In Hear This, The A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week, because it’s “Love Week” here at The A.V. Club, we’re picking our favorite songs to put on a mixtape.
Alkaline Trio, “Clavicle” (1998)
The mixtape definitely still exists, even if it’s (mostly) no longer in cassette or CD-RW form. And it remains a tortured process, as the fear of being both too obvious and obscure can prove as difficult to wrestle as a dual-cassette tape deck. The guidelines also vary depending on your objective, whether you’re wooing someone you’ve just met, or trying to move things along in a current relationship. And the less said about courting a hardcore (that’s an adjective, not a genre) music geek, the better. That’s why sometimes it’s best to silence your inner Rob Gordon and just shoot from the hip, or heart, or whatever body part best symbolizes your… desires. In my case, this is most often Alkaline Trio’s “Clavicle.”
I’ve only shared the song a handful of times, because I’ve only made a handful of mixtapes (I guess I’m discerning and lazy). But I’ll be damned if it isn’t one of the very first songs that I start hearing in my head when I get a crush. The song is the band at its plainspoken-punk best—and first, as “Clavicle” appeared on the debut album Goddamnit. Though only two-and-a-half minutes long, it still covers all of the stages of newfound infatuation. There’s the high of the first meeting, followed by a familiar desire: “I want to wake up naked next to you / Kissing the curve in your clavicle.”
There’s nothing ambiguous about the singer’s admission, which is probably another reason why you should exercise caution when deploying this song to win someone over. But somehow that line has always felt more affectionate than sexual—there are, after all, a whole lot of other acts that could follow the phrase “wake up naked next to you.” And it’s probably just a private confession, considering it then takes him about six months to work up the nerve to exchange phone numbers with his intended.
Although the act of calling (twice) only brings him infinitesimally closer to actually being with his beloved—he’s then “sitting around waiting” for a response—it’s progress all the same, and he’s back on cloud nine. The lack of resolution is crucial here, as this isn’t necessarily love: His feelings may or may not be reciprocated, but for now all he can do is wait. It’s the same chance any of us takes when making (and sending) a mixtape.