The Swede

This week’s song, “The Swede”, does indeed take its name from the main character of Philip Roth’s “American Pastoral” (highly recommended). Without giving too much away, I’ll drop some plot: The Swede grows up as a Jew in postwar New Jersey, where his athletic and social gifts allow him to assimilate into Gentile society. So much so that he marries Miss New Jersey and buys a big house in a fancy, rustic suburb. Everything goes well until it doesn’t go well at all. In the song, everything’s still going well for the Swede, even though we know that his hyper-rationality – “You got all the money in the world but you never lost your mind” – will eventually be his downfall. So the tone is a little ominous.

Musically, the song aims for a kind of cold British pop, like the Kinks in their satirical mode (“Shangri-La”). I was trying to sing like Eric Matthews, a great pop revivalist from the early nineties. Cool, sophisticated, you know, “classy”. It wasn’t until I was almost finished with the recording that I realized I was enacting the Swede’s story all over again: trying to make something bloodless, rational, and perfect. Of course, human emotion always creeps in, and as if to remind me of that further, my Firefox connection shut down just as I was finishing off this as-yet-unsaved post, forcing me to curse profusely. So, greater forces than I are at work here.

Baby Teeth just finished up a great couple weeks on the road with Redwalls and Robbers on High Street, two great pop bands. So, yet another reason why I’ve got 60s pop on the brain. Also, I got to see Stephen Malkmus’s solo set yesterday at the Pitchfork festival. While it was definitely rough around the edges, it reminded me what a master he’s always been at manipulating the emotional faucet, delivering just the right measures of hot and cold. When’s that Pavement reunion?

Thanks so much to everyone who’s commented so far… it’s been very gratifying to know that people are checking in. So, what do you think of this one?

23 Responses to “The Swede”
  1. Jim C. says:

    Hey everyone: if you tried to download “The Swede” this morning and had trouble with the link, it’s working now. You can’t keep a good Swede down, you know.

  2. Jon Boyd says:

    For what it’s worth, our 15-month-old daughter likes this one a lot. And so do I, a nice bomb-pop sort of summertime treat. (Do bomb-pops explode?)

  3. Abraham says:

    well… that makes me wicked-happy. yeah, it’s definitely summery.

  4. jessica says:

    I agree.. a light, summery sound, which poses an interesting contrast to the song’s subject matter. I dig it. Rock on Jew boy. I think “The Swede” would lend itself well to a music video. Ever consider making one?

  5. Abraham says:

    thanks jessica! yeah I could see making a video for “the swede”. which leads me to say… if there’s any one out there that wants to make video accompaniment for any of these songs, go for it!!! youtube it up, teeth nation!

  6. Lara says:

    I think the video should be Zach Braff shopping for pregnancy tests at a drugstore, looking glazed and sleepy.

    Just kidding – f*** that guy!

    I do love the mellowness of this song.

  7. tony w says:

    Great stuff, man. They just keep getting better. By week 52 you’ll be making tunes so awesome that you will be a multi-bazillionaire and forget about us all.

  8. Abraham says:

    hey, “braff sells”… that’s the number-one rule of young hollywood.

  9. Abraham says:

    thanks tony! my second porsche will go to you.

  10. Well I think “I like I hope she won’t let me” a bit better than the “Swede”, whatever that means. Maybe the Swede is a little cold, yet, and could benefit from a For the last couple of weeks I have been trying to get through “The Forgotten” by Elie Wiesel on audio cassette, but it’s just too boring.

    I love the song “Dripping Candle” on one of those mixes you dad last year. Kind of has a thematic similarity to
    “looking for a road,” no?

    man, you guys should try to cover that Curtis Mayfield song, “hard times”

  11. Abraham says:

    yes carlofbaltimore, you’re right. I never would have made the connection between “dripping candle” and “looking for a road,” but they are both songs about trying to fill your dad’s sneakers. good point.

    what could “the swede” benefit from? it looks like a sentence got cut off… and just at the crucial moment! what a tease you are.

    yeah I love that curtis song. of course I love lots of his songs.

  12. Jonathan says:

    “Leaving the pain to the neighbors.” Every B. Teeth song has a lyric that sticks with me, and this is The Swede’s.

    I like the steadiness of this song. I think that’s where the menace comes in: the relentless repeating of “you never lost your mind.”

    I texted Philip Roth and he said you’ll be hearing from his lawyers. Now who’s ominous?

  13. Abraham says:

    thanks jonathan… there is indeed much menace in steadiness… that’s why I don’t trust anyone with a “steady gaze”.

    philip roth and I have the same lawyer, so it’ll probably be settled out of court. nice try.

  14. Ron says:

    I must say I have not listened yet as I am about to sleep! You can’t get too excited right before sleep, you know.

    I will say this though… I once saw these Robbers on High Street when I had never heard of them. They were opening for someone. They had this one song that I really liked among a set of not-as-memorable stuff. BUT I NEVER LEARNED WHAT SONG IT WAS.

  15. Ron says:

    Oh, and, I only have 24 teeth in my mouth.

  16. Abraham says:

    thank you ron…. those comments are mysterious and magical. I agree, you shouldn’t listen to this one right before bed.

  17. Nice work Pearly! Looking forward to more of your delicious musical treats podcast!

  18. Be sure to use the podpress plug-in to measure your songs and get them up on iTunes

  19. Abraham says:

    cheers fausto…. good to hear from you. I will investigate this mysterious plug-in.

  20. Cort says:

    I have to deal with philistines from time to time… as in those that never take pause for art. I guess some people find all the art they need on a cash flow diagram. Shame. Crying Shame. Excel

  21. Abraham says:

    I feel you, man. I. feel. you.

  22. Peter says:

    This one definitely rules! I’m into the one note harmony vocal. Serve me up some steaming hot Baby Teeth java.

  23. Abraham says:

    thanks peter…. yeah I think this would be a no-brainer to work up with BT.

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