Robert Kimmerle
executive branch in a nation of one

Monday, August 11, 2003
Demoralizing fact of the day: Kazaa has more available downloads of Nickel Creek's cover of "Spit on a Stranger" than of the Pavement original.

Not sure why this should be demoralizing, necessarily, but it is, somehow. I took half of Thursday off to pick up Bill at the airport from his foreshortened European jaunt (long and sordid story, not really worth going into), and since the plane was late I ended up spending the better part of two hours camped out at the international end of Terminal B. In the waiting area, next to the inevitable magazine shop, stood a probably-equally-inevitable Starbucks, which emitted a strange and improbable assortment of music ("Lively Up Yourself", half of Some Girls, the approved quota of folksingers and "world music") along with its burnt-coffee smell. Then, suddenly, an unusual voice, earnest, sort of artless, singing a familiar song, arrangement spare, faint tinge of mandolin sound. The Starbucks PA was probably five or ten db louder than standard background-music volume, even from forty feet away, and the song's lyrics (especially the taunts of "You're a bitter stranger") are just weird and off-putting enough to discourage scrutiny among innocent bystanders, so what we got was a bizarre moment of communal embarrassment. Not anyone's first choice as an antidote to jet lag, really.

It took further research to figure out who'd done the cover, of course, since I'm still undergoing a country-detox program. Numerous reviews of Nickel Creek's new album cite the song as an example of the band's new pop-oriented songwriting, and apparently they've released it as a single, which strikes me as dishonest. Of course, Mr. Malkmus is collecting on the publishing, so I wonder what he'd think.

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