When an unexpected musical “event” occurs, I strongly believe in going, so it took little to convince me to see The Postal Service on their current “reunion” tour (though I think “reunion” is an overinflated word for a side project with one album). They put on a lovely show, sounded tight, tried to ratchet up the electrobeat backdrops into a pseudo-club atmosphere, and started with this song. The truth is, though, while I like the rest of the album just fine, I could have immediately left satisfied. There are many things that make it a nearly perfect song.The build-up. The “percussion.” The harmonies. The lyrics. In the context of the show, I realized how necessary it was against such blindly optimistic and twee sentiments such as “I’ll be the platform shoes to undo what heredity’s done to you” elsewhere on the album. It’s like the much needed splash of acid in a heavy, fatty dish. So perhaps I don’t need to note the vulnerability in the story. Perhaps I don’t need to mention the feeling of being a quite literal outsider. Maybe it’s enough to just appreciate the counterpoint.
In a perfect world, perhaps I do not even need to mention how weird it is to hear someone reference this song in regards to your own life. The awkwardness of hearing someone you’re rekindling a friendship with, perhaps rekindling more, state that they heard the song, and started thinking about how you were right to have phased them out at the time. It’s such a hard admission, because there is no vindication, especially not in this framework. This framework makes that an inadvertent admonition… Gibbard’s lyrics frame a very sympathetic character, regardless of who is right or wrong, so it makes you as vulnerable as the person directly relating and apologizing. Because really, if we are honest people, if we are not cocky people, we’re always at fault too. I was at fault, and deep down, the woman Ben is singing this song to, if she is real, knew the second she heard it that that specific insistence, those words, that construction, was more disarming and damning and cut to the quick harder than a million accusations, no matter how innocent she truly is in the matter. She is still chilled and fragile for just a moment when she hears the song in passing. It’s the ultimate concession because the more honest it is, the harder it hits you in the chin.
So let’s presume, then, to avoid those words no one wants to speak, that it is a perfect world. After all, could any other sort spawn a song so lovely?
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