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Dear & The Headlights

A lyrically-dense song about divorce, and maybe the narrator IS the problem.

Dear and the Headlights isn’t a band I’m particularly familiar with – they released two widely acclaimed demo albums in the 2000’s and then broke up a few years later. However, I was drawn to dig deeper into one of their songs because of a random fact I had heard years ago – that this whole album was about a divorce.

As someone who listens to “new”, young music, a concept like a divorce isn’t something that’s really touched on. Sure, it’s just heartbreak with the government involved, but the way that this artist goes about describing it really hits on the unique aspects of the process in a deeply emotional way. 

Plus, the lyrics and their delivery are just super fun in general.

You’re like a constant crowding consonant
I’m a claustrophobic; I, I said
We’re as comfortable as wool warming naked indifference
Thank God your words have come to rescue me from my sentence
You’re like a two stepping tongue on a flesh dance floor
You’re the eulogy I can’t avoid anymore
That tumor in my side celebrating malignance:
“Surprise! I’m moving in; I think I’ve grown on your parents”

You want to talk about all the feelings I’m feeling
I’m a passed out priest in an AA meeting
And they’re checking my pulse, trying to make a decision
I’ve got those rolled back eyes but nothing’s clouding my vision.

You want to talk about all the feelings I’m feeling
Like your chalkboard wrists, but I don’t tally the meaning
You keep forgetting the plot, let alone the long sleeps
My eyes, they only know three words and each is pronounced “Please!?”

In fact, the lyrics are quite dense, to the point that I don’t think I would have much luck deciphering the lyrics without my initial hint and some help from Genius. Really, the style of writing seems to almost be like constant hits at alliteration, references, metaphors wherever they can be fit in, which makes this even more jumbled. 

But, in the first verse we can begin to pick through the similes to the unwanted presence of a lingering lover. 

It was about the second verse that I began to realize that this musician might be the problem. He describes himself in colorful language, but it essentially means, “I’m pretending I’m not listening to you because I don’t want to talk about what I’m feeling.”

This becomes especially startling when the phrase “chalkboard wrists” can be easily interpreted as self harm scars, all in the same breath that the narrator is coming off as casual and unbothered.

The dismissal just continues from here with him complaining about the nagging until he finally just tells her to leave. He seems even more exasperated at the idea that she starts crying.

I’d walk you home if I could find my crutches
Probably listen more if you didn’t talk so much
Why don’t you show yourself out
How can you cry now, this whole thing’s been such a drought 

You want to talk about all the feelings I’m feeling
You’re a phone call home after eight long seasons
There’s a mail order bride and a baby that’s teething
Said the smog, it hurts your eyes, so on the next train you’re leaving
I’m not certain it’s the smog, more just the constant grieving
But you’re dropping off the kid, sticking me with the feedings
I said, “oh God damn it, you’re so mean”
You say I’ll lose the Christian crowd if I say things like these
But I’ve already lost them, I couldn’t care less
I guess my path, it just got wide, so I’ll just wish you all my narrow best
I guess that’s it

Even in the Genius, I feel like the commenters are going to lengths to try and spin this in a way that doesn’t make the narrator just sound like an awful person. 

A fun fact about the vocalist of this band is that they were part of a Christan band in the 90’s, which is where I assume the line in the middle of this song comes from, and perhaps part of the title of the album: Drunk Like Bible Times. Still, this is all brought up in the context of the artist being pissed that his ex-wife is dropping off her kid – and by the sounds of it, a very young child. 

While I literally don’t even know if this song portrays a true story, I will say there are several paragraphs defending the narrator of this song in the Genius. Just from the way that this guy writes about his ex’s attempts to talk about feelings, trying to find some solace or closure, I’m personally not getting good vibes. 

This is definitely not the song that I thought it would be going into it, and it’s even encouraging me to look further into his other songs to see if I can really parse apart this divorce story. What can I say, I love a story in music.