Good Zack: I’m not a fan of The Magnetic Fields in any particular sense, but this is a brilliant, brilliant song. It taps into an almost universal sentiment – each person’s version of a fearless, impulsive self that is free from the self-imposed restraints that govern our behavior. Our own personal Tyler Durden, the version of ourselves that would have spit out that insult, thrown that punch, that would have pounced on the opportunity to cheat (in either sense), and that would have done so with such brazen disregard for the consequences that there probably wouldn’t have been any. Stephin Merritt doesn’t want an evil twin that physically exists, what he wants is to unleash his own id and its blissful indifference to the concepts of empathy. When he murmurs, “all my life, there should have been an evil twin,” he’s not just envisioning a version of himself who can act out his fantasies of conquest and revenge, he’s also yearning for the ability to compartmentalize his guilt and jettison his remorse.
Bad Zack: Oh, please. Let’s recognize this song for what it really is – a paean to cowardice. Stephin Merritt is too weak to face up to the confrontations in his own life, so he sits back and fantasizes about someone else doing his dirty work for him. It’s interesting that an anti-war liberal like Merritt would engage in the same type of hypocrisy he undoubtedly condemns in his political opposites – namely the predilection to cheerfully send others off to fight battles on his behalf, while claiming moral superiority for having remained removed from the fray.
Good Zack: I’m having no trouble picturing the sneer on Bad Zack’s face as he wrote that – I’ve seen it before. It was the exact same expression he was wearing when he pulled that box of kittens away from that kid with leukemia and threw it over the edge of a freeway overpass, and then kicked over the kid’s wheelchair and yelled at him to “stop crying, you fucking sissy.” A complete and total indifference to human empathy. Most people avoid confrontation not because of inherent weakness, but out of an aversion to inflicting pain upon others. “I Wish I Had an Evil Twin” is no exception to this; Merritt knows that while our dark side cannot be ignored, it should only be expressed within our private fantasies, and never unleashed upon the world at large.
Bad Zack: Thank…fucking…god. That oppressive mantle of gloominess has been lifted, and now we can finally enjoy what would make having an evil twin so damned fun – getting into mischief. And unlike the Magnetic Fields, They Might Be Giants sing about it in a playful, lighthearted way that doesn’t make me want to suck on the barrel of a .357. Their song does a nice job of capturing that gleeful sense of abandon you get when you listen to the whisperings of the little devil over your shoulder and take your chances with getting caught. Two true stories from high school: One night Zack spent a completely chaste evening with one of the, ahem, friendliest girls in high school tipsily sitting in his lap for two hours while he watched The Cure and Morrissey videos on 120 Minutes, then walked home through a snowstorm so he could deliver newspapers on time the next morning. The following summer, while tripping on acid at a gathering at his own house, Zack walked past the downstairs bathroom and caught the eye of the same girl, who was standing in front of the mirror pretending to smoke a cigarette. He stepped inside and wisely locked the door. A few minutes later, when her boyfriend came pounding, Zack silently climbed out the window into his back yard, calmly walked back in through the patio door, and managed to pass the whole thing off completely (Nick, if you’re reading this, please accept my apology. I still can’t believe you bought that). Which evening sounds like it was more fun?
Goody Little Two Shoes Zack: I hate to say it, but this post isn’t supposed to be about girls you made out with almost fifteen years ago. Back to the original topic: They Might Be Giants. Beyond pointing out that the music here is cutesy and trite, and the lyrics are completely incoherent, I’ll just let They Might Be Giants speak (nonsensically) for themselves. There’s no reason to belabor the point; mocking They Might Be Giants would be kind of like the time that you spit on the fat kid’s lunch in third grade. Sure, you thought it was absolutely hilarious to watch the tug-of-war between his appetite and his disgust (as expected, appetite ruled the day), but in the end it generated a boatload of pity for him, and lots of ill will for yourself.
Bad Zack: Speaking of pity, how many times has pity gotten you laid? Contrast that with the number of times your advances have been rejected because you were “too nice,” and it should be pretty much proportional to the vote total we’ll see here.
Good Zack, Bad Zack, I’m the Zack with the Gun: Hey, fuck you, asshole.
Last episode, Will Harris and Dave Steed put their constitutions to the test as they ingested an unhealthy dose of poison. Will proved that he was the Rasputin of Popdose, as his defense of Alice Cooper took 56% of the vote. Join us again in two weeks when Mojo Flucke and Robert Cass take on Songs that Describe a Person as a Rolling Stone