‘Los Angeles, I’m Yours’ The Decemberists / 2003
THE name of the Portland band suggests wintry skies and a grad-student sensibility (it copped its moniker from the anti-czarists of Russia’s Decembrist Revolt of 1825, but you knew that), so it’s no surprise that this song is a haughty Molotov cocktail thrown at sunny and superficial Los Angeles. The surprise is how funny it is.
Mocking women whose underwear peeks out above their waistlines and snidely explaining how the smell of burnt cocaine “makes me cranky,” lead singer and lyricist Colin Meloy sounds like a pinched-nose poet trapped in a Baroque bordello. The idea for the song came to him during his band’s first tour of L.A. four years ago. The reason? “I couldn’t stand the place.”
He wanted to write lyrics of over-the-top decadence and sickly sweet fakeness and accompany them with a borrowed chord progression from “Bennie and the Jets” that takes on a languid feel here. But a funny thing happened when the band came back to town and performed its snarky anthem:
“It was so strange to look out and people were just gleefully shouting back the lines about their city of choice being compared to vomit on the shore. We tapped into something. I mean, we had gone to Philadelphia once and we had made fun of Iron City Beer, and we were almost booed off the stage. In L.A., it’s more than welcome.”
Maybe that’s one reason Meloy has warmed to the place. He now views L.A. as his “mentor and enemy,” which is only half bad. You can hear that foreshadowed in the climax of the song, which begins as a sneer and ends in surrender.
Oh great calamity
Ditch of iniquity and tears
How I abhor this place
Its sweet and bitter taste
Has left me wretched, retching on all fours
Los Angeles, I’m yours.
-- Geoff Boucher