#54 – “Prevenge” (2004)

The Spine

L.K.: Is this our first Spine song?

A.S.: Yep, this is. Coincidentally enough, it was also the first single from The Spine.
L.K.: Yeah, and what a weird choice for a single. “Experimental Film” would seem the more obvious one as it’s the first track and a stereotypically Linnellian pop number. “Prevenge” is just weird on a number of levels. Not the least of which is that bridge…
A.S.: Smack in the middle of this bouncy pop number there’s this lounge-pop bridge dealing with a Mr. Pupkin.
L.K.: I’m still not exactly sure what that’s a reference to… folks on the wiki seem to think it involves a character of that name in The King of Comedy, but I’ve never seen that movie so I can’t really comment personally.
A.S.: I saw it years ago, and while I recall the Pupkin in the film to be very off-center mentally, I don’t remember anything having to do with love-ins or pre-arranging revenge…
L.K.: “With apologies to Mr. Walker” is printed in the liner notes before the Pupkin section of the lyrics, but that doesn’t help. Is there a Mr. Walker in that film? Nobody seems to have any clue what it all means.
A.S.: Google isn’t helping any.
L.K.: Yeah, if there’s some sort of obscure pop-culture reference informing the lyrics to this song, it appears to be completely lost on everyone who’s ever listened to it.
A.S.: Well done, Flansy.  You’ve fooled us. I still can’t figure out why this was the single from the album.  It’s a fine song and all, but as you said, “Experimental Film” would have made far more sense – or “Damn Good Times”, “Thunderbird”, “It’s Kickin’ In”“Broke In Two”… was there something going on in 2004 that made the band think, “Oh, this is the hit”?
L.K.: I don’t know! I don’t know what was going on with them in 2004; they seemed pretty confused in a lot of ways. It’s like they were still trying to figure out how to make an album after the lack of success of Mink Car. I’m not saying it’s a bad album, in fact, I think I probably like it more than The Else, but there’s just so many questionable decisions surrounding it regarding stuff like what songs made it to the album vs. the EP, what song was released as the single, etc. This song as a single is just puzzling, although the band has a history of not always selecting the strongest songs as singles (see: “The Guitar”, “Snail Shell”, etc.).
A.S.: True, I guess the success of No! is on a slightly different level here.
L.K.: Yeah, they weren’t trying to have singles or get potential radio airplay or anything from that. No worries about rock critics.
A.S.: And unfortunately this album didn’t work all that well for them once again, critically.
L.K.: Oh man, the UK really hated them it seems.
A.S.: Yeah.  It seems all this writer has done lately is write obituaries.  For a guy who’s really into death, you’d figure he’d enjoy TMBG a bit more.
L.K.: “Over the past 20 years, TMBG must have infuriated enormous numbers of people.” Oh jeez. And he didn’t even mention “Prevenge”, which he theoretically could’ve destroyed a lot easier than the lovely “Memo To Human Resources”.
A.S.: True. Also, there’s a negative review from Tiny Mix Tapes which is no longer on their site, but it contained this incorrect statement: “‘It’s Kickin’ In’ sounds like Linnell doing karaoke over a failed garage rock single, and most of the rest sounds like, well, Fountains of Wayne.” But of course, Tiny Mix Tapes also very recently posted the worst review of that Lana Del Rey album, which is saying something since there were a lot of fucking abysmal Lana Del Rey articles out there.
L.K.: I mean, when I’m reading all these negative reviews of TMBG from the UK, the thing to keep in mind is, they’re a one-hit wonder over there rather than a band with a longstanding cult fanbase. Okay, technically, they were actually a two-hit wonder, but who’s counting. “By 1999, they were without a recording contract and reduced to releasing  albums as MP3 downloads on the internet, the millennial equivalent of  flogging your records out of a car boot.” Oh ho ho ho ho. “…a band remembered only for their 1990 novelty hit “Birdhouse in Your Soul” and a toe-curling Top of the Pops appearance where keyboard player John Linnell and guitarist John Flansburgh jumped up and down for the song’s duration” It’s from 2001, but close enough. The Guardian has it in for this band, Dan Miller really was right.
A.S.: FUCK BANDS WHO JUMP UP AND DOWN. MUSICIANS SHOULDN’T HAVE FUN.
L.K.: Isn’t it generally agreed that bands that jump up and down are the best bands?
A.S.: Yes.
L.K.: My mom, the Wilco fanatic, goes on and on about if a guitarist in that band jumps once during an entire show, at which point I resist the urge to make a smug comment about the ridiculous jumpiness of TMBG.
A.S.: I mean, because a band member jumps up and down, that doesn’t make the band great, necessarily, let us be clear. But usually, jumping up and down a lot, and of course, unconventional, spazzy dancing are often marks of a great band.
L.K.: Oh yeah, obviously jumping does not make music good. But bands that are too self-important to do so generally suck.
A.S.: Yeah, fuck those guys. But man, I’d be curious to read that whole Tiny Mix Tapes review.  Goddamn revisionists.
L.K.: It’ll be a picture of pugs in a box or something.
A.S.: All of this is why I’ve given up on ever writing about music professionally. Of course, it’s also partly why we’re doing this blog in the first place! But anyway, “Prevenge”. Looking at the chord sheet, I notice that even though the song is clearly in B major, not once is there ever a root position B major chord.
L.K.: That’s pretty damn odd. Any other songs you can name off the top of your head that do that?
A.S.: No, although it’s not the sort of thing I particularly notice about songs all that much. I think that’s all we have on this song.  Good tune.
L.K.: Silly lyrics. Okay song though, if a bit odd.
A.S.: And fuck the critics.
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