In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week: our favorite songs that come in at over 10 minutes long.
Cat Power, “Willie Deadwilder” (2004)
Depending on your willingness to meet it halfway, Cat Power’s “Willie Deadwilder” might be hypnotically embracing or interminably boring. It’s 18 minutes and 19 seconds of Chan Marshall’s voice and M. Ward’s guitar, with neither really varying throughout: There are no choruses, and the vocal melody is essentially just repeated throughout its two dozen or so stanzas. And though it starts out sounding like it might be a classic story-song, with two main characters meeting and heading out on a journey—Willie and Rebecca say “fuck this cabbie life” and “fuck this old trailer,” respectively—the song eventually winds around to plenty of other subjects, including the song itself. It’s hard to tell whether Marshall is just making the words up as she goes along—probably not—but it does all seem rather stream-of-consciousness in a way that Cat Power songs usually don’t. Which isn’t to say Marshall doesn’t get some fantastic lyrics out of it, like, “I’ve seen inside your heart and soul, it’s beautifully jacketed.” After the story of Willie and Rebecca loses steam, Marshall seems to start singing about events in her own life, notes for future songs maybe, about a man who wrote her a song, and a journalist who gave her a beloved old sweater. It’s a challenge to what a song is, which is perhaps why it was left off the transcendent You Are Free and instead bundled with a DVD called Speaking For Trees, which is a two-hour Cat Power performance filmed in one take in an open field. Are you willing to meet her in that field? There’s a ton of beauty there, and here.