No One Wants a Tune About the 100th Luftballoon

09.18.07 | Filed Under Music

The Stage NamesWhat is a Great songwriter to do when all the Great songs have been written? Okkervil River’s front-man, Will Sheff, seems to struggle with this conundrum in “Plus Ones” … an easily over-looked track from The Stage Names, released this past August.

Ostensibly the song is written to a lover, and addresses the sad fact that yes, everyone has been proverbially shat on — so take a number, dear. Sheff litters the lyrics of this number with effortless allusions to great numerical pop songs that preceded him, such as: “96 Tears” … “99 Luftballoons” … “Care of Cell 44” … “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” …”Sixteen Candles” … “8 Miles High” … “7 Chinese Brothers” … “Three Times a Lady” … “TVC15” … and who knows, I may have missed one.

Is there new pain to feel? What makes yours so special, dear? So dehabilitating? Why should I listen to a song about it, when I have all these Great songs already?

Are there Great love songs left to write? Or are they just numbers now … songs to throw on the pile of other Great songs, reducing the power of what a Great song is? Should we just tell people “I’m sorry, Dylan happened. There’s nothing for you to do here … in fact, Dylan, you can go home now, too. Thanks.”

The problem is that pain is fresh to the one who feels it … to the outside observer, it’s old hat … the 100th luftballoon. And in some ways, each new pop song eeked into existence is just another tear, another candle, another cell, another mile … another way to leave your lover.

For the record, I think Will Sheff will eventually write a new song that belongs in the list above. Truly, he’s a gifted songwriter with both the schooling and the muse to be one of the Greats. He has yet to garner the notoriety of some of his contemporaries, but Okkervil River’s last album (Black Sheep Boy) did get some notice from the indie-gencia. “For Real,” a single off that album, is pretty damn close to a Great Song. I think Sheff is going to write one soon enough.

Until then, this one will hold me over just fine. As will the next one.

The player below starts with the Okkervil River track and includes each song listed above in order of their appearance in the song. You know, cause I care. It also includes “What’s New Pussycat?“, also mentioned in the track, and “For Real.”

SeeqPod is awesome (thank you, The Sue Funke).

QuantcastSeeqPod Music beta – Playable Search