Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Over: The Once Over Twice

X: The Once Over Twice

I think that the impetus behind this theme is the end of the Trump Error, and one of the things that many of us are hoping for is that politics won’t be a constant drumbeat in our brains. So, except for this brief mention, I’m going to try to steer this piece away from politics and toward music. 

Many critics consider X’s second album, Wild Gift, to be their finest, and I agree—and the fact that this is the second time I’ve written about the band here, both times about songs from the same album, bears that out. Which is not to say that they haven’t released a lot of good music (and their album from last year, Alphabetland, their first in years, would have been on my “Best of 2020” list, if I was still writing one at my other blog). But there’s something about Wild Gift’s mix of punk and Americana, and the skewed harmonies of Exene Cervenka and John Doe, that hit the sweet spot.

“The Once Over Twice” kicks off the album with a blast of punk/rockabilly guitar, and then we are off to the races with a sad, concise slice of life tale written and sung by Cervenka. The opening lines are killer: 

I just heard the sad song by another band
Sung by another man
He gave me the once over twice 

The phrase “the once over twice” generally means giving an attractive person the “once over” and liking what you see so much that you feel compelled to do it again. Clearly, it is a sign of attraction, so are we seeing the start of a new relationship? Something hopeful? Nope. 

I said when
He said okay so long. 

Oh well. After considering her options, in the face of rejection, the singer decides: 

I got some more scotch instead 

Before beginning to wallow a little: 

Then I died a thousand times
He hung me with the endless rope
Then I died a thousand times
Maybe you don't but I do
Got a hole in my heart size of my heart 

And then, it appears, she reaches acceptance: 

I'll see you and I'll raise you off the floor
I'll floor you and we'll dance without a band 

In an article from a few years ago about the album, the writer recounted Cervenka telling him that Wild Gift, "showed off ‘our sense of humor,’ . . . More personalized songs such as ‘The Once Over Twice’ detailed a want for something greater, but settling ‘for some more scotch instead.’ She continues that, as a writer, she lived for whatever was inside her head, then worked to get it all out quickly.” 

Whether or not you agree with Rick Anderson, an Allmusic reviewer, that some of Cervenka’s lyrics in the song “don’t amount to much more than pretentious high school noodlings” (I don’t), it is hard to disagree with his conclusion that “when she and Doe sing those lines together in their inimitable raw harmony, the effect is electric.” 

Also, later today, Trump’s term will be OVER!! OVER!! OVER!! WOOO HOOO!! 

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.