In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This Love Week, we’re talking about some of our favorite kiss-off cuts.
Dikembe, “Tony Kukush” (2011)
When Dikembe first sprouted in 2011, the band seemed like a joke. Its debut EP Chicago Bowls—released on April 20—took the names of championship-winning Chicago Bulls players and turned them into weed puns, featuring a starting line-up of “Scottie Spliffen,” “Luc Bongley,” “Michael Jordank,” and “Tony Kukush.” With the addition of a couple Freaks And Geeks samples to Bowls’ top and bottom (they’d later be removed from its 2013 reissue), it was hard to see Dikembe as anything other than a side-project assembled for the sole intent of goofing off. But, when all the smoke cleared, what lay beneath Bowls’ resin-soaked coating was a collection of songs that offered more than just a contact high.
On closer “Tony Kukush,” vocalist Steven Gray processes a relationship gone sour, shouting down the onlookers that seemed to wish for its demise while venting frustrations for the former lover that gave into them. Gray’s lines are uniformly bitter, from his unwillingness to even discuss the subject (“You’re wrong / I don’t want to talk this out”) to his desire to avoid his other-half at all costs, “I’m moving somewhere with seasons / And drinking for better reasons / Than tolerating you.” Gray’s disgust runs deep, and even though he acknowledges he may have overreacted a bit, there’s no going back. When the song’s refrain hits, with its raucous gang chant of “I couldn’t say I’m sorry if I wanted to,” he both admonishes and absolves himself of any self-appointed guilt.
It’s a heavy end, but one that Dikembe doesn’t let linger. As those last notes decay, Jason Segel’s voice bursts in, and as a Freaks And Geeks sample plays out, “Tony Kukush” comes full circle. It’s as if Gray caught a glimpse of his sanctimonious anger and, instead of ending Bowls on a low note, opted to take a hit, have a laugh, and revel in the glory of a three-peat while everything else melted away.