Friday, July 07, 2006

“Empty Cans”: the end of youth

A couple of nights ago, while cooking dinner and washing up, I put on a CD. Often I put on A Grand Don't Come For Free by The Streets for this. I've always liked the last song, "Empty Cans", but I think I've never really given it the attention it deserves. The reason for this in part is that it follows the anthemic "Dry Your Eyes", which itself sounds like an album closer. But the album needs another song after "Dry Your Eyes"; it needs a final chapter. This is what "Empty Cans" delivers -- and more. It is not only the final chapter, it is also the epilogue.

The great majority of the song's running time is funny and features a navel-gazing Mike feeling a bit sorry for himself and something the worse for wear from drinking too much Super Tennants. This leads to his having a fist fight with a TV repairman who he believes is trying to rip him off. However, it soon becomes the happy ending that we hoped for all along.

Finally, though, the song turns inward on itself and becomes something of an ode to the end of youth. For the first time I really listened to it. And it gave me just a goosebump or two as our protagonist comes to realize that he is about to embark on a new period in his life, as are his friends, and that it's time to "man-up" and start taking care of business.

Here's the last chorus-verse-chorus. Stirring stuff.

It's the end of something I did not want to end,
Beginning of hard times to come.
But something that was not meant to be is done,
And this is the start of what was.

About 2 this afternoon the last of the people left my house,
Cos they never stop chattin' till all the racket's gone.
I really feel like things clicked into place at some point,
Or maybe it's the fact that me and Alison really got on.
Or maybe it's that I realized that it is true:
No one's really there fighting for you in the last garrison.
No one except yourself, that is -- no one except you.
You are the one who's got your back till the last deed's done.
Scott can't have my back till the absolute end,
Cos he's got to look out for what's over his horizon.
He's gotta make sure he's not lonely, not broke.
It's enough to worry about keeping his own head above.
I shut the door behind me, huddled up in my coat,
Condensation floating off my breath, squinted out the sun.
My jeans feel a bit tight -- think I washed them a bit too high;
I was gonna be late, so I picked up my pace to run.

It's the end of something I did not want to end,
Beginning of hard times to come.
But something that was not meant to be is done,
And this is the start of what was.

You can find the rest of the lyric at Lyrics on Demand.

And in case you think I'm not being objective enough, you can read my thoughts on some of The Streets' other work by clicking here.


Blogger Red said...

I like the line that goes, "My jeans feel a bit tight -- think I washed them a bit too high".

That happens to me too sometimes.

But I think it might have more to do with the fact that I like my food.

07 July, 2006 16:03  
Blogger ginkers said...

Great song, just listened to it while out cycling the other night and nearly ended up in a ditch it was so absorbing...

07 July, 2006 16:36  
Blogger Tired Dad said...

I am no longer allowed to listen to this album since Tired Mam got home one day to find me and three-year-old Favourite Daughter dancing round the living room informing each other we were fit but, sadly, also new it.

Killjoy. I don't even KNOW where my Goldie Lookin Chain records have gone. Grrr.

07 July, 2006 20:47  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Red: Yeah, I've been there on more than one occasion, too.

Ginkers: The whole album has me laughing often. And there are so many words in each song that there is always something new to hear.

TD: Tired Mam does sound like a killjoy. She needs to be sat down and made to listen to the lyrics in order to discover the wit therein.

08 July, 2006 06:44  
Blogger Suze said...

I have to hold my hand up, we have one of their CD's somewhere in the house but I haven't taken the time out to listen to it. You just reminded me to go and try to find it.

They are a very talented group to which I think most of us can relate in one way or another.

08 July, 2006 12:59  
Blogger the cappuccino kid said...

fucking excellent cd.
bought it and listened to it over, and over, and over! not done that since american idiot (and the subsequent bullet in a bible)
at the time i was telling everyone who would listen that i thought it was the best "opera" written since quadrophenia. (but not better)

08 July, 2006 13:52  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Suze: Definitely give the CD a listen. Honestly AGDCFF is the best, so if that's not the one you have, get it from your local library; it'll only cost you a quid for 3 weeks, probably.

FF: It is great. I didn't buy Bullet... because it had "Minority" on it, and I FUCKING HATE THAT SONG! I do like American Idiot, though, but I think it needs to be about five songs shorter; y'know, like a "listener's cut".

09 July, 2006 11:40  

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