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September 03, 2003

The Postal Service, "Nothing Better"

I just want to clarify, on the occasion of my second post about this band, that I actually like this record quite a lot. My earlier remarks may have seemed like faint praise, but "sounds like Death Cab" equals, for me, "really, really good". (The more I listen to the record, the more I recognize how it doesn't sound like Death Cab, but let's say for now that it sounds as much like Death Cab as a record with practically no live instruments can be expected to sound.)

My favorite song on the record is probably "Nothing Better". It seems to be a very conscious update of the Human League's "Don't You Want Me": alternating male and female vocals over analog-sounding synths, the man pleading his case while the woman declares their relationship over. Jen Wood was absolutely the right choice over Jenny Lewis (who sings backing vocals on much of the record) for the female vocal; Lewis's voice is a little too warm for this exercise in coldness.

The song also features my favorite lyrical couplet in recent memory (sung by Wood): "Don't you feed me lines about some idealistic future/Your heart won't heal right if you keep tearing out the sutures." But then I'm a sucker for self-consciously clever rhymes (see also The Magnetic Fields).

But today I noticed something odd. The first verse (sung by Ben) contains these lines:

"I can't accept that it's over
I will block the door like a goalie tending the net
in the third quarter of a tied-game rivalry"

So I'm happily humming along and then I think: "Wait a minute. Hockey doesn't have quarters!" It occurs to me that maybe "goalie" and "net" are intended to refer to soccer. But soccer doesn't have quarters either.

Also, both hockey and soccer allow games to end in a tie, so a "tied-game rivalry" doesn't quite have the same urgency that a tie in, say, football might have.

Ben Gibbard, sensitive indie rock boy: not much of a sports guy. Go figure.

<=> | September 3, 2003


There may not be quarters but at least he says the third instead of the fourth. Plus quarter sounds better than period, doesn't it?

I would further submit that in a tie situation, getting scored on is even more devastating than losing your lead. The pressure on the goalie must be immense! At least if the tie is maintained, it's not the goalie's fault, and there is still hope in the sudden death overtime (when pressure would be greatest, I guess) if normal play ends in a tie, right?

Posted by: Alexi | Feb 18, 2004 6:59:41 AM

The sport is lacrosse. Also, soccer can definitely end in a tie, even in the damn world cup. He's not much of a sports guy, huh? Maybe you aren't either.

Posted by: Tyler | Mar 21, 2006 10:35:20 AM

Great call, I was thinking the same thing when I heard this song. In that single sentence, he sort of sucked the air of the song.

Tyler, no such thing as the third quarter in soccer. Also, there is no way that it was a lacrosse reference. But nice job referencing an obscure and unimportant sport that has both a third quarter and a goalie. You really earned your stripes with that one, buddy.

Posted by: John | Aug 21, 2008 1:45:50 PM

It doesn't matter what sport it is. Any sport that is divided into quarters has 4. Thus, the 3rd quarter would never be particularly significant. I'm sure he is talking about hockey (with 3 periods). It just sounded better, and I'm ok with that.

Posted by: Chip | May 29, 2009 12:09:20 PM

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