Friday, May 14, 2010

End Is the Only Part of the Word That I Heard

Standing in line at the bookstore yesterday, I overheard two young guys — beyond high school but just barely — talking about the Cake song “Friend Is a Four-Letter Word.” And that’s remarkable by itself, because I’d imagine that that song would have come out when these guys were about seven years old. Cake, wonderfully nostalgic though I now find it, isn’t necessarily a band that latecomers would latch onto, especially since its popularity peaked in that awkward phase when grunge and alt rock was giving way to rap rock and what we now call indie rock was a ways off. So for the sake of these younger-than-mes having any awareness of Cake, I was happy.

Things went south pretty quickly, as they often do with me in public spaces. Without a hint of irony or facetiousness in his voice, one guy spoke the following two sentences to the other: “The thing I hate about ‘Friend Is a Four-Letter Word’ is that it doesn’t make any sense. Friend has five letters in it and even if he only heard end that only has three letters.” Yeah. So someone younger than me who was actually waiting in line to purchase a book at a bookstore knew of the band Cake, the album Fashion Nugget and the song “Friend Is a Four-Letter Word” but was apparently unfamiliar with the figure of speech four-letter word. My reactions: “At least I’m smarter than this guy,” for one. And I also decided not to intervene and set this kid straight. Not my place. Not required of me. And I’d probably come off like an ass if I did.

That business aside, I at least had an opportunity to recall how much I loved this particular song. Man, what a perfect goddamn song to come out when it did — not only precisely during my most emotionally volatile teenaged years but also when a little friend called Accutane was basically turning me into the kind of character whose predictions-hidden-inside-crazy-ramblings end up coming true in Shakespeare plays. With that thought in mind, please take a moment to enjoy Cake’s “Friend Is a Four-Letter Word.” In fact, when you get home tonight, slam the front door, proclaim to your roommates that you “hate everything,” stomp into your room, flop on the bed and then listen to this song.

That horn towards the end? I can’t think of a better musical representation of teenaged emotional turmoil.

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