04 December 2008

Does Trent Reznor Get The Cold Tea Blues?

Wee Lass and I were taking an audio stroll through the music collection on my iPod tonight, in the pre-bedtime winddown (Ha! If by winding down you mean hopping up and down on the bed calling out “I wanna hear another song!”) and we shuffled across a real gem of a song, one I had forgotten about for some time.

It was ‘Cold Tea Blues’ by the Cowboy Junkies (Hey, they are Canadians!), and is in my estimation one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard. I may be a beast, not a savage one I hope, but the song sure does tame me. There is more than a little jealousy there, too: these are lyrics I WISH I had written:

If I pour your cup
that is friendship.

If I add your milk
that is manners.

If I stop there,
claiming ignorance of taste,
that is tea.

But if I measure the sugar
to satisfy your expectant tongue
then that is love,
sitting untouched and growing cold.

Whenever I hear it, the combination of Margot Timmins’ haunting voice and Michaels Timmins’ immensely powerful lyrics stops me in my tracks. Pale Sun, Crescent Moon is the album; it came out in 1993 and I bought it not long after. I listened to the song over and over back then. I couldn’t get it out of my head. Listening to it again tonight with Wee Lass, I realized that the lyrics have an inherent ambiguity to them which I never resolved. ‘If I measure the sugar’: is this the expression of feeling, an uncertain and hesitant offering to a prospective lover? I think so. And ‘then that is love, sitting untouched and growing cold’ right after, I wonder: is she waiting for a response, or has the offer been rejected? I think this is a big part of why I love this song. When I’m feeling good, I think she is waiting for an answer. When I am feeling bad, I think she has been spurned. Wonderful, wonderful tension which I find fascinating.

On the other hand, Wee Lass was blissfully ignorant of such subtleties. She listened to about thirty seconds of the song, which is the norm, and then she grinned and started hopping around while I finished listening. “I wanna hear another song, Daddy!” she announces and hits the advance button. Did I mention it was on shuffle? The next song up: ‘Down In It’ by Nine Inch Nails. Ha. This song has one of my all time favorite lyric passages:

I used to be so big and strong,
I used to know my right from wrong,
I used to never be afraid.
(I used to be somebody!)

I paused a bit. Wee Lass innocently asks if this is one of my favorite bands. I quickly punched the advance button and answered “Yes, Daddy does like them, but let’s listen to something else.” And you are too young and innocent to learn the about angst right now. So let’s jump around to They Might Be Giants, and then you can get some sleep.

Daddy is going to go pour himself a bathtub full of cold tea and lay down in it.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, the memories I have of They Might Be Giants.

    Granted, I know nothing about their music.

    But an ex-boyfriend from high school had a They Might Be Giants bumper sticker on his two-toned tan Bronco and that's how I was able to stalk him after we broke up.

    Good times, man, good times.


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...