Monday, December 31, 2012

"The Ice Of Boston" - The Dismemberment Plan

Ah, the great indie novelty hit that wasn't. With funny, self-deprecating lyrics, catchy guitar work, a Gladys Knight & the Pips reference and a chorus just MADE to be sung-along too no matter how drunk you are, "The Ice Of Boston" would seem to have everything that you could ask for in a crossover holiday song. It's not surprising that The Ice Of Boston [EP] was the only thing that Interscope actually put out by the Dismemberment Plan before kicking them back to DeSoto - this was easily the most marketable song the Plan would make, despite Travis Morrison's oddly charming confessions mixed with out-and-out lyrical weirdness.

"Pop open a bottle of bubbly," Morrison begins followed shortly by his first great singalong exclamtion, "here's to another GODDAMN New Year!" It's a wonderful opening line, one that announces that what follows will be the antidote for all the holiday treacle of the past month as well as the forced-smile enthusiasm and professions of optimism that usually define New Year's Eve. In fact, while the city stumbles drunkenly into the next annum outside his apartment, Morrison is, fittingly, alone. He nails that oddly disorienting feeling of urban loneliness as he looks at the clouds, "orange with celebration" from the sodium lighting of millions of people and thinks about the one person he doesn't have.

Forgive my shaky photography I was rocking the fuck out
The scratchy guitars languidly follow his singing up and down the scales as he pours his heart out with particularly affecting honestly. Morrison admits that "the party line is that I followed you here" but denies all charges. Not because they're not true, but because he doesn't like what they say about him. It goes a long way towards explaining his behavior in the previous verse. After drinking two bottles of champagne he ends up "buck naked, drenched in champagne, looking at a bunch of strangers" while talking to his mother on the phone. Is there a better visual metaphor for doing something foolish (like, say following a girl to a strange city), failing and then being shown at your most pathetic and vulnerable than being being literally exposed for who you all to the whole city AND your mother?

But what puts the cherry on top of "Ice Of Boston" is the massive chorus. Starting with a joyous "HEY!" to get everyone on the same page, the guitars roar as Morrison (and hopefully everyone else in the room) starts singing "The Ice of Boston is muddy / And reflects no light in day or night / And I slip on it every time." It's an example of the quiet-verse loud-chorus model used to perfection. Of course, the meaning of his words is more thoughtful than ebullient (which might explain its inability to escape the indiesphere), as Morrison muses about the unknowable and potentially treacherous desires that guide our lives. Dismemberment Plan fans have responded to the song's lack of mainstream love by making a tradition of mobbing the stage whenever it's played. It's overcompensation that tries to make up for a lack of broad popularity by demonstrating the ridiculous, over-the-top depth of identification with the song.
Finally, we end where all New Year's celebrations inevitably do, in bed and full of remorse (not to mention the makings of a brutal hangover). For our hero though, there's not even anything worth celebrating in how he achieved his mounting headache - no kiss at midnight, no blurry memories with friends, just loneliness. So when he hears Gladys Knight "Singing about how she'd rather live in his world with him than in her own world alone," he can't help but see his own failings in her old soul song and turn a teensy bit misanthropic. We could hold it against him, but he's had a rough night so it's easier to just smile and shout along as he moans "oh Gladys, I love you girl, but OH get a life!"

So tonight as you're out there, here's hoping there's someone considerate enough to play a song that actually does justice to ringing in another year. A song that says here's to loving hard enough to look ridiculous. Here's to having the courage to make bold decisions, even bad ones. Here's to following through on those decisions and (hopefully) learning from them. Here's to feeling like shit about yourself (because we all deserve to feel like shit every once in a while). Here's to doing every stupid thing that makes you feel alive. Basically "The Ice Of Boston" is about being unafraid to live like a human fucking being, warts and all. Or at least lowering one's inhibitions enough to do so every so often.

I'll drink to that.

Buy The Dismemberment Plan Is Terrified

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