Music Monday: Dilaudid by The Mountain Goats

Welcome to the first every Music Monday! I’ve been wanting to get more active here, but lacking the energy (possibly the time? Life seems to be nuts, as it often is) to create the kind of quality content that one could desire. So here you have Music Monday. Sometimes I will play you songs. Sometimes songs and commentary. But there will always be music to brighten up your back-to-work day.

This week: Dilaudid, by The Mountain Goats, and a tiny example of how to make a cliche rip your heart out.

When is a Cliche Not a Cliche?

I had a conversation with a friend recently about making music meaningful without using cliche. And I said “Why not embrace the cliche, and twist it around?”

“What do you mean?” they replied. So I basically linked them about five songs by The Mountain Goats.

The lead singer/songwriter for this group, John Darnielle, is a master of taking something cliche and turning it on its head. In this particular song I go from sniffing at a pretty standard phrase to contemplating the tragedy of chronic illness and human limitation (all in about four lines). You can listen to the song it the video below, and I’ll break it down for you afterward.

(WARNING: limited profanity, violent imagery

The line that gets me in this song is about chickens. CHICKENS, of all things.

  • All the chickens come on home to roost – Pretty standard metaphor for things you do returning to you
  • Plump bodies blotting out the sky  – but WAIT, suddenly it’s actual chickens!
  • You know it breaks my heart in half, in half ; When I see them try to fly – And now, suddenly, I feel REALLY SAD for chickens that were hypothetical three sentences ago.

But the line that always gets me in the gut (when I’m not too distracted feeling bad about chickens) is this one:

‘Cause you just can’t do
Things your body wasn’t meant to 

Like those poor chickens, sometimes we want to fly, but we simply can’t. Whether bad luck, or bad choices, or bad genetics, sometimes we as human beings can’t achieve the things that we want to. This tiny line reminds me of every time I’ve been out of breath because of the excess weight I carry, or when anxiety makes it hard to focus on anything but not freaking out (usually about things that don’t need that level of attention).

Sometimes you just can’t do things your body wasn’t meant to. And that’s okay. Have pity on yourself, just like your heart breaks in half for those silly chickens.

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