A 13 minute, 3-act story about love, sex, heartbreak, fitting in, and coming out.
This is the song that I was actually talking about in the blurb of this blog: long, obscure(?), and objectively bad.
I’m hesitant to call myself a CSH fan despite them consistently being in my top 5 artists throughout the last few years. The issue with them is that CSH makes (for the most part), music that most would consider objectively bad. But the more I listen, the more I found myself appreciating the emotional sounds, the unique lyric writing, and the experimental recent songs. More than anything, I appreciate now what seems to be at the center of multiple albums through several years – one long-distance, co-dependent relationship.
This story is summarized well in this single’s album, Twin Fantasy. This was an lo-fi album first released in 2011 (not lo-fi as in the cool electronic way, but lo-fi as in very low fidelity). Only when it was re-released in 2018 did it find critical acclaim. While it is a more recent album, the views on this single relationship are ones that are observed from within it and immediately after, acting as a time capsule for fans and containing origins for repeated concepts and lyrics for releases post-2011.
I felt compelled to write about Beach Life-In-Death specifically, because this was yet another song that someone I knew saw live and had a religious experience. All I got was a black eye!
But this is a long song, so I need to just get into it. The intro above starts out with a heavy distorted car, urgently painting a scene of dropping someone off at the train station.
The next verse (not included) contains a repetitive structure that implies a feeling of lull in the patterns of everyday:
“What should I do? Eat dinner. Where can I go? Go to the store. What can I do? Apply for jobs. Where can I go? Go to bed.”
The verse following sets up a motif that will show up later in the song, which where we can assume “taken” means either “gone” or “in a relationship”.
The subject quickly changes in the song, where the narrator openly talks about trying to unsuccessfully come out.
The comment on the dog motif is a little more complicated and gets a little deeper. On the cover for the album is two crudely drawn dogs, which implies that his friends have known about this project. And infact, some illustrative version of an animal is present on many of his following album covers.
Something that had been suspected but only publicly confirmed recently is that the narrator is part of the furry community. This isn’t something that I feel the need to speak on at length, however, it is something that constantly reoccurs in this song, so it would be disingenuous not to bring this to your attention. I also need to bring it up because I can’t believe that someone who dresses as a rabbit for fun wrote something as deeply upsetting for me as Life Worth Missing).
“I pretended I was drunk when I came out to my friendsI never came out to my friends We were all on Skype And I laughed and changed the subject She said “what’s with this dog motif” I said Do you have something against dogs?”
Immediately after this, the song becomes angry and existential. Perhaps something familiar to a younger teen is hidden here: feeling like you don’t belong, unable to function as a human. In this context, it may be referencing feeling the blame for a failed relationship, and spiraling into a manic depression right after.
The second part of this speaks to something throughout the whole album, which is the “fantasy”. In the song before this one on the album, the lyrics repeat one phrase:
“My boy, we don’t see each other much
It’ll take some time
But somewhere down the line
We won’t be alone.”
Reinforcing the long-distance part of this chemistry, but also referencing a hope – that soon, they will be able to be together.
This is show to the left where the narrator wishes for a cut scene, wanting to skip past all of the time they have to spend apart.
After a screaming ending, the song cuts to it’s second act. Before this, the repetition of “The ocean washed over your grave,” plays again, perhaps implying the reliving of feelings, or the reminder of this relationship.
This all seems to be reliving the relationship, and this verse conveys some mixed feelings and uncertainty. Waking up next to each other, but not having a label on the relationship. Though, this part sounds almost domestic, trying to find trouble to get into with a significant other.
It seems that these two also bond on their feeling of being out of place in the world – that they hate the people and the society around them, but that they also so desperately want to be a part of it. Since they cannot, they find solace in each other, which is a major theme that the whole album is based around.
Satanist with braces and one
Capital “O”, significant Other
And you can take him home to your mother and
Say “ma, this is my brother”
This is again returning to the concept of an ex “getting over” him. In the same breath, it perhaps alludes back to an unwillingness to put a label on anything. This can be hard for anyone, but in these instances specifically, it could be related to stigma against queer relationships.
Around this verse, the lines “More groceries, get eaten
Get more groceries, get eaten.” Keep repeating. This related back to the longer-form repetition we saw at the beginning of the song. A domestic comfort that could be taken from these lines, but just as easily it could be a way to try and painfully “pass the time”.
It’s here the third act is entered, returning to the harsh distorted guitar that the song opened up with. This verse, here again, I can do nothing but relate it back to the same point about dogs that I made earlier. But more relevant, it voices something the listener already knew – the narrator is desperately wishing for this person back.
The second part of this is thought to be almost biblical in nature. It speaks against sex, which is a topic that the artists touches on repeatedly throughout his discography. (One of his most popular songs was one that got picked up on Tik Tok a year ago, despite being from 2013: It’s Only Sex is a straight-forward song about struggling with not only sexuality, but the act of sex itself).
The same type of insecurity that the artist expresses in that song is repeated here. He even validates their warnings, painting the others as “children” who didn’t fully understand the consequences. To them, the act of sex is simple and fun, as light-hearted as kissing and singing. This is supported in the next verse, where there seems to be an implication that the casualty of sex is actually a detriment.
Your ears perked up
I perked up when your ears perked up
You were all looking around
And I hoped it was for me
I hoped you were using your sonar systems for me
The ancients saw it coming
You can see that they tried to warn them
In the tales that they told their children
But they fell out of their heads in the morning
They said sex can be frightening
But the children were not listening
And the children cut out everything
Except for the kissing and the singing
When they finally found their homes
At Walt Disney studios
And then everyone grew up
With their fundamental schemas f*cked, but, but
“But there are lots of fish left in the sea
There are lots of fish in business suits
That talk and walk on human feet
And visit doctors, have weak knees
Oh please let me join your cult
I’ll paint my face in your colors
You had a real nice face
I had an early death.”
The artist then takes a common phrase of “there are plenty of fish left in the sea”, referring to his breakup, and then applies it to a common insecurity he had been feeling about feeling like he didn’t belong, and that his significant other didn’t belong either.
The fish could be referencing the constant mentions of oceans and beaches in this song, and how the allegory is that his previous relationship had a beach grave. But it could also be just poking at the absurdity of “normal” life.
But even as he does this, the song accelerates and becomes desperate. He still desperately wants to be a part of this normal life and normal world, and have access to all of these “fish in the sea”.
With the song reaching another intense rock-and-roll climax at the end, the same two phrases are repeated again and again. The dreariness of repetition is something constantly used in this song.
If anyone has actually been reading these blogs, you can probably tell by this point that I love songs that 1. tell a story and 2. elicit a strong emotion. So while Beach Life-In-Death isn’t exactly a song I would listen to casually, the intense and raw emotional sound of the song is something that I appreciate, on top of the fact that it’s a long, abstracted 3-act story.
Believe it or not, there’s about 40 more paragraphs I could have written about this song with how dense and how many references lie within it. This was more for me, to break apart each verse and try to connect them all together in one cohesive story.
“The ocean washed over your grave
The ocean washed open your grave
The ocean washed over your grave
The ocean washed open your grave
The ocean washed over your grave
The ocean washed open your grave.”