuming she’s spiteful or morose. Sarge was pretty well-known in the mid-to-late-90s Chicago indie rock scene, and then they got a little press in behemoth music rags like Rolling Stone and Spin, merely along the lines of “hot new band”, really. Humble for her former profession (she’s likely a lawyer now), she was just trying to deal with the attention of being in an up-and-coming indie band. And then, out came the haters. (In fact, I learned that the band name is a play on the name all the shit-talkers in the Chicago indie scene created for her. And here I just thought it was a bleh band name.) And, not only were people jealous of the attention, but there were also scores of phonies and hangers-on:

“I had all these friends who came to every show Sarge played in Chicago for the past year and a half, and literally I would say 90 percent of those people have never come to see me play since [Sarge’s breakup]. It’s almost shocking how bad it was.”

So this song is quite obviously a reflection of that scene. Now, the music… I admit the piano ballad approach was initially a little jarring. It’s a bit pretty, but now knowing what she went through to arrive at that point, it’s as fragile and resigned as it is pretty. I would have like it better without any percussion, so it would stand in starker contrast. Indeed, this stands out from the others on the album. The emotional tone is more at home with that of Sarge, in that Elizabeth was sincerely trying to make sense of the mess of interpersonal relationships, e.g. “Stall”: “…this could turn out fine if I shut up and let things be okay…” I think it’s something we all come to terms with in our adult life, musician/artist or not, when we take stock of our lives and the people in it. Wanting and hoping things will be okay, that things and people can be fixed, discussed , or reasoned with. And then you learn how seldom that happens, from a healthy, realistic perspective. The tone and lyricism of her second band is much more direct and blunt (if that’s possible for her), and a bit scathing and defiant, even. At least for me, the conclusions I reached and the approach I learned seem to mirror this shift in tone between her two bands, and can be summed up in this amalgamation of quotes from Ms. Elmore:

“I’m not very good at not saying things I’m not supposed to say…. My bluntness makes people uncomfortable, or maybe not uncomfortable, but it just makes me not always welcome as a part of conversations–  and that’s fine….It took three and a half years, but I finally feel okay here. And now I don’t fuckin’ care what anyone says. Because, you know, they’re just gonna say it anyway.”

References/resources below. Insightful reads, these:


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