Twin Sized Mattress
The Front Bottoms

Warning signs, placing blame, and watching the floodwaters come in.

It’s been a bit of a rough couple weeks. I saved a review of the band itself for the end, and instead wanted to put this at the forefront:

This is a straight-forward song. But it’s one that has deeply resonated with me this week, and it’s one I didn’t fully understand until I heard it at the right time. I chose this song because about a week ago, I woke up to a roommate in serious crisis – someone had avoided and shunned help until the final hour. So really, this is what I gleaned from this song and the past couple weeks:

  • When someone is in a serious crisis, they might ask for help in ways that aren’t obvious, and even abrasive. If they have been resistant to help before, they will be resistant to help even in their darkest moments. 
  • When someone is in crisis, they may try cut off everyone. They may even go to lengths to agitate, insult, and generally burn bridges. It takes some grace to recognize that this uncharacteristic behavior is likely the result of a serious mental episode. 
  • It’s really hard  – and easy – it is to watch someone slip into a “bad place”. You can kick and pull, but at the end of the day…
  • You can’t really, truly help someone who won’t help themselves. They need to figure that out for themselves – and it’s probably going to take longer than you imagine.
  • Peoria County has services for mental health help that can come before a 911 call.

This is for the lions living in the wiry, broke-down frames of my friends’ bodies
When the floodwater comes, it ain’t gonna be clear; it’s gonna look like mud
But I will help you swim
I will help you swim, I’m gonna help you swim

This is for the snakes and the people they bite
For the friends I’ve made, for the sleepless nights
For the warning signs I’ve completely ignored
There’s an amount to take, reasons to take more
It’s no big surprise you turned out this way
When they closed their eyes and prayed you would change
And they cut your hair and sent you away
You stopped by my house the night you escaped
With tears in my eyes, I begged you to stay
You said, “Hey, man, I love you, but no fucking way”

The song begins with a proclamation to his friends. He even begins the song by comparing them to lions, implying a great intrinsic strength and respect for them.

The next verse is where the implication of addictions becomes apparent. The way it’s spoken about almost sets up this song to be an admittance of guilt on the narrator’s part for just watching these events take place. 

I resonate especially deeply with the line of “There’s an amount to take, reasons to take more.” Especially at college age, it’s hard to tell when someone has an issue, if they are going through the usual motions of partying, or even if they are dealing with themselves in the only way that they know how.

Even more importantly, this touches on the important adage of “you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves”, which seems to be a main theme of this song.

The song continues to really hammer home the idea of contention between the narrator and this other vague individual. The narrator has already stated their desire to help, but there continues to be a push and even violence being reciprocated. 

It even goes as so far to imply that this was destined to happen, and that there was nothing that could have been avoided. 

Make sure you kiss your knuckles before you punch me in the face
There are lessons to be learned, and consequences for all the stupid things I say
And it is no big surprise you turned out this way
The spark in your eyes, the look on your face
I will not be brave

I’m sure that we could find something for you to do on stage
Maybe shake a tambourine, or when I sing, you sing harmonies

I wanna contribute to the chaos
I don’t wanna watch and then complain
‘Cause I am through finding blame
That is a decision that I have made

She hopes I’m cursed forever
To sleep on a twin-size mattress
In somebody’s attic or basement my whole life
Never graduating up in size to add another
And my nightmares will have nightmares every night
Oh, every night, every night

The Front Bottoms are an entry-level and rather well-known staple in folk punk, to the point that you have probably heard a few of their songs in a tik tok or somewhere, even if you aren’t familiar with the genre.

I was hesitant to even look at writing about one of their songs. Brian Stella has an artful and unique way of writing lyrics, but so many of his songs sound like they’re talking about practically nothing, like it’s just a jumble of random words or phrases. Looking into them more, I realize that the connections between all of the different verses are just less obvious than I’m used to. 

Twin Sized Mattress is by far their most popular song, though it probably reached it’s height of popularity in the 2010’s.

The song specifically talks about dealing with someone who has an addiction. But more broadly, it’s watching someone you love degrade and fall away. 

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