Album: File Under Easy Listening
. . .
My favorite song on File Under: Easy Listening was the final song on the album, and in fact, I’m sure one of the reasons I kept playing it was to get to that final track, the utterly sublime “Explode and Make Up,” which started off with a slow beat — a “Neil Young Beat” in my headcanon — with an acoustic guitar combined with an electric guitar. And Mould’s sad sad voice singing his sad sad words.
Heart holds mouth to words
Said it’s gone beyond the line this time
Eyes twitch close
Numb the lights turned out I’m out
The cold is in my bones
Said it’s gone beyond the line this time
Shake a little off the deep end
Tell me when it’s over now
I’m not gonna lie, “Explode and Make Up” reminded me more than a little bit of my favorite quietly despairing Hüsker Dü song, 1986’s “Hardly Getting Over It,” which started side two of Candy Apple Grey after side one ended with the all-acoustic bummer “Too Far Down” and often put me into a mood of utter despair — not that difficult for me in 1986, TBH — which was only slightly mitigated by how “Hardly Getting Over It” rolled directly into Grant Hart’s epic “Eight Miles High” answer song, “Dead Set on Destruction” and yeah at this point I’m just linking to my Hüsker Dü posts because godsdamnit I loved that band so much and I hate how much their legacy just sits and molders (moulders?) these days.
ANYWAYS, “Explode and Make Up” brings out some of that same emotion in me. And not just me: in his autobiography See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody, Mould writes how after he finished the vocals for it, he basically said something to the extent of “I hate the person who wrote that song” and went off to sit by himself for awhile.
Me, I love the guy who wrote that song, at least in the abstract, and I also love the long guitar solo after the second verse, which starts off playing the melody — y’all know how much I love that — and ends up somewhere completely different, setting up the final verse.
Here we go, here we go again
There you go, there you go again
As the years
They go slowly bye and bye goodbye
After you lead the way
After that, it’s one more round of exploding and making up as well as another guitar solo, and it all just kills me to death, especially the way he’s hardly getting over it when he sings “explode and make up” and the protest too much overdubbed vocals “I don’t need you” that pop in nearly the end. Sad, lovely and cathartic.
For reasons both within and beyond my control, I never saw Hüsker Dü, though that will be the first thing I do when I finally get a time machine built, but I did see Sugar on the File Under: Easy Listening tour at The Warfield in San Francisco in December, 1994, just a month before they played their last show ever, as the mercurial Mould had gotten everything he could out of them. It was one of my favorite shows of my Bay Area era, as the awesome Magnapop opened, since Mould had produced their amazing Hot Boxing album — a record I loved even more than File Under: Easy Listening — which featured utter gems like “The Crush,” “Slowly, Slowly” and the amazing “Texas,” which you just stop everything and listen to right now.
Anyways, the final song of Sugar’s set was “Explode and Make Up,” and standing on the floor of the Warfield, closer to the stage than I normally got, I just remember singing along with every note trying not to burst into tears as everything I loved about Bob Mould’s music hit me all at once.
We’re almost 30 years beyond that now, and Mould has been a solo artist since he broke Sugar up in 1995, and I’ve loved a lot of that solo work, and I will follow everything he does until one of us dies, and maybe even after.
“Explode and Make Up”
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