An Appreciation of ‘Things’

Here’s the thing. I’ve discovered now that I have a crapton of paying work to do (yay!), I really, really have to come up with some sort of way to reconcile the guilt I have when I’m writing stuff that someone’s not paying for when there is plenty of stuff I could be writing that someone is willing to pay for. Is that the most confusing sentence ever?

I’m two years into this freelancing thing and I still haven’t figured out that balance. It was much easier to strike that balance when I could leave work at the office.

But we’re not here to listen to me bellyache about that. No. Instead we’re here to talk about “Things” by Paul Westerberg.

“Things” has become my brain’s go to song to sing over and over and over again until I want to stab it with a fork. Sometimes to make things interesting it mashes up “Things” with 10,000 Maniac’s “These are the Days.” (random aside: I dated a guy once who was obsessed with Natalie Merchant and thought she was the epitome of all that was right and wonderful about women.)

You could do worse than having “Things” stuck in your head for a week and a half. Before “Things” it was “Closing Time” by Semisonic. Ouch. (Another random aside: From about 1992 to 1998ish, every Christmas Eve at around 10 or so my sisters and I would clap our hands, blink the lights and shout “You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here” in an attempt to get all my aunts and uncles and cousins to leave the Christmas festivities so we could get to opening gifts. Without fail it cracked everyone up and made them stay even longer. Eventually we stopped doing this because we became a open presents on Christmas Day family because the kidlings would be too damn crabby by 11 p.m. to make opening presents any fun.)

What we have here is a classic Westerberg bait and switch song, which is probably why I love it so much. It sounds like the song is going in one direction, schmoopy declarations of love. Witness these lines:
“Things I wanna tell you/ How you make me feel/ How you look to me/ And how good it feels.” Innit sweet?

There’s the tiniest whiff of foreshadowing at the end of the first verse when he doesn’t want to tell you where he was last night. But then he erases that thought from your head saying how “you lit a fire in me that I can’t seem to put out.”

And you’re all “hell yes!” this song is so romantic and sweet. I love it. I love it.

But things start to go awry in the third verse when he starts singing about things he doesn’t want to tell you but he has to now. Uh oh. What’s going on here?

And then WHAMMO! (I tried to just do an all caps wham with an exclamation but it was too George Michaelesque.) the small whisper at the end of the third verse, “packed my things today.” And you’re all what the fuck? What about that fire that you can’t put out? What about how good it feels? Seriously.

Then he tries to recover a bit, “things I’m bound to tell you, like that dress looks great on you.” Bound? That doesn’t sound like want, in fact it sounds a lot like an obligation he isn’t too keen on. Which makes all kinds of sense with the next line “I could use some breathing room but I’m still in love with you.”

And then, because the devastation isn’t quite complete, he ends the song with “Things I’d never tell you, down the line someday. You’ll be a song I sing, a thing I give away.” Man, that’s some harsh shit. Beautiful and honest and awesome.

Damn, this is a good song.

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  1. Chris Steller 13.Dec.11 at 11:33 am

    For harsher, there’s “Seein’ Her.” But yeah, pretty delicious bait and switch, plus he wrings a lot out of that one word: Things.

    1. Jodi 13.Dec.11 at 11:39 am

      @Chris Steller, Oh yeah. “Making love to you. I’m seeing her.” That is cold. I forgot about that one.

      Also, most of the Suicaine album is filled with the fabulous bait and switch. I think Suicaine is my favorite solo album (though I can admit Stereo/Mono is probably the best).

  2. M-----l 13.Dec.11 at 11:54 am

    I just checked my iTunes. “Things” is one of the six songs I gave 5 stars to on that Paul Westerberg comp you sent me a couple years ago. I doubt I got as much out of it as you did, but I agree that it’s a good song.

  3. Christa 13.Dec.11 at 3:50 pm

    I love that song. It reminds me of a great period of music discovery in my life. It always gets stuck in my head, too.


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