#81 – “I’m Sick (Of This American Life)” (2000)

They Got Lost

L.K.: Oh, speaking of cannibalization of parts of songs

A.S.: The line “I didn’t come here to socialize” later turned up as “I’m not here to socialize” in “Cyclops Rock”, although I think it’s safe to say most people heard “Cyclops Rock” prior to this one.
L.K.: Well, also a line about glass eyes too, only here it’s eyes plural, instead of singular. You know, as would befit a cyclops.
A.S.: Oh right.  So basically, most of this song’s lyrics.
L.K.: Basically. Does this actually predate “Cyclops Rock” though? “The lyrics cannibalize some of what was going to become Cyclops Rock probably because they were sitting around at the moment.”
A.S.: I guess it does, if “Cyclops” wasn’t finished at that point.
L.K.: Which song officially counts as having come first, if parts of an at-the-time unfinished song were cannibalized to make another song.
A.S.: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
L.K.: We can thank Sarah Vowell for the existence of this song. I still have yet to listen to the piece she did on Dial-A-Song for This American Life, but I believe it is still available at their archives.
A.S.: Yep, I think the story behind it is more interesting than the song itself, although I can’t be too hard on the song given the circumstances in which it was written.
L.K.: You know, John Flansburgh was on This American Life again in 2011 to talk about band riders and the infamous “brown M&M’s” rider provision.
A.S.: Which David Lee Roth explained really, really well recently.
L.K.: Ira Glass and Sarah Vowell were all over the place in “Gigantic” though, so I guess I’m always hoping for TMBG to show up on This American Life slightly more often. TMBG are like the unofficial band of NPR, or at least they used to be.
A.S.: Who would be these days if it isn’t them?
L.K.: I don’t know, probably somebody younger and “hipper”. NPR’s music criticism keeps getting stupider and stupider. Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me still uses a clip from “Four of Two” as background music on their show though. It’s the little things.
A.S.: But this song.
L.K.: Yeah, but this song.
A.S.: Basically, Vowell dared TMBG to write and record a song within an afternoon, when she was putting together the Dial-A-Song report. So this was the result.
L.K.: Always a dicey proposition, having the Johns write a song in an afternoon. But a proposition that crops up continually in their career
A.S.: There’s no bass on this song, which I only realized after reading the quote from Flansburgh.  That easily explains why the song has always felt like it was missing something.
L.K.: They probably didn’t even have a bass handy at the time. Work with what you’ve got.
A.S.: Yeah, that’s what Flansburgh explains. It’s a fine song, although again, I think the story behind it is a little more interesting than the resultant product.
One Response to “#81 – “I’m Sick (Of This American Life)” (2000)”
  1. Nathan says:

    At a show in 1997, TMBG did some improvisational song that included the lyrics, “I’m sick of, sick of being nice, and I have learned the value of human sacrifice.” The chorus to “I’m Sick” seems to have come directly from there.

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