Kitsch

Album: Club Meds (2015)

Songfacts®:

  • This tune was inspired by the book, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera. The book essentially explains that the original meaning of the word "kitsch" as a German slang word in the 1800s was "s--t."
  • In his Songfacts interview, Dan Mangan explained how the book's concept ties into this song's meaning. "What it was referring to was this principle that you can't look at the halo of something without looking at the s--t," he said. "[Kundera] explains it in a fairly vulgar sense of if we are created in the image of a God, then that God takes a s--t [laughs].

    So you can't just look at the side of something that you want to see. You have to look at the whole round object and understand that there are parts of it that you don't like. So when you put a halo on concepts – gender roles, religion, nationality or pride - or you put a halo on any topic – anything that you hold dear like the relationship between a father and son or a mother and daughter, what it means to be married or what it means to be single or what it means to be a free spirit or what it means to be an artist - if you just put a halo on something and say it's untouchable – 'that is special and that is perfect' - you immediately close your eyes to the truth of it, because the truth is that nothing is perfect.

    So the song goes through concepts:

    Ladies in dresses
    Whores in the bedroom


    It's the sick and twisted male fantasy that we want classy ladies out in the world that make us look good, but in the bedroom, men want subservient women who please all of their whims. It's the typical bullshit of male ego.

    And then:

    Old boys in board rooms
    The safety of sure doom


    You think about the utter glee that people who believe in the rapture would feel when it's all going to end because they 'know it's their time.'

    It's this tongue-in-cheek thing:

    Call it old fashioned
    Call it nostalgia
    Just call it something we can all die to


    It's this idea that there are concepts worth dying for, which is a pretty big deal. So it's just taking the piss out of it.

    What's the other line?

    Boys in the trenches

    We always support our troops. We should support our troops because those are real people, but we take these particular facets of our society and we make them holier than anything.

    'Love for the home team' is another line. I remember being in Manchester once and being like, 'What do you guys think of Liverpool?' Everyone was like, 'Booooo!' and then I went to Liverpool the next night and go, 'What do you guys think of Manchester?' and everyone goes, 'Booooo!' The two cities are literally 40 miles apart. It takes an hour to drive between them. It's like, really? Are you that different? I don't think so [laughs].

    It's this idea that something that is the other is bad and something that is us is good.

    The song is basically just picking apart a lot of these different concepts that we like to put halos on."
  • In 2015, Mangan explained to DIY magazine how this song came to be. "Another new kind of creative collaboration here," he said. "Johnny [Walsh] had written this bassline/progression while we were on tour in Europe. He'd just cycle it all the time during soundcheck. Immediately, the vocal melody just fell into place. I asked him to record the progression on his phone and send it to me. I plotted the notes out into a midi graph so I could re-arrange it and move things around, and the standard 'bass #2' midi sound ended up sounding so great that we used it for the final recording. After the first chorus, it fades in and plays alongside the real bass, and the two instruments pan out to the L and R channels. Kenton [Loewen's] polyrhythms are insane on this tune, and I love Gord [Grdina's] slumbering guitar noise floor matched with his repetitive semi-African guitar lick."
  • This song was originally on Mangan's fourth album Club Meds and an acoustic version of it appears on his 2016 EP, Unmake.

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