i listened to this song so many times off a cd my friend jessie burnt me. i thought it was about the tension between art and capitalism, and the idea that creation can't ultimately be turned into a commodity without some kind of compromise. but i also thought this song was about something more deeply accepting, a resignation, giving in to the shit and the sadness--and you know, an idea about how this giving up and giving in yields to freedom, authenticity, the total surrender of agenda.
if you've read marilynne robinson's novel "housekeeping," it involves a character who learns how to go sit in the woods and jump onto trains, a dropping out that seems part passive nihilist, part buddhist and very appealing. i read that book in college, and i lived next to these train tracks with my first love--a person who left me shell shocked for years after the breakup. at the time living next to those tracks and feeling the old mill house rattle each night, my future seemed to hold the tangible possibility of becoming rich in nothingness.
i looked it up, and this song is explicitly about music piracy. welch's sweetly sung middle finger to the people stealing her music. it's weird, finding out that the song is about a social issue makes me like it less. i get it...but maybe there's something different to worry about. something about living in a society that does not value art, the writers run to marketing and the artists to graphic design, or they work at coffee shops or sleep on their friends' couches or become career waiters. charles bukowski spent decades delivering mail. parents, lovers and friends give freely of their love, and art can live in this realm. something cynical happens when you make it a commodity. make your art for love of the thing, or not at all.
and you know, listen to conor oberst. "if you love something, give it away."
"To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow. For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know any thing so utterly as when we lack it? And here again is a foreshadowing -- the world will be made whole. For to wish for a hand on one's hair is all but to feel it. So whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again." -from Housekeeping