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16. Eels – It’s A Motherfucker

08/12/2009

16

In his heartwarming autobiography, Things The Grandchildren Should Know, Eels leader Mark Everett tells a story about this song:

The campaign to elect tragically inept Republican candidate George W Bush to the White House used the Daisies of the Galaxy album as an example of the entertainment industry marketing smut to children. The CD had a storybook-like cover and song titles such as “It’s A Motherfucker” (which was actually a tender ode to the hardships of missing the girlfriend I had recently broken up with), so they deduced that the storybook cover meant it was targeted for three-year-olds or something. It was great. You could download my lyrics from the ‘George W Bush For President’ website.

While this was clearly nothing more than Republican rabble-rousing from Dubya, his campaign team might’ve inadvertently had a point – never mind the cover art, It’s A Motherfucker feels like a children’s song itself. Short and pretty, all tinkling pianos and lullaby strings, the lyrics are undeniably childlike in their honesty: “It’s a motherfucker / Being here without you / Thinking about the good times / Thinking about the bad” – this is hardly grown-up imagery, but that’s what makes the song so affecting. What also makes It’s A Motherfucker so startling is its title. Its coarse maturity – its inarticulacy – is wonderfully juxtaposed against the intervening verses as a splash of harsh, grown-up reality among the daydream. A song this saccharine, with any less offensive a title, would surely enter Hallmark territory. Here, instead, Eels have produced something brutally honest, and beautifully tarnished.

illiant autobiography, Things The Grandchildren Should Know, Eels leader Mark Everett tells a story about this song:

The campaign to elect tragically inept Republican candidate George W Bush to the White House used the Daisies of the Galaxy album as an example of the entertainment industry marketing smut to children. The CD had a storybook-like cover and song titles such as “It’s A Motherfucker” (which was actually a tender ode to the hardships of missing the girlfriend I had recently broken up with), so they deduced that the storybook cover meant it was targeted for three-year-olds or something. It was great. You could download my lyrics from the ‘George W Bush For President’ website.

Despite this obvious reactionary rubbish from Dubya, the Republican rabble-rousing and short-term thinking, his campaign team might’ve inadvertently had a point – never mind the cover art, It’s A Motherfucker feels like a children’s song itself. Short and pretty, all tinkling pianos and lullaby strings, the lyrics are undeniably childlike in their honesty: “It’s a motherfucker / Being here without you / Thinking about the good times / Thinking about the bad” – this is hardly grown-up imagery, but that’s what makes the song so affecting. What also makes It’s A Motherfucker so startling, though, is its title. It’s coarse maturity – it’s inarticulacy – is beautifully juxtaposed in the intervening verses, a splash of harsh, grown-up reality among the daydream. A song this saccharine with any less offensive title would surely enter Hallmark territory; here, instead, Eels have produced something brutally honest, and beautiful spoiled.

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