(8) Replacements, "Here Comes a Regular"
When we released the bracket, no fewer than five people wrote back to me saying that they could see the Replacements—a dark-horse at best against the likes of The Cure and Radiohead—winning it all. To tell you the truth, we can too. I don't think the sentiment here's unique to the midwest, but most of the people picking "Here Comes a Regular" are or were Minnesotans, it seems like. That's because if you're from Minnesota you just know this band, whereas for the rest of us we had to discover them late, if at all. I'm no superfan, and I'm no Minnesotan, but this hits me where it hurts, in the alcoholic haze of the cold, small place that I come from, where for a whole lot of everyone this is the life, such as it is, and it feels like nothing's ever really going to change because it's not, not for most of us, and there's pleasure to be had in removing yourself from yourself for a while, which drinking will sometimes do. But unlike the days of many who spend their days in bars, this guy knows he's fucked and it's fucked, and well, you know what wouldn't hurt? Another drink. Once I start quoting lyrics for it I'm way gone to the song, so you can read em if you want and weep. Sad music, sad lyrics, sad material, seen by someone who's not going to do anything about it. Well, says poet Bruce Weigl, "say it clearly and you make it beautiful, no matter what."
(9) Dream Academy, "Life in a Northern Town"
“Life in a Northern Town” is a sentimental favorite. It starts out with a happy sort of nostalgia: “A Salvation Army band played / and the children drank lemonade / and the morning lasted all day / all day” that slowly devolves into sadness “And though he never would wave goodbye / You could see it written in his eyes / as the train rolled out of sight, bye bye” That last bit is said to be in reference to Nick Drake, who overdosed in 1974. Still, the song is not so much about a grandiose kind of sadness (Drake overdosed on antidepressants, by the way,); instead, it’s about the melancholy we so often feel about our own home towns. Whether or not they were actual Northern towns, we still tend to remember them as small places in cold landscapes, offering only carefully measured servings of joy. In the end, it’s about the Northern town in all of our souls.