Album: Sparkle Hard (2018)

Songfacts®:

  • Stephen Malkmus mentions during this song 25-year-old African-American Baltimore resident Freddie Gray, who died in police custody.

    The cops, the cops that killed Freddie
    Sweet young Freddie Gray
    Got behind him with the truncheons
    And choked the life right out of him


    Stephen Malkmus explained to Billboard why he chose to reference this specific event.

    "Well, I just kept it as I made it up. There's certain lines I had to change, but as far as Freddie… Phonetically, the 'beautiful bike lane' rolls off the tongue and it's something comic about being pissed off about your cohorts whining on bike lane forums. A small, not important problem, but there's a lot of mental energy spent on it and other things like that and other things in your town. I thought of maybe making the song all about absurd quasi-Instagram perfect cappuccino stuff, but cleverer than that, not low-hanging fruit. But then when I started singing it, it's like 'what does your voice sound like on the rough mix,' and the music was chugging, I thought it had to have something with police and leather boots and batons, something trudging.

    There's a song by Youth Brigade called 'Men In Blue,' That reminded me of punk rock, us against the cops, and Black Flag had a song called 'Police Story' [sings] 'they hate us, we hate them.' I thought I could keep it more generally, but I wanted a name in the end. I wanted a protagonist.

    Freddie Gray was a story I followed closer than others for whatever reason, in this larger narrative of police brutality. These evolving stories in Missouri and New Orleans, they seem to be exploding onto the world. So I'm following that and thinking how f---ed up it is, so I don't know. It's one of those questions where you're using something to tell a story, but I don't consider it using to… I don't know… it's not potentially un-kosher to talk about in a song. Hopefully the pissed-off-ness comes through and the absurdity of the different sides, the conflict of interest in what is meaningful to you comes through. Hopefully it's a powerful song in the end."

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