As I sit here listening to Squirrel Bait, at the very least two days late, trying to think of anything at all to write about anybody at all, 43 years old and gonna be 44, the idea of anyone denying me purchase of alcoholic beverages for reasons of age seems impossibly remote, and the idea of my being at all pissed off over such a thing were it to occur actually seems somewhat quaint.
Yet somehow, the desperation and frustration which flow from the Squirrel Bait EP--surely one of the great teen angst records ever--remarkably seem vital and immediate to me.
It wouldn't be until Skag Heaven the followup that the band would record a song entitled "Kid Dynamite," and make the explosive reference explicit but on "Sun God," Peter Searcy still rasps on about how his mind's a timebomb ticking away. "Tiickiiing Awaaay," I might phoneticize it, but really, there's no way to communicate through words, on paper in pixels, the emotion Searcy conveys with his voice, and the way he roughens it, or bends its pitch.
It's one of the problems with rock criticism, including mine, and the reason Eno started making ambient records: lyrics are easiest to write about, and the handiest tools with which to bang out a precis, but the least important to whether or not a song sticks in your craw.
I mean, if I highlight
I feel the power of the sun on my back
So good that he is God
My life, as my mind's ticking away.
the chorus of the song and the root of its power, even more so than that wonderful little stutter-step guitar line that keeps reappearing, your interest might at best be somewhat piqued by the imagery of the power of the sun on somebody's back. It at least holds the place until you get to the "mind's ticking away" part.
But Christ! when you listen to the song, each time Searcy sings "back" it's a fucking event . . . .the first time in introduction, the song's already swelling, "feel the power of the suun on MYY . . . back," pulling away at the last moment, after giving us a glimpse of the power shortly to follow.
And then the Albini-powered rocket guitar, and Searcy's expressive screams, and the song is at crescendo already at 1:30. It might almost be a dilemna, but then things quiet down, and the stutter step guitar again, and the chorus. But this time "back" is not de-emphasized . Searcy makes the listener wait an extra beat or two, and then he screams the word for all its worth, and it's cathartic release on an album sculpted for it.
I didn't describe what he was doing very well; it isn't easy to describe. But if you even got a ghost of the gist, you'll understand that these things, the delivery and the posture and the inflection and the accent, the desparation and the frustration, are way more important than the diction and the sequence.
Way more important than location or pedigree, too. If you've noticed, I try not to bother with things like Squirrel Bait were from Louisville, or their members went on to form Slint, or even stuff like Squirrel Bait probably influenced Nirvana. Things like that have nothing to do with why a song hits me, or the memories it dredges up, or the images it forms for me, and so I try not to write about them.
Lyrics can be that way, too, on inspection actually irrelevant, and sometimes I'll try not to write about them at all. But sometimes I slip, as when it's 9:00 and I'm two days late, and I have no clue what I'm going to write about, I got this great song, alright, but can't think of anything at all to say about it. . . .
and then all of a sudden I have.
Squirrel Bait - Squirrel Bait - 03- Sun God.mp3
128 kbps mp3, up for six weeks (Right click and save as target)
File under: Louisville Rock