Friday, August 10, 2007


"Greenlander" appeared on the compilation Born to Choose in 1993. I have often thought of this song as one of the top 5 quintessential hidden indie gems of the early 90's. Born was a compilation put out by Rykodisc to support NARAL and other women's charities. R.E.M., Tom Waits, and others also contributed to the comp.

I discovered the song at about the same time I was discovering a world of music beyond radio and MTV. I wrote a letter in response to some liner notes on a 7" by this Columbus band, Tiara (whom Isaac Brock would tell me several years later were "fucking awesome".) In my letter, I called them "Pavement-esque" which they appreciated being that Pavement was a major influence. Also, I sent two blank tapes for some additional songs. Tiara graciously filled both tapes. One of the tracks was a cover of "Greenlander" that actually rivals the original. Needless to say, my siblings and I wore that tape out and still talk about it from time to time.

Strangely enough, my girlfriend left me for the bassist in Tiara. We had a long, slow good-bye that ended on a cold New Year's Eve at a Waffle House.

The song describes a couple performing ceremonies in the arctic wilderness of Greenland in hopes of cementing their lives together. The cold and darkness are metaphors for their icy relationship as it creeps to an end despite their best hopes and efforts. SM even describes a future of ice skating and children that will never happen. Mistakes are made and no amount of tradition or ceremony can stop the relationship from ending.

The music is pretty straightforward despite the obvious tuning that, to me at the time, sounded so foreign and bizarre when stripped down. The tunings and tempo help feed into the slow descent of the described relationship. It's sad but beautiful, sort of how I picture Greenland.

These images conjured up by the words and music of "Greenlander" represent that depressing winter for me perfectly.

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