Category Archives: GUEST EDITOR

From The Desk Of Finn’s Motel: Top Five Coolest Cheap Trick Shows I Ever Saw (1. Trickfest 1, Ramada Inn O’Hare Airport, Chicago)

Finn’s Motel mastermind/auteur Joe Thebeau gifted us in late 2006 with the amazing, out-of-nowhere Escape Velocity debut, a concept album about leaving behind the drudgery of cubicle life and suburban malaise for some greater, unknown existence. Even with the help (cough) of a January 2007 MAGNET profile, it took Thebeau nearly 11 years to finally follow it up with the outstanding new Jupiter Rex (Victory Over Gravity). Thebeau will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new Finn’s Motel feature.

The problem with saving this story for last is that it was actually, in my opinion, the precursor to a few of the other shows that I put in the top five. Without Trickfest 1, in 1995, there are no first-four-albums shows at the Metro in 1998. And, without Trickfest, there would likely not have been the return to form, self-produced, self-titled album in 1997 that Rick Nielsen himself described as the first album of the second half of their career. Without Trickfest, there is no boxed set with previously unreleased live tracks. There are probably no Cheap Trick/Steve Albini recording sessions. No Sub Pop seven-inch and no secret Albini re-recording of the entire In Color album (if you haven’t heard it, google it). You see where I’m going with this.

In the mid-’90s, the internet was still in its infancy. There was no Facebook or Twitter or even a half-way dependable search engine. It was rare for anyone or anything to even have a website. I’m not techie enough to explain how it works, but around 1993 the alt.newsgroups were the place to go for discussion forums (and free porn, but that’s another story for another day). This mutated into alt.music.xxxx. I hung out in a few alt.music groups, but the two I haunted with the most regularity were the Replacements and Cheap Trick forums.

The Replacements forum discussed what you might expect around that time. Are Paul’s solo records better than Tommy’s? Which Replacements records are the best ones and why? There were “with Bob” and “without Bob” camps. Etc. The Cheap Trick forum was a little different. The band hadn’t broken up, but they had changed direction quite a bit. While we were all glad that Tom Peterssen was back, there was less enthusiasm for the collaboration that resulted in “The Flame” and other tunes of that ilk. Much of the discussion centered on wishes for a return to the sounds from the first four albums.

At some point one of the forum moderators started talking about organizing a fan club and a fan club convention of some kind. Interest was gauged within the group, and it started to look like it could become a reality. Before long a date and location were chosen: Aug. 24, 1995 at the Chicago, O’Hare Airport Ramada Inn. I’m not sure why the date was on a Thursday, but it probably was due to an opening in the band’s tour schedule. If things went as planned, people were coming in from as far away as the U.K. for this first-ever fan-club event, billed as Trickfest. They would add the numbers 1, 2 and 3 as the success of this first one led to scheduling more.

About 250 hard-core Cheap Trick fans descended on the Airport Ramada. We were all still a little surprised that this was actually happening. In the earliest days of the internet we could have easily gotten scammed and arrived to find nothing but confused security staff. Instead, as we filed in, we were ushered to a large convention-type room with a small stage and a couple hundred folding chairs set up in front of it. Along the back wall there was merchandise display set up and a long table where the band was scheduled to sign autographs. This was actually happening.

The day was a blur of an autograph session, a photo shoot where the band stood with whomever had paid to have pro pics taken in front of a giant Dream Police banner, an all-request show, peppered with Q&A breaks. Kim Gisbourne does a more accurate play-by-play here.

Things were not the same after that show. Cheap Trick fired their long-time manager, Ken Adamany, who had presumably been leading them toward the hit record machine and had resisted the fan-club event. Then, they hired one of the forum members who had coordinated Trickfest, Carla Dragotti, as their new tour manager. And, the rest, as they say, is history.

More photos after the jump.

