Saturday, August 16, 2008

You Won't Possess Our Hearts


"Why You'd Want to Live Here" is a 2001 anti-LA rant from indie-yuppie blandsters Death Cab for Cutie, but the real question is why anyone'd want to languish around Washington for a guy who writes lyrics so ridiculously rife with stereotype:

I'm in Los Angeles today
It smells like an airport runway
Jet fuel stenches in the cabin
And lights flickering at random
I'm in Los Angeles today
Garbage cans comprise the medians of freeways
Always creeping even when the population's sleeping
And I can't see why you'd want to live here

I'm in Los Angeles today
Asked a gas station employee if he ever had trouble breathing
And he said, "It varies from season to season, here."
It's where our best are on display
Motion picture actors' houses maps are never ever current
So save your film and fifteen dollars
And I can't see why you'd want to live here

Billboards reach past the tallest buildings
We are not perfect but we sure try
As UV rays "degradate" our youth with time
The vessel keeps pumping us through this entropic place
In the belly of the beast that is Californ-i-a
I drank from the faucet and I kept my receipt
For when they weigh me on the way out
Here nothing is for free
The greyhounds keep coming dumping locusts into the street
Until the gutters overflow and Los Angeles thinks
"I might explode someday soon."
It's a lovely summer's day
I can almost see a skyline
Through a thickening shroud of egos
Is this the city of angels or demons?

And here the names are what remain
Stars encapsulate the golden lame
And they need constant cleaning
For when the tourists begin salivating
And I can't see why you'd want to live here.

Billboards reach past the tallest buildings
You can't swim in a town this shallow
because you will most assuredly drown tomorrow

I'm feeling a little Olympic-y this week, so let's start this song at a score of 10.0 and deduct one point for each tired Los Angeles cliche:

- 1: "LA's dark underbelly" (in this case, the belly of the beast)
- 1: Mention of freeways
- 1: Mention of smog
- 1: Mention of motion picture actors/their big houses/star maps
- 1: Mention of billboards (I never knew this was such a big LA stereotype, but Jay Babcock brought it up too so it gets a deduction)
- 1: We are not perfect but we sure try (everyone's striving for some unrealistic level of perfection here)
- 1: Mention of UV rays/sun/tanning
- 1: Here nothing is for free = we're all sellouts
- 2: I can almost see a skyline through a thickening shroud of egos earns two deductions for 1) second smog reference, 2) egos
- 2: Is this the city of angels or demons? Another dual earner as a a hybrid of "angels live in our city" and "LA's dark underbelly"
- 1: And here the names are what remain / Stars encapsulate the golden lame / And they need constant cleaning for when the tourists begin salivating = snarking on Hollywood Walk of Fame, because honoring prominent local citizens is something only we do in LA apparently
- 1: You can't swim in a town this shallow

And the final results are... -4, an all-time Nobody Walks in LA record. That's not even counting some of the negative yet less actually-cliched lines, either, like us smelling like an airport (I d
doubt we'll need a tag for that one) or the Day of the Locust reference, which gets a pass for being literary (but we reserve the right to add that later if it pops up enough).

Death Cab dig this song so much that they're still performing it live, seven years later, and Gibbard is shocked, shocked! when the lyrics don't resonate with LA audiences:

During "Why You'd Want to Live Here," Gibbard sang in the voice of someone trying to convince a lover not to move to Los Angeles ("You can't swim in a town this shallow -- you will most assuredly drown tomorrow"). It's not exactly a love letter to the city and elicited no special response from the crowd. When Gibbard tried to lead a singalong, the reaction was half-hearted and brief. "That was pretty weak, you guys," he said.
He expects a singalong?! Good lord. But the best part is that two years after this song's release, the band became exponentially more famous due to frequent mentions in not just a Southern California-based TV show, but one so Southern California-based that its location comprises its title, linking the band and locale inextricably together in many people's minds. Come on Ben, your last album debuted at #1 thanks to us. Are you drowning or have we actually kept you afloat?

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