Certain Songs #964: The Long Winters – “Stupid”

Album: When I Pretend To Fall
Year: 2003

Author, podcaster, songwriter and raconteur, John Roderick of The Long Winters is one of the most fascinating characters I’ve ever come across in all of my years of listening to music.

And while it’s been over a decade since he’s released an album — though hope springs eternal — it doesn’t matter, because the final two Long Winters albums (and the EP in between) are chock full of songs combine the melodic sensibility of R.E.M. with the lyrical acumen of Paul Westerberg, and I can’t recommend them enough.

So let’s start with “Stupid,” from 2003’s When I Pretend To Fall, which is one of those songs that I didn’t hear until my 40s that might have been my favorite song ever had it come out when I was in my 20s.

With the guitar and drums building softly, Roderick is explaining to a friend about the exquisite agony of of crushing out on someone who might — or might not — be crushing back.

She has no idea
She could make me do anything
She acts like it’s the simplest thing
For me to be there

Meanwhile, the friend is telling him no way, it’s never going to happen, and that he’s stupid for thinking so and that he’ll feel even more stupid when she rejects him. But he feels like he’s got to take the chance — he will dare — because the alternative will make him feel more stupid.

Stupid, you could call it that
Stupid, but you have no idea
How stupid I would feel
If fifteen years from now I see her
And she says why didn’t it happen between us, stupid?

That chorus, with Sean Nelson (previously heard on “Flagpole Sitta“) doing the Mike Mills harmony & counterpoint, is an absolute marvel of space and time, an exquisitely long melody line that takes its sweet time to worm itself into your heart.

Then there’s the opening of the second verse:

New York soon will hum
The electric car has come
She laughs when I pretend to fall

Oh lord. I don’t even know how many times I pretended to fall back in the days when landing didn’t hurt. Off of couches. Out of chairs. Tumbling from cars. Rolling off of beds. A boyish thing aimed solely at making a girl laugh. And they always did, because it was always funny.

After that, it’s just a nice guitar solo, and then that chorus over and over and over again. You have no idea how stupid I would feel over and over and over. Maybe some idea. Stupid.

“Stupid”

“Stupid” performed live in 2013

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