OH HAY guys! Tara here, with the fourth edition of Life Lessons from Lyrics, this time featuring the epic amazingness of one of my favorite bands, Guster.
Like Stefon says, this band has EVERYTHING. With their George Harrison-esque melodies and such great lyrics alongside them, these guys can kill a love song, a revenge song, a sad song, anything with the best of them, and they manage to eke out a little space for some humor somewhere within those lines as well. Not to mention they do seriously amazing covers, like this set where they covered one of my other favorite bands, the Violent Femmes. Listen, people. It’s genius!
Tom (my hubby, for those who don’t know) introduced me to Guster, which is probably part of the reason why so many of these songs so perfectly crystallize specific moments in time for me – we were in college, falling in love, fighting all the time, and generally feeling all the feels, so any lyric that could accurately express what I was going through was like a bombshell going off in my (obnoxious know it all) head. I mean, OBVI NO one else EVER had gone through ANYTHING like what I was experiencing, in all of my 19 year old wisdom (I knew EV. ER.Y. THING.), so if these guys could write it, they were clearly worth listening to. From makeout sessions on my futon (the bars in those things could really hurt!) to fights in his dorm room that ended in tears to road trips in Tom’s teal ’88 Toyota Tercel, Guster was the soundtrack to our ups and downs. One such road trip, very early on in our relationship, was to Morgantown, West Virginia to see them with John Mayer (in ’03, I think – no, wait, just looked it up, it was March 11, ’04, and I’m getting old) and as we went to get beers after Guster’s set, we saw that we could MEET the BAND! Of course, I took off in a sprint with Tom close behind, and we got in line. We then realized we had nothing for them to sign, so Tom tore down one of the ‘Meet Guster’ posters and I ran to the merch table and got a tshirt. Of course, when we got up there with them, like the little college coed trying to show a guy how cool and spontaneous I was I ended up having them sign ME. Stomach, chest, and arm. And the shirt. And the poster. They could tell we were college kids who could party (they’re really intuitive guys, ha) so they asked us where the party was after the show, and we panicked and said, um, we don’t know, we’re from Ohio, and had to leave since the line behind us was getting restless. Which led to us GNASHING our TEETH in REGRET two seconds later – oh, sorry, awesome band we love, we don’t want to have a beer with you, we want to immediately get back in our shitty car and spend 5 hours on the road! WHAT WERE WE THINKING?!? To this day, it’s one of our biggest regrets. At least we have the tshirt!
Tales of regret and the stupidity of youth aside (Guys, the next time you’re here come to Williamsburg because we owe you a beer) there are so many songs with outstanding lyrics that, going through their discography, I had a ridiculously long list of quotes that I managed to pare down to the following EPIC GEMS of AWESOME.
When I was in college, I was just starting to recognize and deal with my issues with depression (woohoo, happy topic here), and also beginning to realize that while I saw myself as a social butterfly, I was actually quite a loner, forcing myself to go out, act out, be the crazy fun girl, the cool chick, the down-for-anything friend (hence the body signing) that was always smiling the biggest and laughing the loudest. That act was starting to wear thin, though, and Demons, from the album Goldfly, spoke exactly to that falseness that felt so hollow.
My words confuse you,
my eyes don’t move a blink –
cause it’s easier sometimes
not to be sincere.
Somehow I’ll make you believe.
When I speak I’ll cross my fingers,
will you know you’ve been deceived?
I find a need to be the demon –
a demon cannot be hurt.
Woof. It was a tough time, softened by a good friend that would someday be my husband (awww) who knew how theraputic it was to get me in the car, drive away from the conservatory we both studied at, and scream along at the top of my lungs to something other than the music I was working like a crazy person on day and night back at school. It didn’t matter where we went, as long as it was away from all of that and as long as there was music we loved cranked as high as it would go. God, I miss having a car. DAMN YOU NYCCCCCC!!!!!
Ahem. Sorry. Anyway. One of our favorites to car-sing along to was I Spy, not only because it’s so fun to harmonize to, but because after a long day, frustrations run high, and it just feels so good to scream
I’ve been so damn sad
’cause I spy something red.
So good, in fact, that some 10 years later, after a few (maybe more than a few) drinks, Tom, our friend Steel, and I ripped into a drunken version we simply HAD to record on one of our iphones because it sounded SO SICK, MAN. Pardon our Christmas tunes and home-recorded demo, of course – real EP forthcoming.
What’s the word for the ear equivalent of beer goggles? Ha. We definitely had a good time. Not sure our neighbors did, though…
This next album, Keep It Together, has a ton of great writing that holds great meaning for me, but this is the line we used at our wedding, so I’m going to go ahead and say it’s one of the biggies. When you fall in love young, you go through a lot of growing pains together, and how we came through to the other side will never cease to amaze me. However, we did, and this sweet lyric from Ramona has always been our #1.
When I was younger and thought of myself,
I never dreamed I’d become like this.
A snap of your fingers
and end to the argument –
anything for you, love.
Squee! Anyway. Oh, man, Diane – when I went away to work at a summer stock theater one year, this was our theme song, because day to day we had no idea what we were doing or if this thing would last, which was disconcerting to say the least. Good thing there was Guster!
I don’t say it, but I know you know.
The theme returns so deep
and visits us in sleep
to define the you and I as we,
so we pass the time and occupy our minds
and close our eyes and hope that we’ll be fine.
We’ll make it out together,
and I may leave, in time you’ll see
I’ll come right back for you.
Yeah, it all worked out. But not before we were long distance for four years, followed by an ultimatum (by me, I know, I’m an asshole, but dude, 4 YEARS of long distance?!) of ‘move to NYC or YER OUT’. He finally chose New York, and me, but not before a whole lot of other shit thrown from either side – we both listen to Come Downstairs and Say Hello with all of those memories swirling around it, and they were the theme song to his CLE -> NYC move.
Be calm, be brave, it’ll be okay.
No more messing around and living underground
and New Year’s resolutions –
by this time next year, I won’t be here.
I turn on MTV, the volume’s down –
lips move, they say ‘it’ll be okay’.
To tell you the truth I’ve said it before,
‘tomorrow i start in a new direction’,
one last time these words from me
I’m never saying them again.
I look straight at what’s coming ahead
and soon it’s going to change in a new direction.
Every night as I’m falling asleep
these words repeat in my head…
In writing this, I’m realizing just how much we grew up with this band – so much of what we went through is in here! The true genius, to me, is a lyricist’s ability to write something that feels so personal to so many other people when it begins as a seed of an idea in themselves and of themselves, and Guster has so many examples of this it’s mind boggling. This last one, from Ganging Up On The Sun, is so indicative of my time in NYC, with and without Tom. From being a bright-eyed musical theater hopeful, to years of auditioning in that extremely competitive world, to my slow, painful realization that what I’d dedicated so much time and energy to wasn’t what I really wanted, to beginning to learn to write songs and perform in a very different way than I was used to, to the highs and lows that come with making and playing music as a Brooklyn band, to today, the lyrics of Empire State (oh, NYC) get me every SINGLE time.
Been reading the forecast
something’s coming this way
but it’s taking forever and
I’m too tired to maintain that –
Been a scratch on the surface,
Been a clog in the drain,
Been sleeping for days.
Been one in a million,
Been a million to one,
this is taking forever –
it always seems to return that
All hands up, salute the Empire State –
faith be true, you know the way.
Ten feet tall in this, an empty space,
fallen walls all around
We’ll build again, rebuild again.
The struggle is real. But Guster is real-er. Thanks, guys, for the words that have kept me moving and singing at times I didn’t think I could. Seriously. Thank you.