Gold Soundz: "Big Dipper"
Guilty pleasures are a tough call man. Many would probably be embarrassed to admit an affinity toward David Lowery’s post-Camper Van Beethoven 90s alternative hit-maker(s), Cracker, but I’m not buying it. When I was just a young, impressionable set of 16 year old ears I thought I heard the greatest song ever written in “Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now)” from their self-titled debut. It’s biting mix of sharp lyrics and driving folk-rock easily won me over, and the album was an easy-to-like collection of similarly ragged tunes with similarly memorable lyrics. A few years later came Kerosene Hat, a more polished effort that housed the smash hit “Low” as well as a bunch of other equally impressive songs.
One of those is “Take Me Down To The Infirmary” - a song that was easy to overlook for the alternative fans, but whose country guitars and slow, narcotic groove made a big impression on me at the time, and remains one of my favorite Lowery-penned tracks. The song showed me another side to the smart-assedness (?) and often overly cute cultural references that regularly popped up in his writing. The weary and soulful words didn’t seem to feature any of his usual cynicism or absurdity, and made me look forward even more to what would come next. Unfortunately The Golden Age, the 1996 follow-up, was a mess - a seemingly calculated attempt at broader alternative rock appeal with its abysmal singles “I Hate My Generation” and “Nothing To Believe In”. Fortunately the album was saved from being a total loss by a few sparkling ballads - deep album tracks that again showed off Lowery’s way with the pen.
“Big Dipper” was just such a track, and bettered just about everything that had come before it. Lowery’s writing is sharper than ever with a narrator realistically worn down, lethargic, and self-defeating. There are some great lines in the song that smack with some incredibly hard hitting irreverence, and some with an equally effective (and surprising) earnestness. The “violent bloom of flowered dresses” was certainly a line my college-aged hormones related to, and the idea that he was sitting on the café steps with Jim Kerouac, “brother of the famous Jack”, was about as perfect an image as I’d ever heard and really captured the bottomed-out feeling of the song. Lousy album, good band, great fuckin’ song.
MP3 :: Big Dipper
(from The Golden Age. Buy here)
Gold Soundz columns highlight some of my favorite songs of all time. “Gold Soundz” because I thought this blog would be cooler if I ripped off a title for a “column” from a not-at-all obscure Pavement song. Previously featured in Gold Soundz:
Slobberbone :: “Gimme Back My Dog”
The Jam :: “In The City”
World Party :: “Way Down Now”
Elmore James :: “The Sky Is Crying”
John Prine :: “Lake Marie”
The Band :: “Jawbone”
Neutral Milk Hotel :: “Holland, 1945”
The Velvet Underground :: “I Heard Her Call My Name”
Hank Williams :: “I Saw The Light”