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“Framing Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks’ ‘Baltimore’ with that ‘America’ Song”

Cokemachineglow.com around 2012: a little hit or miss; cokemachineglow.com circa 2008: damn near impeccable — I found out about Intelligence, Harlem Snakes and Surfer Blood on there, all unique and catchy acts in their own right. In 2012, though, cokemachineglow.com left Grizzly Bear – Shields off their year-end Top 50 out of apparent spite (I think I had it 12th on this site), and they even made this diss on the album like, “We like Shields… in fact it almost made our Top 50.” Well, they had Lambchop on there, so what the hell… I guess they’d rather listen to Lambchop than Grizzly Bear, and that’s perseverance. In the meantime, PLEASE check out the video to “Gun-Shy,” it’s even trippier than that clay-mation “Ready, Able,” and that was some trippy sh**.

Anyway, yup, making the Top 50 used to mean something, and juxtaposed disparately with the anticlimactic if droll Wig Out at Jagbags, Real Emotional Trash certainly begins to amount to, if not more than the sum of its parts, at least the collective of some awesome parts. I always thought I heard a spark in it.

A requisite to making an successful rock album is anger, and nowhere on Trash is this more present, or effective, than on “Baltimore,” which finds Malkmus delivering a classic second-person kiss-off: “You criticize life / You criticize pain / You criticize situations you’ve never been in.” The album in general is so bouncy, care-free and chops-laden, musically, that it’s a refreshment when we get to this personal lyrical attack, somewhere around track six. It’s just like in dating, or whatever: you’ve got to know both sides of someone, and this is Stephen Malkmus’ dark side. Without pet peeves you have no pearls of inspiration with which to compare them.

Before I get into the exact semantic diction of the two songs, in framing, I’d like to just state that claiming a “God with no face” is very much a personal flaw in the individual who does so, agnostics being in a position to self-ascribe thusly, and true men of righteousness possessing visionary guidance. But what irks me more than anything about the “America” song is that it shamelessly propagates a mindset of hopelessness, and of the intrinsic evil of humanity. This is especially peeving given America’s extremely violent, imperial foreign relations shtick, hence volatility in lack of self-concept. The song seems like propaganda to maintain this desperate, ugly identity. And, to relate it to the Malkmus song, when the guy’s going “They wanna see blood / They wanna see hate,” I’m very much reminded of the lines “You criticize life / You criticize pain / You criticize situations you’ve never been in.” I mean, who the hell is this guy even talking about anyway? It seems like just a white trash ploy to maintain the militaristic spirit so encouraged by our country’s outrageously misallocated funding. It’s sad that I even have to comment on this, but golden boy, do I ever.

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