You know what’s fun? Moping. I try to avoid it, but sometimes I’m the consummate professional when it comes to wallowing. And when I need to bottom out, yet feel insightful about my self-pity, I call on Will Sheff, the chief songwriter for Okkervil River.
This song didn’t make the cut for their latest album, but it’s not for lack of awesomeness; it’s just too direct of a song to fit into the record’s collection of narratives. If you’ve ever been dumped, this song should hit quite close to home.
Okkervil River: “Love to a Monster” [outtake/bonus track from The Stage Names, 2007]
Ouch. Read on for more.
You can be pretty certain that any song that starts with “Lover, now that you’ve left me I’m glad you’re unlovely” is not going to be a “Glad we can be friends” kind of tune.
Full of seething bitterness and ill will, this slow burner’s most fascinating aspect is its complete self-awareness. Most breakup songs are either mopey “Can’t we work this out?” tales or cocksure, “I don’t need you anyway” motivational crap. But few songs are actually realistic about rejection — it’s not okay, and, no, I’m not sure if I’m better off without you. I just kinda hope you’re as fucked as I am.
There’s no delusion in lines like “I wouldn’t be able to bear the way you cannot love me/ it’s much easier of me to make a monster out of you.” So while Kelly Clarkson is out celebrating her newfound independence, Sheff is putting on the same act, going through the same empty motions, knowing full well that it won’t do a goddamn thing to make him feel any better. It’s an honest look at false self-preservation, and it’s absolutely compelling because it’s so authentic and familiar.
After predicting the next doomed relationship, it ends with the overly dramatic — wink! — lamentations of someone who doesn’t even want to be helped. It’s a breakup song for real life, quite possibly the first one I’ve ever really believed. Which is quite a downer on many levels. Which is why it’s amazing.