“Preparing for High School Varsity Sports ’15-’16: The Making of a ‘Pump-up Tape'”

The lyrical stakes really took a step up for Third Eye Blind’s second album, Blue, if you look at it. Their first album began with the chorus “I remember you and me used to spend / The whole god damn day in bed,” but by the second one it’s “Anything,” a song about rape, a song about premature pregnancy, a song about eternity (“Never Let You Go”), and then a song you think is going to suck, no matter how many times you’ve listened to the album, “Deep inside of You,” but never fails to welterweight in with subtle sound drapings that adorn the mind like an orchestral crown.

“Wounded” was my favorite “pump-up tape” classic for high school track (though “10 Days Late” has evolved into my favorite song on the album), and this is ironic, because its pace is so deliberate. You have to care about running the mile, or the 800 really fast, or about crushing the sh** out of the guy across from you, in the other colored shirt, whom you hate just because he went to a different school, to understand what matters in a pump up tape. Theatrics are prized, histrionics are prized. You are the devotee to sport, and provided some willingness to risk your personal safety for victory, you are in the right, in this, and so you become all-encompassingly correct.

Irony seems to be the name of the game here, so I’ll provide some more: “Run Like Hell” by Pink Floyd is not a good pump-up song, even for cross-country. It is, though, arguably the perfect song. Whatever term you want to use: trippy, ahead-of-its-time, avant-garde, soul-cutting, would probably be appropriate; and the reason is expressionism, vs. singer/songwriting. 3EB is singer/songwriting. You want to sit stone-faced before the tyrannical ruler that is the Pink Floyd dictator; you want to come to the help of Stephen Jenkins, whose girlfriend has got raped, and who’s written a beautiful song about it. This is how conventional wisdom of stylistics are warped by basic human sympathy. “Wounded” is the better “pump-up” song because it spurs the listener into action with a sophistication of message, not something that can be broken down by science, like sound waves or rhythm.


Addenda: Other “pump-up” favorites from back in the day

Orgy – “Stitches”; Creed – “Higher”; Limp Bizkit – “The One”; DMX – “One More Road to Cross”; Lit – “Ziplock”; Rage Against the Machine – “Without a Face”/”Wake up”

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