Poisoned Letter, September 29, 2008

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Poisoned Letter
  • 2008 September 29



Pony St.


My wife hates baby boomers.

Maybe "hate" is a strong word, but she blames them (and rightly so, in my opinion) for much of what's wrong with our country and culture. She's especially right about their dominance over popular art; they're the reason Mick Jagger and his fellows still have a career in spite of their age and general lack of whatever it was that first made the true spirit of rock 'n' roll ignite lo those many years ago.

But it's a coin with two sides; we of generations beyond the baby boom look back at these relics of an older time and wonder why we still have to cater to these dottering old fools; the boomers probably look down at us from the distance of age and experience and giggle a bit at how everything that was edgy and revolutionary upon its invention just continues to get recycled in new forms — early rock is punk is gangsta rap, and so on.

"Pony St." leads off Costello's 1994 album Brutal Youth, and it covers both sides of the coin — the child frustrated by how square and antiquated her parents are, and the mother who has been and done everything her kid is trying as a way of staking her own claim on rebellion. It's told mostly from the mother's point of view, but the daughter gets her own say in a verse, and even if it's the daughter speaking through the filter of her mother's frustration, the words still sting:

Oh mother, oh mother, sometimes you are so mortifying
From the hole in your leopard skin tights I can tell you've been spying
But your generation confesses before it transgresses
Those Super-8 movies of Daddy in your disco dresses

Costello is known for his lyrical bite, but that doesn't mean his words don't leave teeth marks; "Pony St." has a few of my all-time favorite Costello lines...

If you're going out tonight
I won't wait up
Reading "Das Capital"
Watching Home Shopping Club

There's an apparent collision of socialism and capitalism in those two last lines; we've essentially seen the idealist philosophies of the love generation twisted and bent into the same get-more-now lifestyle that they seemed to reject in their youth, which is perhaps what made their youth quite so brutal? The failed promise of it, and the desire for change eventually replaced with a stultifying satisfaction with the status quo?

Or even worse — they think they've changed everything for the better, but nothing's changed at all?

And then later:

If you're going out tonight
How can you be sure
Where you lay your pretty head
Mother may have been before

The "nothing new under the sun" concept taken to its logical, bitter end — you can't escape the past, and sometimes, you lie down beneath it and think of England, whether you realize it or not.

Tags: Brutal YouthPony St.


Poisoned Letter, September 29, 2008

Matt writes about "Pony St."


Brutal Youth, 1994


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