Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Lyrics of the Day: In Honor of Ms. Williams' New Record

Lucinda Williams' new record, West showed up in my mailbox yesterday. This is a powerful album, featuring the pain and rage we're used to hearing from Williams, who said in a recent interview with the Baltimore Sun,"I was addicted to bad boys...It was almost a drug in itself. I had to get past it."
Robert Christgau, hasn't really brought out the love for Lucinda since his review of "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road," and finds some of the songs on the album "dull" and washouts (He thus dismisses "Learning How to Live," which as far as melody goes, is more like the pop songs on Christgau's favorite early Lucinda records than anything else on the record).

Rather than being dull, I think these songs echo the emotional honesty and sometimes deceptive simplicity that characterized her first records. That simplicity, along with the lessons of experience, delivers some of the greatest break-up songs ever penned. One of them is "Wrap My Head Around That": 9 minutes of fed-up near-rapping beginning with the lines "you told me you loved me/you said you wanna be with me/you looked right into my eyes/said I'm not like those other guys" and then turns to a rebuke along the lines of a pop-Henry James:

I know what I think I saw
and what I thought I seen
and what was coming and what was going and everything in between
and what I thought I heard you say
and what you really said
and what I thought you thought I thought was actuallly in your head
and what you meant to tell me and what I meant to say
and what I said you said I said
and what went the other way
I know what you did to me
and I know what we did
and who did to what to who
and who the hell were you tryin to kid?
I know more than you think I know, more than you think about
and know and think you know and think you've got it all figured out
I know I'm missin something or something's missing here and there
and all over and over around and up and everywhere
and you're just all up in it
look out your zipper's gonna break
out popped your little party favor
and you just take the cake
I can't believe I believed you when I found out where you're at
and finding out why you're too much
And trying to wrap my head around that

"West" is about going through it and getting past it, and the getting past it is important. While there is sadness on the record, it's not the bottomless well that was "Essence." I identify with Williams in her effort to kick an addiction to dangerous men and embrace a more serious and honest relationship. I imagine that a lot of women, single or coupled, will hear something similar here.
She sings of the wish to be healed by another love in "Unsuffer Me," a profound exploration of the rebound: unbound my feet/untie my wrist/come into my world of loneliness/and wickedness/and bitterness/unlock my love.

She sings of a quest for the "man she loves" someday coming along in "Where is My Love": Is my love in Birmingham?/ Making honey from the bees?/overjoyed to be my man/and rolling up his flannel sleeves?

She undoes both those fantasies with "Rescue" : He can't rescue you/can't pull the demons from your hair/can't lower you from your sleepy bier/He can't protect you/from the powers that will be/the hours of insanity/he can't protect you. He can't change you/change the summers of your beauty/the thunderstorms within your purity/he can't change you. He can't carry you/past the door of every danger/every foe and every stranger/he can't carry you.

Beyond what I hear in her songs, what little I know of Lucinda Williams' real life comes through shreds of gossip from my friends-of-friends in the Minneapolis music scene along with whatever articles published about her reveal.
Here, she announces that she's moved on from her toxic relationships past and looks at the world from a newly grown-up perspective. She told the Sun that during the making of West, she'd met "the Love of her life."...."Some people find that when they're 19 or 20," Williams says. "It took me a bit longer."

In honor of going through it to get past it, here are two sets of lyrics.

First, the words to a great break-up song on the new album

Come On:

I'm so over you
You don't even have a clue
All you did was make me blue
You didn't even make me
Come on

You're so self-involved
You're in some kind of fog
You're hung up on your hog
You didn't even make me
Come On.

You think you're in hot demand
But you don't where to put your hand
Let me tell you where you stand
You didn't even make me
Come on.

Dealing with this old fire (?)
Shut up, I'm not inspired
All I'm feeling now is tired.
You didn't even make me
Come on.

You weren't even worth it
I'm sorry I ever flirted
The effort wasn't even concerted
You didn't even make me
Come on.

All you do is talk the talk
You can't back it up with your walk
You can't light my fire, so fuck off
You didn't even make me
Come on.

and second, because I've been recently re-appreciating the breathless enthusiasm of her first album of original songs, 1988's "Lucinda Williams."

I Just Wanted To See You So Bad:

I drove my car in the middle of the night
I just wanted to see you so bad
The road was dark but the stars were bright
I just wanted to see you so bad
It didn't matter what my friends would say
I was gonna see you anyway
I just wanted to see you so bad
I just wanted to see you so bad
You were staying in a big hotel
I just wanted to see you so bad
I didn't know you very well
I just wanted to see you so bad
We'd always talked on the telephone
But I'd never been with you all alone
I just wanted to see you so bad
I just wanted to see you so bad
I got off on the seventh floor
I just wanted to see you so bad
I couldn't have asked for anything more
I just wanted to see you so bad
I saw your face so clear and bright
I must have been crazy but it sure felt right
I just wanted to see you so bad
I just wanted to see you so bad
I just wanted to see you so bad
I just wanted to see you so bad


Sam said...

i found lyrics for Overtime [Willie Nelson]
at Overtime

that is another song like by LUCINDA

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this, Reb. I don't have the CD yet (a payday away...) but it's getting a little airplay locally. I'm moved. It takes a lot.
p.s. the word verification string i'm about to type is sadly unpronounceable. A bad omen, according to a superstition i'm promoting.