I was 16 when I popped the mix tape into my Walkman. The first song was from some band I never heard of. I had looked at the list before I pressed play but had already forgotten the name. Soon I was furiously digging through my book bag, needing to know who was performing this amazing song all about words so that I could get the full record as soon as possible. It turned out to be The Rhyme Scheme by Cursive, the first track off their 1998 album The Storms of Early Summer: Semantics of Song. When I got home I tried to play along with it on the drums. I’m sure it was terrible, in the best kind of way. Words will keep us together, but they are indeed a harsh mistress.

Words have no feeling without loaded meanings
Words take too long to come across
Meanings are meant for defining definitions
We load them for effect, it’s cheap but it’s working

It’s the best I’ve got to get your attention
I could never get your attention
I could never please you
The verses are wasted on words you won’t relate to
On words you’ll never hear

It’s not working — I don’t feel any better
I don’t feel so well
The verbal breakdown has failed
So I’m whispering secrets
Hush, hush, on the loudspeaker
Words sculpted on verse become absurd

But it’s the best I’ve got to get your attention
I could never get your attention
I could never please you
Words so sympathetic — symphonic, yet pathetic — are tossed on to the song

The meaning is lost…
The meaning is lost…

Words… Just… Won’t… Work…
Words… Are… Slowly demeaning their meanings
Words… Make… Things… Worse
Words… Are… Always repeating
Losing their meaning
These words failed
Words fail

For more in this series see Songs About Writing. Got a song I haven’t covered yet? Leave it in the comments below and I’ll add it to the list.

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