Saturday, November 15, 2014

Song of the Day: Wilco - I Am Trying to Break Your Heart (2002)

I am, for better or worse, an analyst. (My ex-girlfriends would probably say it's for the worse.) I obsessively analyze everything, from movies to music to interviews to basketball games to human behavior, and my brain pretty much has no off-switch from this behavior. It's a quality that, I hope, makes me a good writer, though it certainly makes me difficult in other ways. But even still, every once in a while I'll encounter something that simply defies my desire to analyze it, and this song is one of those things. 

"I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" was the first Wilco song I ever heard, and it's still my favorite. I've absolutely loved it for 12 years, despite spending all of that time having utterly no clue what the words mean, and I've never tried to figure it out. I just don't care to. The lyrics have a beauty of impenetrable non-sequiturs that I'm perfectly content in allowing to simply be. Here are the first two verses:

I am an American aquarium drinker
I assassin down the avenue
I'm hiding out in the big city blinking
What was I thinking when I let go of you?
Let's forget about the tongue-tied lightning
Let's undress just like cross-eyed strangers
This is not a joke, so please stop smiling
What was I thinking when I said it didn't hurt?

I just find the words gorgeous even though I have no idea what they mean. It helps that they accompany a melody which is so lovely and timeless that they sound as though they're from some ancient language where nouns weren't meant to be used logically. I wasn't the greatest student in my British literature classes, but they remind me a bit of T.S. Eliot. 

I saw Jeff Tweedy (the Wilco frontman) do a solo show last night, and hearing this song with nothing but his voice and acoustic guitar was one of the more memorable moments of my concert going life. 

This was originally written and posted on Facebook on June 6, 2014

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