#79 – “I Blame You” (1992)

The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight) EP
A.S.: Yeah, are we going to merge the songs or discuss them separately?
L.K.: Good question. The melody is identical but the lyrics are completely different.
A.S.: The arrangement is also totally different.
L.K.: That isn’t something that happens that often in the TMBG discography, as opposed to say, Elvis Costello, who writes entirely different songs using the same lyrics.
A.S.: So I propose we separate them
L.K.: Right, because “I Blame You” is a lot more fully fleshed out than “Glasgow” just getting recycled as the Goodbye song from the kids podcasts.
A.S.: And “Freebird’s Rebirth” is all sorts of weird on its own merits. Just a brief explanation – the melody for this song first appeared on Dial-A-Song with entirely different lyrics, in two different versions, as “Freebird’s Rebirth”.  We’ll talk about that in-depth later on.
L.K.: I thought this song was overrated for the longest time, but listening back on it now, I really do enjoy the arrangement, how it’s different for every verse.
A.S.: I think this song is really gorgeous.  And you’re absolutely correct about the different arrangements in the verses – the dulcimer in the second verse is a perfect touch.
L.K.: It’s nice and full of accordion too, which is kind of nostalgic now since the instrument shows up less and less frequently in their more recent recordings. Acoustic guitar too, for that matter.
A.S.: Well, I mean, this is still from 1992, when the accordion was still a very common component of the band’s arrangements.
L.K.: It doesn’t sound like it’s from ’92 though, because of the lack of drum machine or other obviously synthy things
A.S.: Yeah, for not having a rhythm section, the song still manages to sound full and lush.
L.K.: It’s aged a lot better than most of their older output sound-wise though, which makes me sort of sad that they were so wedded to that drum machine/synth bass/etc. I know people think of that as their “sound”, but for as great as the songs were, a lot of the arrangements haven’t aged that well over the last 20 years.
A.S.: I disagree; the Johns really used the drum machines in a pretty unusual style for their time.  They weren’t doing synth-pop, which is arguably the most dated sort of sound of the era.  They were writing pop-rock songs, and the fact that there were enough non synthesized instruments (guitar, accordion, horns) has helped the aging process.

L.K.: I’m probably going to bring this up again when we get around to “Birdhouse In Your Soul”, because there is a wonderful song whose album version has been rendered almost unlistenable by the passage of time.

A.S.: Yeah, I was just thinking “Birdhouse” too, especially with the trumpet samples, but something like “Ana Ng” doesn’t sound dated, primarily because there wasn’t really anything else that sounded like it in its time.
L.K.: Oh no, everything in “Ana Ng” works totally in the song’s favor, and the stuff on the first two albums in general is so totally out there that it probably wouldn’t have been as effective played with real instruments, but a lot of the stuff from Flood has aged really poorly.
A.S.: “I Blame You” does have a pretty timeless affect about it.
L.K.: It sounds like it could’ve been recorded at any point in the band’s existence though; it isn’t tied to the sound of any “era”, which is interesting/refreshing.
A.S.: The only things that really date it are Flansburgh’s sad-sack lyrics.
L.K.: Yeah, the lyrics are pretty sad-sack when looked at closely. Kind of weird that that was the direction Flans went with it when the original version of this song was so lyrically absurd.
A.S.: From chain mail and “Free Bird” to… break-ups. The second verse is really poignant, about the hair comb under the car.
L.K.: Something that’s always bothered me about this… is “back where it lay” grammatically correct? Something about that line has always bothered me. Even if it is proper grammar, structurally it’s just a weird way to end a line.
A.S.: I think it should be “lies”. I’m not 100% sure, but I guess he has poetic license or whatever.
L.K.: It just seems bad form to end your verse with a line that draws attention to itself for something that isn’t related to the content of the song.
A.S.: I guess it’s never bugged me enough to detract from it; it’s still a really nice verse at any rate.  Sad without having to hammer it in.
2 Responses to “#79 – “I Blame You” (1992)”
  1. Nathan says:

    I would think “back where it lay” would be all right grammatically, since “lay” is the past tense of “lie.”

  2. freebird boy says:

    “he puts it back where it was” works, so lay (lay is past of lie for non-people) does as well

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