They come to us all the time; they are called realizations. Some are really about really important topics others are about really mundane things like music. This week’s article is about that very subject: realizations. I have a lot of CDs. I imagine it’s around 500, but I am really not sure since I have not counted in a couple of years. So naturally, with so much material, some albums fall through the cracks after just one listen. Case in point: King James Version by Harvey Danger. I absolutely loved (and still love to death) their debut, Where have all the Merrymakers Gone? So, when I bought King James Version, I was horrified to find a completely different sounding album than their debut.
This scorn and hatred for the album lasted about two years and ended around September of this year. Now I can’t stop listening to the album. It’s intelligent. Just look at the lyrics, like “cocktail hour social like an obsolete machine spitting anecdotes and boring jokes from someone else’s spleen,” from “You Miss the Point Completely I Get the Point Exactly.” And the lyrics are really funny too. In “Meetings with Remarkable Men (Show Me the Hero),” lead singer Sean Nelson sings about meeting Jesus Christ, the Avatar, and, yes, who else but Kip Winger? Yes, he sings about meeting two gods and the lead singer of the 1980s hair band Winger. Now that is comedy.
But the reason the album is so amazing is basically two songs. Yes, the 10 other tracks are really good, but they can’t hold a candle to “Pike St./ Park Slope” and “The Same as Being in Love.” On first listen of King James Version, as I said, I was really mad — until I got to track 8 (“Pike St./ Park Slope”).
Once “Pike St./ Park Slope” started, I relaxed and fell into the beautiful piano. I said to myself, “This song will be amazing.” It was, and it still is. Not only is there great piano, but the lyrics push the song to even higher ground with lines like “Blame it on the television, blame it on the company; don’t blame it on the fundamental fact that no one owes you something,” or “Well when you like something it’s an opinion, but when I like something it’s a manifesto. ‘Pomposity is when you always think you’re right; arrogance is when you know.'”
The cello swells are a nice touch too.
And then there’s the closer, “The Same as Being in Love.” With its slow build with backing vocals and quiet guitars and a slight hint of piano, the song fits the closer mold perfectly. The post-breakup song finds Nelson metaphorically reflecting on a failed relationship with his lover: “You were the wineskin, I was the bladder… I was the typo, you were the liquid paper… You were the theme and I was the variation.”
After all of the metaphors are said and done, the grungy guitars kick in, with Nelson singing, “This attraction-introspection-diction predilection is breaking my heart again.” And then the song is over, just 3:29 of beauty.
And you are left with an album that shows an intelligent band leaving behind their grunge single “Flagpole Sitta” (circa 1997). This album suggests that with their next album they will probably change again and completely take me by surprise (at least after I let that album sit in my CD rack for two or three years).