Search Term: "Bedside Manner"
I am in no way nostalgic for my adolescence--it was a dark era of obnoxiousness, self-pity, and inopportune boners--but I do still feel a deep attachment to the music I listened to back then, because the hours I spent communing with my record collection were the only times I felt content and understood. Trite but true. I spent my early high school years busying myself with the emotional devastation of Bob Mould, the messy romantic entanglements on the Buzzcocks' Singles Going Steady, and the pining anthems that Joe Jack Talcum contributed to Dead Milkmen and Touch Me Zoo albums, convincing myself that I too was somehow a victim of heartbreak even though I'd never so much as hung out with a girl outside of school. And of course my experience was hardly unique. Were I born ten or 15 years later, for instance, Young Willie would have been able to turn to the wailing desperation and drunk-teen self-absorption of Conor Oberst, the vulnerable mellifluousness of Ben Gibbard, or the pisswater bland mewling of Justin Vernon. So it's with no small amount of affection that I say this track recalls the simper-pop balladry of Chicago, ELO, and Todd Rundgren, and seems to be aimed at a similar demographic of sensitive '70s teens listening to records in their parents' rec rooms, because I'm sure that's the sort of thing I would have lived for were I a child of the pre-punk era.
It certainly does seem calculated to appeal to emotional young folks who think that romance means you let your crush take your self-esteem with her every time she leaves the room. I suppose the lyrics allow for a creepy "Young Girl" reading (possibly involving a pregnancy, ick), but I'm choosing to ignore that and interpret this as a song from the perspective of a teen wondering if he and his private-school sweetheart will still be an item by the end of the summer. Singer Dave Lawson does a fine job of embodying a somewhat possessive guy who doesn't want to seem possessive, and his bandmates back him up with pristinely saccharine harmonies. Further upping the wimp quotient, keyboards do all the heavy lifting in the total absence of guitars: A McCartney-style piano takes the lead, synth strings fill out the arrangement, there's a shimmering solo to enliven things in the middle, and the upbeat final part features a truly goofy analog synth that wouldn't sound out of place on Ween's The Mollusk. As an adult with a neat little domestic life, I enjoy this song's fussy production and the well-balanced mix of mopiness and insincere cheer--with hooks on both sides--but the Frosted-Mini-Wheats-commercial kid in me loves this song because it's an arrow through my sullen heart.