Jukeboxes have always interested me, and that’s probably connected to my fascination with music choices. As someone who grew up on identity-supplanting music–soundtracking my life with music, and using mix tapes, albums, and songs to express myself–I’m interested in how music effects people’s minds and perceptions, and how easily songs can become evocative of particular moments in our past. The choices bar owners use on the CD or 45 based seem specifically made to build these particular moments each night someone puts money in to play a song. There’s a particular bar in Buffalo, NY that has made a significant impact in my social life over the last several years, specifically with their jukebox. Gordon’s jukebox keeps Radiohead, Sloan, Ben Folds Five, and they spin Jimmy Eat World‘s Clarity instead of Bleed American.
With all of the songs and bands I have pushed through my brain, somehow this song gets stuck again and again. “Lucky Denver Mint” and its album Clarity have it in for my brain. I’m not sure how or why it lodges itself in my brain, but when it does, its there in a world of its own. There were a few days in a row last week, where I woke up with the lyrics in my head as the first full sentence of the day. Specifically, I get the closing couplet of the first verse jammed in the gray matter:
Somewhere I made a wish
With Lucky Denver Mint
That’s supposed to happen right? They took the title from there for goodness sake, and I think there’s some solid reasoning, beginning with the end of each line. Wish/Mint is an imperfect match for an end rhyme, but there’s an interior rhyme with the “i” that binds them across the lyric. With the melody applied, it lifts off. Soaring from ‘somewhere’ to ‘wish’ and sliding down from ‘with’ to ‘mint’, the separate parts work together to build a hook that feels as ethereal and tangible as the words and concepts that define them at the same time. In short: its a brilliant stroke of songwriting. But is this merely the easiest part to remember of the song, so that’s why it gets stuck in my head? Maybe. The chorus erupts afterwards, and really, try not getting this stuck in your head:
You’re not bigger than this, not better
Why can’t you learn?
Now repeat that over some amazing drumming, unceasing guitars, and vocals that sound bruised but getting stronger, for the bulk of the song. Tough to beat, for sure. But I still end up with the last couplet of the first stanza lodged in my brain during waking hours.
So why is this song so catchy? I can’t figure out an answer to that question–there are no direct connections to events, no sly heartwarming recollections from the past, no negative connotations, no personal interactions that bind me to this song. For most of the songs I like as much (or have come to wake up to) I’ve had a personal connection to connect them with. The only images that come to mind are of the grey-white wall of a good friend’s parents’ living room, a former-best friend, and that still-good friend. They only appear after the chorus repeats, and pressing myself to consider any images. Otherwise its a notion of being in Buffalo in 2001, without any commentary or context, just detritus.
Perhaps “Lucky Denver Mint” and its exceptional hook is a pure song, lodged in my brain, unmolested by memory. Maybe its just a phenomenal song. Perhaps I’m waking up to it because of this nigh-objective reference in my brain is searching for that connection. Either way, it remains a brilliant song, steady on its own in the sea of thoughts, memories, and images that make up a brain. For now, at least, until something comes along to anchor its place in my mental jukebox.