Each week, former KDHX DJ Chris Ward examines a song from his quarantine-based playlist dealing with isolation, loneliness, hope and germs. This song and more can be found on the Spotify playlist "Pande-mix: An End of the World Playlist."
"I Get Lonesome" - Beck - One Foot in the Grave - 1994
"I stomp on the floor just to make a sound."
I bought a scratched copy of Beck's Mellow Gold in the back of a school bus when loneliness was a hobby. It was the time of the chimpanzee, 1994, and I had a five-disc CD player with money I'd saved from working in a cornfield all summer. If any album was worth getting up a 5 a.m. and getting your arms sliced open by rows of soaking wet, abrasive corn tassels, this was it. Beck was a revelation to a kid who was on a steady diet of Aerosmith and small-town radio — and already looking for reasons to isolate in his room and be weird. Early Beck was a solitary listening exercise. Largely hitless and hobo-core, jarring, ramshackle, trailer park poetry punctuated with white-noise jump scares. "Debra" and "Sexx Laws" it was not.
The derelicts and degenerates that populate Beck lyrics are pretty funny when you're in eighth grade. But I think if you live long enough in Illinois or Missouri, you become a character in an early Beck song. Washin' dishes in a ditch for a soul-suckin' jerk. Listening to your truck-driving neighbors throw beer bottles. Taking bad acid, eating a rancid taco and throwing up on a Ferris wheel. Gettin' fast at bein' the last. In your truck. Smelling gasoline. Going no place. I look around my lockdown hovel, and now I'm living in an early Beck song, too. Specifically, "I Get Lonesome." I got thoughts and dirty socks piled in the corner. Getting fat on my own fear, I'm on my way to gaining the quarantine fifteen. I stomp on the floor just to make a sound. With an out-of-tune guitar, a few chords and time to kill, "I Get Lonesome" is the sound of lumbering around an apartment with a fucked-up couch and making up a song just to hear yourself hum it back.
Twenty-six years ago, Beck also predicted the post-internet age of navel-gazing loneliness after all the emptiness of a Care React has dried up. "Well there ain't nobody left to impress, and everyone is kissing their own hands." I am 39 years old, and I pace from room to room in a Beck lyric sheet existence. There's cat food on the floor, and I've been like this before. Patiently waiting like an ashtray for the butt. Witnessing the forces of evil in a bozo nightmare. Alone in the new pollution. And my time is a piece of wax, falling on a termite that's choking on the splinters. I am thirteen years old, digging my head into carpet and kicking my feet carelessly, I go nowhere and I've seen nothing. I'm surrounded by jewel cases. Five CDs' worth of alternative rock in a store-bought Sam's Club stereo, and someone going "I miss the comfort in being sad." It switches over to Beck, and I am alone by choice for hour after glorious hour, not yet confined to a life in the liner notes.
This song and many more can be found on Chris Ward's Pande-Mix playlist on Spotify here.