In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week: some great songs with prominent literary references.
Archers Of Loaf, “What Did You Expect?” (1994)
Lots of Archers Of Loaf lyrics are inscrutable, the product of what seemed like random word generators and non-words that fit a desired syllable pattern. (That didn’t stop them from being—or at least seeming—brilliant at times.) I just assumed that the word salad on the 1994 single “What Did You Expect?” was more of the same, because the sorta-chorus doesn’t make much sense: “It’s a running sore / It’s the rope, it’s the rubbing / Can’t do nothin’ ’cause I’m all tied up.” And then I read Samuel Beckett’s masterfully absurd play Waiting For Godot, and tripped right over those same words, plus other references to the scene in which the two main characters, Vladimir and Estragon, interact with Lucky, essentially the slave of another man, Pozzo. The song lifts not only more lines directly from the play (“Look at that slobber,” “looks like goiter”) but even a stage direction (“dwell on the face”). If you really squint, you could read the lyrics as a first-person account from Lucky, especially the lyric about being tied up, along with the ragingly sung, “Why’s the man always trying to keep me down?” That said, it’s not like it tells the story of Waiting For Godot, because like the play, nothing much happens in the song, really—just a similar sense of dread. It’s one of the more aggressive songs in the Archers’ catalog, a blistering rocker that starts with a bang and only slows down to get weird. It probably won’t be remembered alongside the play as a masterpiece of 20th-century art, but it does offer a nice snapshot of 1990s indie-rock, and a fun way to read along with something heady.