Misery

Album: Let Your Dim Light Shine (1995)
Charted: 30 20

Songfacts®:

  • In 1995, the Alternative/Modern Rock scene had become something corporate, as bands that led the way early in the decade found themselves under the constraints of the music industry. There was always a lot of angst to go along with the heavy guitars, but once it started selling, it was a completely different kind of misery: one that was feeding the machine.

    Kurt Cobain, who killed himself in 1994, proved that this disconnect could have tragic consequences, but bands like Soul Asylum were already trapped in the cycle. The band was around for a decade before hitting it big with their 1992 album Grave Dancers Union and the hit single "Runaway Train." Their newfound success solved their financial problems, but caused many new ones, as they were now obligated to promote and perform at a relentless pace. Their fanbase became wider but more shallow, and they found themselves too often in the company of folks who were dependent on them for revenue. All this led to "Misery," the song lead singer Dave Pirner wrote to express his frustration.
  • The "factory" where misery is made is visualized in the video with scenes of a CD pressing plant making copies of the single. Soul Asylum's record company had no problem with the critique, since the song was a hit, ironically feeding the machine it was disparaging.

    "Misery" became Soul Asylum's second-biggest Pop success (after "Runaway Train") and also went to #1 on the Alternative Rock chart and #2 for Mainstream Rock.
  • This song is heard at the end of the 2006 movie Clerks II, which was directed by Kevin Smith. He is a big Soul Asylum fan; the band wrote "Can't Even Tell" for the original Clerks.
  • Weird Al Yankovic did a parody of this song on his 1996 album Bad Hair Day called "Syndicated Inc.," which is about watching reruns on TV. In our interview with Dave Pirner, he said: "When we got signed to Twin Tone Records, the local label in Minneapolis, I was like, 'This is it, I've made it. It's the big time, baby. You've done it.' And I never had that feeling again until Weird Al covered my song. It felt like, Wow, I have arrived. It's the perfect way of describing my sense of humor. Yes, I was very honored."

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