November 23rd, 2010 10:39am
A Plagiarized Regret
This live recording of “Pow Pow” includes a fair amount of lyrical improvisation on the part of James Murphy, and as such, he cuts out some of the words from the album version. One of the things that didn’t make it into this performance are the two lines that make the song sorta difficult for me to hear at times. This bit:
But honestly — and be honest with yourself — how much time do you waste? How much time do you blow every day?
This freaks me out because I know what the answer is, and the answer makes me feel horrible about myself. It makes me feel like a joke, a loser, an underachiever. Lazy, scared, boring. A person who is actively betraying and sabotaging himself on a daily basis. At this particular moment in my life, this is my greatest fear — that I’m wasting my time, and it’s all my fault.
Anyone could say these words, but not just anyone could say them and have the same impact on me. When James Murphy says this, you hear the blunt truth because you know he is doing it right. He’s always working, always pushing himself. He’s cracked the code, and he’s trying to give us tough love. He knows what he’s doing here, he knows how much it will pain some people to think about how much time they’re wasting not doing what they wish that they could. He knows how many good ideas never end up being fully realized because people are afraid to commit, or too tied up in things that ultimately don’t matter very much.
Listening to the the song without those lines is a small relief, but I am aware that they are gone, so I think about them anyway. I also think about how Murphy is waffling through the whole song, looking at things from multiple perspectives and acknowledging the validity of all of them. These words are a respectful debate going on in his head, spilling out into this song. He goes off on tangents enough times that it’s hard to tell what his main point may have been. He’s exhausted, frustrated by how touring disrupts his life. He’s concerned about using up his desire for discovery. Maybe that’s the point here: You need discovery in your life, but you can’t overload on it. It has to be meaningful. It needs context. It has to take you by surprise. You waste your time, and that’s a crime, but it sets you up for discovery, discovery, discovery, discovery. There just has to be a first step between passivity and the thrill of new things.
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