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The Lyrics of Cruel Country

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I'm a lyrics person...it always has mattered to me that a song had something to say. Didn't have to be deep....sometimes a song is pure silly play, a la "Hoodoo Voodoo". It still says exactly what it set out to say.



Which lyrics among these are catching at you, making you pause, making unexpected tears sprint to your eyes, or maybe just flooding you with understanding, from some powerful life experience?

I have a few already, and they resonate deeply. Which are yours? 

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Just a few...


I've been through hell

On my way to hell



Talk to me
I don’t want to hear poetry
Say it plain
Like how you really speak



As bad as it seems it’s worse than expected



I’ve been ashamed
And afraid
I still feel loved
When you say my name
In a sad kinda way


But our fears were never real enough so we would just project


Freeze my warmth away
Tear the tears out of your quiet face

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hints - "Rivers rounding ridges in our fingerprints" 


That's an absolute pearler, Jeff.


Reminds of some of the most beautiful semi-surreal and poetic Wilco/Tweedy lyrics from songs like "She's A Jar", "Chinese Apple", "Panthers", et. al. 

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Talk to me

I don't want to hear poetry

Say it plan

Like how you really speak



I can't say what my favorite lyrics are on this one, but this lyric strikes me as interesting, and as sort of a manifesto for Tweedy's current approach.  It encapsulates what is missing, and what I most want to hear from the band. To me, the parts of a song where an instrument other than the voice is telling the story, saying things you can't say with words, is where the poetry in music is most evident.  Tweedy seems to be acknowledging that, for now, he's going to tell us stories in plain language.  Not to say that there's a complete lack of oblique wordplay on the record.  There's a little.  But in general, his writing is very straightforward now, and there's he sees no need for the instruments to step in and try to express the un-verbalize-able parts of the story.


I miss the un-verbalize-able parts.   That kind of stuff speaks to me more than any lyric ever written.  I doubt Tweedy meant that line as a vision statement for 2022 Wilco, but I feel that it works as one, and even if I never end up liking this album very much, there is some degree of comfort in hearing Tweedy come right out and say it.



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The great

I’d slap the cuffs right on my wrists
I’d get so high I’d arrest myself 
For honeysuckle on a buckle
Broken teeth biting on my belt


^ Such a beautiful set of images for something so dark!


We stretched our necks to hear below the decks
But our fears were never real enough so we would just project


^ This captures the problem of xenophobia for me in a way that is vivid but not at all preachy.


The not so great

For someone who has frequently written lyrics that absolutely captivate me, Tweedy occasionally puts together something that I can't help but associate with middle school poetry. It's usually a trite or treacly rhyme that seems like it was kept only because it rhymes, even though it's pedestrian. This all comes with the same caveat that I always share with the negatives: I can't/shouldn't/wouldn't want anyone to stop enjoying something they love if these lines/songs click for them. It's mostly that I find the inconsistencies, or occasional stinkers a fascinating contrast to all of the profound material.


The worst offenders:


They’re sick and sad
I’m sorry I’m glad 


^ I didn't like when he rhymed sad with glad in "Everlasting Everything" either.


When certain people die
I can’t cry 
I wonder why


^ I didn't like it when he rhymed die with cry during "On and On and On" and here it is again.


And I always cry

when I look at the sky.





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