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From The Desk Of Finn’s Motel: A Walk In The Garden Part 4 (Ajvarski Sweet Peppers)

Finn’s Motel mastermind/auteur Joe Thebeau gifted us in late 2006 with the amazing, out-of-nowhere Escape Velocity debut, a concept album about leaving behind the drudgery of cubicle life and suburban malaise for some greater, unknown existence. Even with the help (cough) of a January 2007 MAGNET profile, it took Thebeau nearly 11 years to finally follow it up with the outstanding new Jupiter Rex (Victory Over Gravity). Thebeau will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new Finn’s Motel feature.

Thebeau: Last year I took a shot at growing hot peppers. I had three Super Chili Pepper plants that did very well despite my having forgotten about them. I lost track of their place in the garden when some weeds moved in and I couldn’t keep up. When I finally did get around to weeding that area, I discovered plants full of tiny scorching hot peppers were hidden underneath. Great news, right? Except that’s when I had to admit that maybe I don’t like hot peppers as much as I had imagined that spring when I bought the plants. I picked them by the handfuls and shoved them into a veggie drawer in the fridge, thinking I’d do something with them eventually, but I never did. I even considered infusing some olive oil with the super chilies but never quite worked up the energy.

This year, when I was digging through the seed catalog I thumbed past the hot peppers and skipped over to the sweet peppers looking for something special. What I didn’t want was the regular old red, green and yellow peppers that are easy to find at the grocery store and taste just fine—no reason to spend the garden space on those. I wanted something different. What I discovered was a lesson in international foods.

The Ajvarski Sweet Pepper is from eastern Macedonia, where, according to Baker Creek, “These thick-fleshed traditional peppers are roasted on flat metal stoves, peeled, then ground into a traditional relish called ajvar, which is eaten spread on bread, often with sirenje, a local cheese similar to feta.” As soon as I read that, I knew my wife, Gina would be all over it. Anything involving a cheese even remotely similar to feta would be right up her alley. Usually she blocks me out when I read the seed descriptions, but this time her eyes lit up.

And, the story doesn’t stop there. Also from Baker Creek:
“Nearly every rural household puts up a supply of ajvar for winter eating. In autumn, Macedonians flock to the markets in fertile valleys in the East to buy bushels of the best aromatic roasting peppers from the local villages there, which is where the original seed came from, a gift from the students in the villages of Kalugeritsa and Zleovo.”

With all that cultural history, I was sold. We got off to a good start with the seedlings sprouting in planters in the south window, but less than half of them survived the transplant. I don’t know if I was too rough with them or if there’s something about the garden dirt they didn’t like as much as the potting soil. I do have four plants that survived and are looking pretty good. I’m not sure I’ll have enough peppers to make ajvar, but I’m going to try.

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From The Desk Of Finn’s Motel: Best Songs By Anyone Ever, Volume 5 (The Bangles “Dover Beach”)

Finn’s Motel mastermind/auteur Joe Thebeau gifted us in late 2006 with the amazing, out-of-nowhere Escape Velocity debut, a concept album about leaving behind the drudgery of cubicle life and suburban malaise for some greater, unknown existence. Even with the help (cough) of a January 2007 MAGNET profile, it took Thebeau nearly 11 years to finally follow it up with the outstanding new Jupiter Rex (Victory Over Gravity). Thebeau will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new Finn’s Motel feature.

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Thebeau: Speaking of the Bangles, I nominate “Dover Beach” as one of the Best Songs by Anyone Ever. I would never have heard this song if not for St. Louis band the Love Experts, who covered the song as their set closer at a show they played at, you guessed it, Cicero’s Basement. (I seem to be working on a theme, but since I never saw Neil Finn or Don McGlashan at Cicero’s, I can’t weave that thread all the way through.) I didn’t recognize it as a Bangles song, in part because the Love Experts’ singer, Steve Carosello, is a guy. After the show, I asked about the song, thinking it was one of their own. Carosello hipped me to the early Bangles and we’ve been friends ever since. That’s also the night I first met Love Experts’ bassist Steve Scariano, who would later become the bass player in Finn’s Motel.

