“Saturday, the 12th of May, the policeman turns the valve
And the first drunk of the weekend dribbles out
Collect all your effects and take a cab straight to the bar
You’re wondering what the whisperings all about.”
Today is International Slobberbone Day, an unofficial holiday that probably doesn’t exist, but didn’t stop my good friend, Anne Warth, from texting me that fact every hour on the hour this morning beginning at 6 am. She has a point. Saturday, the twelfth of May, was immortalized in Slobberbone’s barroom epic, “Pinball Song,” the final track on their 2000 masterpiece, Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today. This could be my favorite album of the decade (2000-09) and this song is a big reason why.
Slobberbone – Pinball Song
Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today, 2000
Brent Best’s tune is Bukowski by way of Lebowski, a brilliant evocation of what happens when the bro’s before ho’s moral compass runs headlong into thirteen empty bottles and a glass or two or four. On one level, it’s a song about having whiskey glass eye, but it’s also a clever inversion of the traditional rock ‘n’ roll road song. It’s not about a musician on the road, it’s about what happens when the musician gets off the road and is trying to get back into the groove of being a normal human being. Oh, and alcohol.
Six weeks on the road now, I’m feeling kind of spent
There’s a few things I need and one’s a friend
A few good games of pinball and a double whiskey sour
The wordplay is just so good throughout. The dark side of a dumpster, Christmas lights that blink, and I guess they did their damnedest but they failed. I love the washes of accordion, Jess Barr’s slashing banjo, and the waltz-time brass quartet outro. If I didn’t think he’d let it go to his head and be impossible to live with, I’d call Brent Best one of the best songwriters of the last 20 years. If only he’d write some new songs … ok fine, we’re getting there.
Musically, “Pinball Song” reminds me a lot of Uncle Tupelo (“I Got Drunk,” “Still Be Around”), but I also hear some Rhett Miller (“Doreen,” “Nite Club”). Given that Slobberbone and the Old 97s played a ton of shows together in Dallas, Denton, and Austin in the 1990s and early 2000s, and Miller is actually, you know, a good songwriter, an influence would be understandable. “Pinball” also reminds me of someone else.
Soul Asylum – Never Really Been
Made To Be Broken, 1986
“Hey ain’t it strange how some things never change
Ain’t it strange how nothing stays the same
You were thinking I was distressed about some universal press
I was just depressed about my last pinball game.”
Soul Asylum was a huge influence on Brent and I could see this Dave Pirner classic being a reference point for “Pinball Song.” There’s the obvious pinball reference, but the idea that a rock band could mix up their sound with country/folk flavoring and have it still kick ass was fully digested and appropriated not only by Best, but considering this was 1986, Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy as well.
What better way to conclude International Slobberbone Day than with a new Slobberbone song. WOO HOO! Here’s “Top Five,” a title near and dear to my own heart.
Slobberbone – Top Five
Thanks to Tequila Brad for the video.
The Adios Lounge’s Top 5 Albums From 2000
1. Slobberbone – Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today
2. The Glands – S/T (2-LP version)
3. Neko Case & Her Boyfriends – Furnace Room Lullaby
4. The Gourds – Bolsa De Agua
5. Centro-Matic – All The Falsest Hearts Can Try