Monday, June 05, 2023

This Year: 1992

"This Year" is a series of weekly posts, each about one song from one year of my life. See the introduction for more.

Here's another band that almost fit into a dozen other years, across several decades. I don't know if I have a particularly compelling argument that this song, in 1992, is the absolute one, as opposed to the other ones I almost chose.

Those are, by the way: 

Don't Let's Start1986
Withered Hope2007
The Communists Have the Music2018

One may detect a certain common pessimism in all those choices....

But what I landed on, for They Might Be Giants and for the year 1992, is Narrow Your Eyes, the story of a love that has unequivocally broken, but only very recently, so recently that the two people involved are only just starting to realize it.

Actually, now that I come to write about it, it's not clear that the other person has realized it yet. This is yet another song sung by one person to another - the assumption, which could be wrong, is that it's from a man to a woman - as he realizes he's not in love anymore, and what they had is irrevocably over.

TMBG always have a way with words; their lyrics are tricky and allusive and skittery, circling around big things the people in their songs can't quite say bluntly. We all have trouble saying some things bluntly, whether to avoid hurting others or to avoid saying things we don't want to admit.

They say love is blind / I don't think you're blind

Is there a more devastatingly understated way to say "you don't love me anymore, do you?"

I've said before in this series I'm inordinately fond of breakup songs - just from TMBG, I could also talk about Don't Let's Start, with that great spell-it-out chorus, or Withered Hope, the compulsive story of a circle of characters who are all in love with the wrong people, or They'll Need a Crane, a glorious, perfect metaphor for broken things.

Narrow Your Eyes (and the other songs I just mentioned, too) also has a propulsive intensity: TMBG's songs of bad love are never mopey. This is a pop gem, bright and shiny and cold like the diamond in the ring he'll never get for her.

And last - maybe best - that title metaphor, again more of an allusion. We narrow our eyes for all kinds of things - suspicion or glare or worry or concern or anger. Each chorus gives a different reason, a different moment. But it all adds up to the same thing - this is over.

Now let's toast the sad cold fact / Our love's never coming back

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