In 1991, Susanna Hoffs released her first solo album, When You’re A Boy. At that time, my friend Toby Weiss was editor of the fanzine Jet Lag. I begged and begged until Toby agreed to let me interview Susanna. I had been given strict instructions about being sure to ask about the new album, but I couldn’t help sneaking in a question about my favorite song, “Dover Beach.” I wanted to know who wrote what bits, music, lyrics, etc. I don’t think Susanna was as interested in answering questions about the Bangles at the time. The call ended mysteriously, mid-sentence. I did at least learn that she and Vicki Peterson had written it together. Of course, in the internet age, that information is no longer as mysterious as it to be seemed then.

“Dover Beach” starts with Vicki and Susanna banging on complimentary voicings of an E major chord. They build it up to a crescendo and then let it ring. Susanna’s plaintive voice steps in with, “If I had the time/I would run away with you/To a perfect world/We’d suspend all that is duty or required.” The band comes in with Vicki playing a snaking lead guitar behind verses about star-crossed lovers who can only ever seem to be together in dreams. There’s a T.S. Eliot reference in one of the verses, when Susanna croons, “We could come and go/And talk of Michelangelo,” borrowing from “The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock.” The meaning of the Eliot line is somewhat unclear, though some have said it’s about making idle chit chat. In this context, I wonder if it’s just meant to be a bit of secret code shared between lovers.

I don’t think the song actually has a chorus. There are refrains of “oh, oh” in the magical way only the Bangles can do it. But, no chorus. After the second verse, there is a guitar solo. When they come out of the solo, the song changes to what would normally be a bridge. The bridge carries us to the last verse, which in turn leads back to a repetition of the first verse that slides into the ending. The outro is a guitar solo that collapses over a repetitive drum beat that fades out. It’s an ending almost as mysterious as the sudden disconnection of my interview phone call to Susanna Hoffs.

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From The Desk Of Finn’s Motel: Top Five Coolest Cheap Trick Shows I Ever Saw (2. “First Album Show,” Cabaret Metro, Chicago)

Finn’s Motel mastermind/auteur Joe Thebeau gifted us in late 2006 with the amazing, out-of-nowhere Escape Velocity debut, a concept album about leaving behind the drudgery of cubicle life and suburban malaise for some greater, unknown existence. Even with the help (cough) of a January 2007 MAGNET profile, it took Thebeau nearly 11 years to finally follow it up with the outstanding new Jupiter Rex (Victory Over Gravity). Thebeau will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new Finn’s Motel feature.

Thebeau: In 1998, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire were chasing major league baseball’s single-season home run record. That same year, Cheap Trick booked the Cabaret Metro in Chicago for four nights in a row in May to play each of their first four albums. We made the drive up from St. Louis to Chicago. As luck would have it, our Cardinals were playing the Cubs that same weekend. It was still early in the season, but there was already a buzz about McGwire and Sosa being on pace to do something special. It’s still a controversy in our family to this day, but my wife didn’t want to get baseball tickets to the Friday afternoon game that would precede the Cheap Trick show later that evening. I think I finally forgave her after McGwire admitted to using steroids.

I’m a fan of all four of the first four Cheap Trick records, but I only had enough resources to get tickets to see the first-album show. It was electrifying! That first album contains some of the darkest songs in the Cheap Trick oeuvre: “ELO Kiddies,” “Daddy Should Have Stayed In High School,” “He’s A Whore” and “Ballad of TV Violence,” just to name a few. Hearing them rip through those songs with what amounts to a hometown crowd was mind blowing. You can check out the results for yourself on the album Music For Hangovers, which was recorded during that four-night stand.

One amusing note: Cheap Trick’s debut album, when released on vinyl, was labeled as Side A and Side One, and it was never really clear what side was supposed to be played first. That night they put the mystery to rest by starting with “ELO Kiddies.”

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From The Desk Of Finn’s Motel: Best Songs By Anyone Ever, Volume 4 (The Bottle Rockets “Something Good”)

Finn’s Motel mastermind/auteur Joe Thebeau gifted us in late 2006 with the amazing, out-of-nowhere Escape Velocity debut, a concept album about leaving behind the drudgery of cubicle life and suburban malaise for some greater, unknown existence. Even with the help (cough) of a January 2007 MAGNET profile, it took Thebeau nearly 11 years to finally follow it up with the outstanding new Jupiter Rex (Victory Over Gravity). Thebeau will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new Finn’s Motel feature.

