The cure for the common (feeling) cold

If there’s one thing I hate more than unbelievable shows of affection on Valentine’s Day, it’s the weird mix of self-pity and desperate cries for attention that spew from single people on Facebook. Look, it sucks to not having the opportunity to have sex with people on a regular basis, but let’s not act like you deserve to be with people. None of us deserve anyone. We’re happy to just have what we happen to get.

So in that vein, I’m still in fake emotions hangover phase. You know, it happens near many holidays that have expected emotional expectations, like Christmas, Arbor Day and Kids Dental Health Month. I have to deal with the fact that society wants everyone to feel like they’re in fake love for a couple of days and then we can all forget what emotions are.

Fuck that, let’s celebrate shitty love. Let’s hit those perfect kiss offs, those abusive bastards and all the joys of using people. After all, it’s all about being a little fake.
Few have mastered the “I’m sorry that I’m so fucking better than you” song quite like the British. Starting in the ’70s with Elvis Costello and the enthralling mix of earnestness and misogyny and continuing in it’s grand march in modern English pop-punk. Masters of the genre teamed up in 2009 to form The Last Shadow Puppets and an unbelievably sexy, perfectly angry and wonderfully self loving “The Age of the Understatement.”

Still, there’s no one that could do it quite like Costello. There are few artists who were never able to find a happy medium between his obsession with love and feeling the damage of scorn. As such, there are few singers who mastered the uniquely male perspectives on rejection, bitterness, jealousy and self-loathing that many women aren’t privy to. Few songs capture this feeling quite like the man’s first great hit.

Yeah, Allison is the song that really cemented Elvis Costello’s position as the reigning minstrel of sad bastards everywhere, but there are few songs that have effected me as much as his later work. As Costello matured, married beautiful women, quit doing cocaine, divorced beautiful women and found himself, rich, bored and totally alone, he was able to feel the same alienation he felt at the beginning of his career. Channeling all of that into the stunning mostly-live masterpiece “Blood and Chocolate,” Costello and the Attractions created the ultimate kiss-off, in a mix of brutal irony, self-congratulation and remorse. It’s a song that I have to listen to after every break up, every shitty date and every betrayal.

You can say what you want about the British’s great love of hating those who hate them, there are few who have done the job quite as well as Liz Phair. That being said, excluding “Exile in Guyville,” Phair has served as a better influence for other artists than for herself as a performer. One of her contemporaries, Amanda Palmer, wrote one of the great musical fuck-you’s in her work with the Dresden Dolls.

It’d be a lie to say that Elliot Smith isn’t one of my favorite singer-songwriters of all time. Whether it’s the combination of alcohol and drug infused angst, the struggle of feeling and forgetting what love was and the ultimate bit of suicidal self-loathing in his last desperate cry for help, Smith was one of those singers who was obsessed solely with exploring his own mind. In one of his most beautiful songs, Smith wonders at what point the deluded woman he’s slept with is going to give up on him or when he’s going to have to break her heart. It’s a difficult song to decipher, but the clear pain he feels as he deals with being the heartbreaker is palapable.

As much as I’d like to admit it, for every song that is a solid statement of how terrible love is. there are ones that are less sure of the situation. Tegan & Sara perfectly created this feeling in their landmark pop record “The Con,” a document of regret and love’s ability to fall apart. Here, there’s a mix of hope, a chance that one day something could change.

 

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