“Postulating on the Zodiac of the Subject in Sebadoh’s ‘Ocean’”

* “This is nuts!”

– Ben & Jerry

I have the weirdest tradition of listening to “Ocean,” from Sebadoh’s poppiest album Harmacy, around this time of year. But I finally get it, anyway: whereas for the longest time I felt ashamed for liking a song so full of malady rejection within this seasonal landscape of renewal, I finally see how it’s a SONG of renewal, and perhaps even one of the proudest sorts, as it’s so well disguised as heartbreak and tragedy.

And it’s not like I’m saying it REALLY matters what zodiac this chick is: I mean I can’t tell who to sock it to, or anything. But it really is uncanny how many friends of mine, a Virgo closer to Leo than Libra, are either Virgo, Capricorn or Taurus — the three earth signs. As someone closer to Leo, in romance, I usually find the mid-September girls just a bit sappy and sentimental, though nice and pleasant, and am fully wowed by the creativity and flair of Tauruses. Actually, this one girl who was an Aquarius and I one time had this running joke about how we were astrologically incompatible and so it would never work, and just jokingly I’d be like, “That’s it, get out right now!” Hauntingly, as it turns out, today, we’re not even in contact with each other and really can’t stand anything about the other, for that matter. She’s theatrical, for the record. It’s not a problem with me. 

Sure, anyway, I know it’s strange to bring individual astrology into rock and roll, but in a way, isn’t Lou Barlow already doing it, already doing it? He’s like the president, CEO and owner of freakin’ relationships, always analyzing them and criticizing them from the inside out until he’s blue in the face (although his frustration in this particular song seems to be from not routinely getting any, which we must at least peg as a refreshingly humanized plaint). 

There are two elements to take into account here, then, one obviously being the objective, undeniable traits of the girl [1] he’s talking about here (insofar as we can believe him, which of course is always a question with anybody although Barlow never struck me as postmodern, or an unreliable narrator in other words, like say Black Francis [2]). The other, given the fact that, despite all the description and elaboration, the formative trait in a human endeavor like this is still opposition, would be a measurement of what zodiac signs would be the most objectively incompatible with Barlow’s which is Cancer near the Leo cusp. 

Basically, the signs are divided into four groups — earth, air, water and fire. [3] Short of getting into favoring one of these over the other (ahem, earth) I’ll just adhere to the general rule that you usually do the best with your own breed. The elements are arranged spatially throughout the year so that, running through the calendar year, you encounter the same order, over and over. January is an earth, that is, February an air, March a water, April a fire, May back to earth, and so on and so on. So there are three zodiac signs for each of the four elements, creating a product through multiplication of the 12 months. You are most compatible, theoretically, with members of your own element, in both friendship and romance, but please let me emphasize that as is the case with almost any rule in life, some exceptions do exist. 

But like I allude to earlier, my proclivity for making friends within my own element is evidently ingenuous enough to warrant some devotion thereto. And I don’t know what it was but something about “Ocean” just smacked of astrological malady to me — the inability to connect, the disappointment. It all seemed like a case of two people who just see the world differently. What’s more, the title itself, “Ocean,” might help us solve this riddle, since “water” is one of the four astrological elements. 

Tellingly, Lou Barlow himself is a Cancer, which is a water sign. His first quip of the song is “So you think you’re in the middle of the ocean”, which would seem to symbolize the effort to connect with a water sign. This ambition on the part of the woman would of course be understandable, seeing as Harmacy is one of Sebadoh’s later albums. That is, the motive is there. So we can rule out Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces, the three water signs.

One dominant trait of the subject of “Ocean” seems to be indecisiveness. It might, then, be time to rule out fire signs — Ares, Leo and Sagittarius. Leos, in particular, are known for their hard spine — they’re positive people until you cross them. My grandmother was an Ares with a sharp tongue for those who condescended her and I once had a Sagittarius roommate very prone to strong opinions — liking Curtis Mayfield, hating Frank Zappa, etc. 

Gasp. Could she be an earth sign, my own brand? Everybody likes their own brand, or so I thought. Well, if I know Virgos, we won’t dive into relationships until we’re sure that they’re gonna work. We’re less gregarious than we are loyal. And notice, the girl in the song hasn’t evidently been “disloyal,” per se, but you certainly get an air that she’s cheating, seeing as Barlow’s character isn’t getting any from her. 

That leaves air signs. Whew. Gemini, do you “Answer every question with a riddle?” Nope — for how gregariously positive this Gemini I knew in college was, she would at least be straight up with you, and be kind enough to withhold her negative opinions while generally keeping things on an objective plane. Libras, I’m sorry, are like so two-faced it’s funny. Sometimes with them I want to just straight up be like, I know you’re really fake and you talk about me behind my back, except that they tend to have this mellow, placid air about them that never fails to suck me in. I fall for it every time, I swear. Maybe my moon sign is air, getting windswept away, or whatever. But with Libras you don’t always KNOW you’re up sh** creek, even if you are as sharp and relationship-savvy as the venerable Sebadoh frontman [4]. 

This leaves Aquarius. Cue in walking-the-plank music right here. That one girl is gonna kill me if she reads this. But that seems like something she’d do: answer every question with a riddle, like she thinks she’s some walking Monty Python character or something [5]. But maybe she always gets a lot of a** without a lot of emotional investment or commitment, in which case I won’t feel that bad discursively annihilating her in this blog post. 


[1] Mind you, this is the 1990s, before women made the strident moral achievement of walking around in yoga pants in public and hence commanding the term “women” with invariable frequency. 


[2] Interestingly, Lou Barlow and Black Francis are like sworn enemies: I read this one interview with Barlow where he was saying something like “Why anybody would want to be influenced by the Pixies is beyond me.” Both men are from Massachusetts and are really sort of like foils to each other, with Barlow apparently completely relinquishing the otherwise established blueprint of phrasing unorthodoxies and metaphoric, comedically apocalyptic lyrics established by the other. 


[3] A nifty diagram of this phenomenon can be found on the page “The Four Elements: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water Signs” on mollyastrology.com. 


[4] A little shameless self-promotion here, for any Sebadoh newbies: http://dolbydisaster.com/?p=24362.


[5] There was some Pearl Jam biography where it described what was Stone Gossard’s obsession in the band’s early days of going up to people and teasing them sarcastically in an English accent, an exploit he tabbed as “like somebody from Monty Python’s,” or something thereabouts. 

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