Nathan Jolly

About Nathan Jolly

Nathan is a Sydney-based journalist who has written for numerous publications over the years, including Junkee, This Recording, New York Post, The BRAG, SBS, Triple J Mag, Channel [V], and news.com.au. He used to be pretty good at hitting three-pointers, and can still cartwheel, although he never learnt to swim, drive, or manage money.

200 Sad Songs: #190 Eels – It’s a M*therfucker (2000)

Approx Reading Time-10Sparse yet vivid; tragic, albeit beautiful: Eels’ It’s a Motherfucker continues the 200 Sad Songs series, providing the come down to our Christmas festivities (soz).

 


It’s fun when the prettiest, most-heartfelt song on an album is named “It’s a Motherfucker”. And it’s even more fun when you quickly realise that there is nothing fun about the use of the word. Then it stops being fun; the author isn’t being flippant, or perverse – it’s just simply the strongest and most suitable word he can conjure to explain how terrible it is “being here without you” – wherein “here” means this room, this house, this city, and this spinning orb.

As with most music of the broken heart type, first assumptions are that this is about a lover lost – but this isn’t necessarily so: Mark “E” Everett, the primary songwriter for Eels, had suffered a shocking number of personal tragedies in his life up to this point. The previous Eels record, 1998’s Electro-Shock Blues, deals with his mother’s then-recent death, and his sister’s institutionalisation, electro-shock treatment and subsequent suicide. By comparison, 2000’s Daisies of the Galaxy seems lightweight – a more regal pop sound, shinier production, and even a hit single with the cheery chorus “God damn right, it’s a beautiful day.” But the darkness was never too far away; even that aforementioned hit was titled “Mr E’s Beautiful Blues”. And sitting in the middle of the album is a bare piano ballad, 1940s strings draped over its tired shoulders like a smoking jacket – 135 of the saddest, most beautiful seconds of music you’ll hear.

Eleanor Rigby (by Ringo and The Beatles) is often praised for getting across so much exposition in so few words, but it seems like War and Peace compared to this sparse, emotionally-fraught offering. The language is simple, the details are non-existent, but it’s somehow rendered so vivid by the few words he does muster energy for.

He thinks about “good times” and “bad times” both, and struggles to get through Sundays. He knows that he won’t ever be the same. He says next to nothing, but we know how he feels. I’m sure that more than a few helpful people told him that “time” is all it will take, which is lucky, because time is all he has at this moment.


Also on The Big Smoke


A flood of overwhelming memories plus endless hours to slowly wade through them all is rarely a happy equation: mathematical speaking, it’s a motherfucker – and sometimes that’s the only effective way to describe it.

 

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