March 9, 2007

The Jam, "Town Called Malice," The Gift (1981).

This is one of the first songs that I cared about growing up that didn't bother all that much with a traditional rhyme scheme; when Mr. Weller does rhyme, it has a much more powerful effect than the usual ABCB rock songs I was listening to at the time (even though he reverts to it in the third stanza, Mr. Weller is no Paul Stanley here): the "to either cut down on beer or the kids new gear" internal rhyme, for example, packs a punch--perhaps torque-- that adds to the line's tension. This opened up a wider range of expectations from lyrics and by extension broadened my expectations of what verse/poetry could be & do, so when I read more modern poetry in high school I didn't find it immediately lacking; that is, I tried to fugure it out on its own terms.

But more to any point I might have here, "Town Called Malice" came up on my i-pod today while I was on the 82L from Chinatown back to East Oakland, and I was thrown into a flash of active memory where all the associations I have stored up that include this song montaged in quick succession, causing me to associate heretofore unassociated events in an attempt to make sense of the then present mental thread. The 82 or 82L is good for this, though it comes lowly recommended as a bus route.

Town Called Malice
Better stop dreaming of the quiet life
cuz its the one we'll never know
and quit running for that runaway bus
cuz those rosey days are few and
stop apologizing for the things you never done
cuz time is short and life is cruel
but its up to us to change
this town called Malice

Rows and rows of disused milk
as they lie in the dairy yard
and a hundred lonely housewives
clutch empty milk bottles to their hearts
hanging out their old love letters on the line to dry
its enough to make you stop believing when tears come fast
--and furious
in a town called Malice

Struggle after struggle
year after year
the atmosphere's a fine blend of ice
I'm almost stone cold dead
in a town called Malice

A whole street's belief in Sunday's roast beef
gets dashed against the co-op
to either cut down on beer or the kids new gear
it's a big decision in a town called Malice

The ghost of a steam train
echoes down my track
it's at the moment bound for nowhere
just going round and round
playground kids and creaking swings
lost laughter in the breeze
I could go on for hours and I probably will
but I'd sooner put some joy back in
this town called Malice

Don't get me started on the inclusive "we" in line 2.



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