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Thebeau: The first time I saw them, the Bottle Rockets were not yet the Bottle Rockets but were called Chicken Truck. It was at the old Cicero’s Basement bar in University City, and my band was playing the opening slot. It was probably about 1988. At that time we were called the Finn Brothers. (A few years later Neil and Tim would rightfully claim that name and we simply dropped the “Brothers” to be the Finns; and after that band broke up, and I went through a few others, I landed on Finn’s Motel, which is the name I wanted to use in the first place. But, I digress.)

The stage at Cicero’s Basement was barely higher than the floor, so the band and audience were pretty much at the same level, making for an up-close-and-personal experience. Chicken Truck was loud, drunk and wild. They threw fried chicken at the front row of the audience, who ate it up; though some of the audience did throw some chicken back at the band. At least one band member had a gun belt as a guitar strap. My greenhorn bandmates and I, in our white shirts and skinny black ties, I were blown away. To say we’d never seen anything like this was an understatement.

We received what we still to this day consider one of the highest compliments ever from Brian after the show that night, when he said, “That’s a good little band you got there.” In 1988, I had just moved to St. Louis from the rural town of Hillsboro, Mo. Brian and his band were from Festus, Mo., just up the road from Hillsboro. Something about them being from Jefferson County gave me hope that maybe we could be as good as them if we kept working at it.

Fast-forward many years and several great American rock records later, Brian Henneman and the Bottle Rockets—in collaboration with the Henningsens—give us one of the Best Songs By Anyone Ever, “Something Good.” This song has more hooks than my tackle box! The verses end with first line of the chorus, “We had something good,” and chunk on the guitar for a few beats to tease out the phrase turn, “but good was never good enough for you.” If that’s all the melody they were going to give us we wouldd be happy, but then the chorus takes off into its second movement, with Brian and Keith Voegele’s voices blending seamlessly. The chords circle around to return for one more “we had something good.” Perfect. There’s a pause and then Mark tosses us a Ringo-via-Bun E. Carlos drum fill and we’re off into the guitar solo. Brian takes the first leg of the race on his Rickenbacker 12 string and John Horton takes the second on a chiming six string. It’s the Byrds and the Bangles, but it’s also pure Bottle Rockets. As the final chorus swells you start to wonder, how will they end it? The way it’s constructed, they could conceivably play the circular chorus forever (and you kinda wish they would). They cap it off with a final “But good was never good enough for you” and slam out a minor chord that hangs in the air like the last word of an argument.

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From The Desk Of Finn’s Motel: Top Five Coolest Cheap Trick Shows I Ever Saw (3. Jefferson County Fair, Hillsboro, Missouri)

Finn’s Motel mastermind/auteur Joe Thebeau gifted us in late 2006 with the amazing, out-of-nowhere Escape Velocity debut, a concept album about leaving behind the drudgery of cubicle life and suburban malaise for some greater, unknown existence. Even with the help (cough) of a January 2007 MAGNET profile, it took Thebeau nearly 11 years to finally follow it up with the outstanding new Jupiter Rex (Victory Over Gravity). Thebeau will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new Finn’s Motel feature.

Thebeau: Speaking of state/county fairs … When I was 15, I made my first $100 working at the County Fair, raising tents, picking up trash and tearing down tents at the end. I was almost killed by a carny that summer, when I punctured the water-supply hose to his trailer with my trash picker upper. Thankfully, the crew manager talked him out of beating me to death. But I did have to pay him for the hose.

In 2000, Cheap Trick played at the Jefferson County Fair, in my hometown of Hillsboro, Mo. Being a county fair and all, they did pretty much the expected set list. But, the most memorable moment, for me, was during “Dream Police,” when Rick carnival barked, “They persecute me right here in Hillsboro, Missouriiiiii!”

