Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Guided Tour of Vs.: Glorified G


There is an attempt after Glorified G (arguably even after Daughter) to really turn the thrust of the record outward and to transform Vs. into a record of social commentary. Other than W.M.A. the songs are only marginally successful on that front, largely because the songs are more an attempt to vent the band’s own frustrations rather than any real effort to sympathize with the victims (other than themselves) or really understand what is happening in the world around them. The songs often lack the moment of reflection needed to say something interesting, and so the middle sequence of the record ends up being the least effective, in part because they don’t know quite what they want to be. This is perhaps truer of Glorified G than any other song on Vs.

Musically Glorified G is a fun firecracker of a song. It sounds like a party with its good time classic rock vibe. There’s no cowbell here, but it would fit right in. This song makes me want to have a BBQ. There’s a casual ‘who gives a fuck’ feel to the music that makes the song oddly contagious, and Mike’s solos sound almost festive. It’s an odd backdrop, to say the least, for Eddie’s sneering indictment of gun culture and red state (even though we weren’t using that term when this song was written) America. 

Maybe that was deliberate and the contrast is a statement, highlighting how irresponsibly we approach important social issues. Certainly from Eddie’s perspective, a gun is a tool for murder, and that’s it. They’re not toys, and their owners are not sportsmen. These things are dangerous, yet we live in a society that celebrates them, that can’t have enough of them (Got a gun, ‘fact I got two), and that refuses to confront the harm they do: (never shot at a living thing). Eddie is railing against the inability of Americans to see a world outside their immediate horizons and interests, our inability to imagine that an action might have implications outside of how it affects myself. If I personally can trust myself to use my gun responsibly then there’s no problem. The larger societal perspective drops out, and this loss of perspective is a theme that runs through much of the record, both as personal tragedy and social critique. One of the things that Vs. is attacking is this personal and public blindness, and regaining our sight is the key to the redemptive moments on the record.

But most of us are blind, and that suits us just fine. In fact, we applaud ourselves for refusing to confront our lack of vision, turning our stubborn blindness into a badge of honor and mark of freedom, which Eddie addresses with his 1984 allusion (double think/dumb is strength). From the dumb American’s perspective there’s no need to ever think anything through. ‘that’s oaky man, cuz I love god.’ That statement is pregnant with meaning and judgment (Glorified G is an incredibly judgmental song) and addresses itself to both the self-righteous self-importance of god fearing Americans and our faith that whatever we want to do will always work out okay for us since we’re Americans and God is on our side (we're glorified). The end of the song stalks its prey, confident in the justness of its cause and secure in its right to be the master of life and death, ignoring the ghosts of past victims singing underneath Eddie.

Unfortunately, the sentiment is perhaps more interesting than the execution, since Glorified G is basically just one long cheap shot, nowhere moreso than in the chorus (glorified version of a pellet gun/feel so manly when armed) reducing all the complicated questions the song is raising at the margins to a ‘guns=compensation for some kind of inadequacy’. He’s practically begging for all gun owners to shoot themselves as he howls ‘always keep it loaded’ during the bridge. Eddie doesn’t do sarcasm nearly as well as he does sympathy or empathy. Had Glorified G been a song about a victim of gun violence I bet it could have been wonderful. Instead Glorified G is Soon Forget with more beers in its system. Rather than really trying to say something interesting he’s lashing out without subtlety. Appropriately enough for a song about guns, Glorified G is an exercise in self defense. He’s looking to wound since he feels wounded. On a song like Go or Animal, where he refuses to provide the listener with any real target, it works. He’s exorcising a demon, and the result is frightening at times, but compelling. But Glorified G wants to be concrete, which means its success is measured by a different standard. If you want a catchy riff and fun solos to be the backdrop for a middle finger it works. But you’re also left with a song that can’t aim very high either. 

Glorified G
Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town