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From The Desk Of Finn’s Motel: Best Songs By Anyone Ever, Volume 3 (Son Volt “Tear Stained Eye”)

Finn’s Motel mastermind/auteur Joe Thebeau gifted us in late 2006 with the amazing, out-of-nowhere Escape Velocity debut, a concept album about leaving behind the drudgery of cubicle life and suburban malaise for some greater, unknown existence. Even with the help (cough) of a January 2007 MAGNET profile, it took Thebeau nearly 11 years to finally follow it up with the outstanding new Jupiter Rex (Victory Over Gravity). Thebeau will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new Finn’s Motel feature.

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Thebeau: In St. Louis, we have a special place in our hearts for Jay Farrar. He grew up in Belleville, Ill., across the river (rode the same school bus as my wife) and played all the same clubs we did. While many of our best and brightest moved away after experiencing success, Jay made St. Louis his home. He made it out there, and he came back here. Jay’s songs are a view through a cracked window into the experience of living in a river city forever burdened by its past. One of the Best Songs By Anyone Ever, “Tear Stained Eye,” contemplates the passage of time via scattered, oblique images of flooded river towns, waxing philosophically on matters of life and truth. Conclusions are hard to come by, but when they do arrive they are stoic, yet not quite comforting:

“If learning is living
And the truth is a state of mind
You’ll find it’s better
At the end of the line”

The wandering lyrics are reined in by a straightforward musical arrangement—three verses and three choruses. There are no fancy bridges or key changes. It doesn’t need them. It’s like a ride on a tired old horse slowly shuffling through the boarded up Main Street of a once-vibrant, then flooded, now abandoned town. Though “Tear Stained Eye” is about time passing, the song itself seems to sit outside of time like it’s always been there.

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From The Desk Of Finn’s Motel: A Walk In The Garden Part 3 (Chantenay Red Core Carrots)

Finn’s Motel mastermind/auteur Joe Thebeau gifted us in late 2006 with the amazing, out-of-nowhere Escape Velocity debut, a concept album about leaving behind the drudgery of cubicle life and suburban malaise for some greater, unknown existence. Even with the help (cough) of a January 2007 MAGNET profile, it took Thebeau nearly 11 years to finally follow it up with the outstanding new Jupiter Rex (Victory Over Gravity). Thebeau will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new Finn’s Motel feature.

Thebeau: I’ve only had one year where I had success with carrots. That year, we dug up a wheelbarrow full on the same day we were playing our wiffle ball final series (I’ve since retired from wiffle ball; a story for another day). Every year since then, I’ve either dug them up too soon, planted them too close together, had them eaten by some unknown animal or just skipped it entirely. When we did have luck with them, they were a bit on the bitter side. I don’t know if it’s because I dug them up too soon or because of the variety I planted. If we don’t have good luck this year I may put an end to the entire enterprise of raising carrots.

One theory for why we haven’t had good luck with carrots is that maybe our soil is too compacted for them to really take root. So, I switched to a new location this year in a slightly raised bed and really dug down deep while tilling ahead of planting. I chose Chantenay Red Core carrots in part because they are stump-rooted, meaning they aren’t supposed to grow as deep as the normal types. And how can you say no to a name as fine as Chantenay Red? Should we make wine from these? Where are we? Paris? Napa Valley?

The wiffle ball final series was almost always in September, though sometimes we tried to get it scheduled before school starts in late August. So, I guess I’ll mark the calendar this year for early September and cross my fingers that nothing eats these carrots before I get to them. Last year, I got the distinct impression that something was either digging down from above or coming up from below (do moles/voles eat carrots?) and taking bites out of the ripe ones. I dug them up early to try and beat them to the punch but by then the bigger ones all had bites out of them and the rest were too small for human consumption. I wonder if Elmer J. Fudd is available to keep watch?

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From The Desk Of Finn’s Motel: Top Five Coolest Cheap Trick Shows I Ever Saw (4. Blueberry Hill/Duck Room, St. Louis)

Finn’s Motel mastermind/auteur Joe Thebeau gifted us in late 2006 with the amazing, out-of-nowhere Escape Velocity debut, a concept album about leaving behind the drudgery of cubicle life and suburban malaise for some greater, unknown existence. Even with the help (cough) of a January 2007 MAGNET profile, it took Thebeau nearly 11 years to finally follow it up with the outstanding new Jupiter Rex (Victory Over Gravity). Thebeau will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new Finn’s Motel feature.

Thebeau: The Blueberry Hill Duck Room is located in the space that was formerly Cicero’s Basement Bar. Blueberry Hill and Cicero’s used to be next-door neighbors. When Cicero’s moved down the street to a larger space, Blueberry Hill bought up the rest of the block and expanded their building. They then somehow managed to dig the floor of the basement down deeper, creating a higher ceiling. And they tore out all the old Cicero’s back bar area to make the room bigger in all directions. The Duck Room is a great venue in its own right. Chuck Berry used to play a show there once a month.

I don’t quite recall what year it was, but at some point in time, Marlboro did a series of pop-up music shows where folks who had saved up Marlboro Miles could redeem them for entry. The weird part about these shows is that they wouldn’t say who was going to be playing until it was relatively close to show time. Still, somehow, the secret had just gotten out that Cheap Trick was going to do a Marlboro Miles show at the Duck Room, capacity 350, give or take. And here I am a non-smoker. I scrambled to find friends who were not only smokers, but Marlboro smokers, and beg them for their points. I believe a few friends may have resorted to buying up cigarettes they had no intention of smoking. Anyway, a group of us managed to secure enough Miles to get into the show.

Cheap Trick blew the roof off the place! They threw away the “hit mix” set list, and played a few extended versions of some of their heavier tunes. They were clearly energized by playing in a club setting; something they probably just hadn’t had the chance to do much since becoming a mainstay on the state-fair circuit. It was a short set, but it was a great show. At the end we just stood there staring at the stage wondering if we really saw what we thought we just saw.

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From The Desk Of Finn’s Motel: Best Songs By Anyone Ever, Volume 2 (The Mutton Birds “She’s Been Talking”)

Finn’s Motel mastermind/auteur Joe Thebeau gifted us in late 2006 with the amazing, out-of-nowhere Escape Velocity debut, a concept album about leaving behind the drudgery of cubicle life and suburban malaise for some greater, unknown existence. Even with the help (cough) of a January 2007 MAGNET profile, it took Thebeau nearly 11 years to finally follow it up with the outstanding new Jupiter Rex (Victory Over Gravity). Thebeau will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new Finn’s Motel feature.

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Thebeau: While we’re in the Southern Hemisphere, let’s check out another one from New Zealand. Don McGlashan, the Mutton Birds’ primary singer/songwriter, has blessed us with some of the greatest songs by anyone ever. “She’s Been Talking” is on the album Envy Of Angels. A strong argument could be made that it has to work hard to be the best song on that album, let alone a greatest song ever. “While You Sleep” and “Like This Train” are also greatest-song contenders, but “She’s Been Talking” wins by a nose on my score card. This song is a master class in the use of key changes, beat changes and clever lyricism to create tension and release, suspense and relief and, ultimately, soaring transcendence.

A tensely picked minor-chord progression and a skipping, syncopated drum beat make for nervous verses about naked lovers on the beach, one of whom is not sure exactly where things are going. The first half of each verse is punctuated with a suggestive major chord, but reverts back to the minor for the second half. Each verse ends with a crafty chord change, and a start/stop drum beat cause a gigantic major-key chorus to appear seemingly out of nowhere. The syncopation of the verse gives way to a driving beat and a chord progression that takes off like a car climbing upward through the gears. The refrain, “She’s been talking to my friends,” bounces between the lead and counter-melody backing vocals, with each repetition scaling up the ladder of optimism.

The tension and release is also present in the lyrics as McGlashan slowly reveals the scene piece by piece in the verses but then opens up the skies during the chorus. And by the final chorus, “She’s been talking to my friends,” rises over our heads into the hopeful stratosphere of possibilities. The realities of life and love are, thankfully, not present here. We get to live, at least for three minutes and 48 seconds, through the confusion and elation that happens in the moment of discovery.

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