“Werewolf” by Cat Power

Welcome to Songs to Die By on Radio Sunlight ‘n Silver. I’m your host, Macabre Melissa and tonight we’re going to be exploring the depressing world of ladies ‘n guitars, with some Eddie Vedder thrown in because, let’s face it, Pearl Jam’s latest is a wee bit, well, disheartening. My mother heard them on the local adult-alternative station the other day and said, “Ooh, I like them.” That’s sort of my standard for whether or not it’s acceptable for me listen to music. If my mother can hear it on the station that regularly rotates the BeeGees, Elton John, and Chicago, then that band has delved into the misty Brigadoon-like nexus of faded glory and/or soft-rock.* (Though Mr. Vedder doesn’t lend his vocals to this song particularly, he does for “Good Woman,” another song on the same album named “You Are Free.”)

(At my place of employment, sometimes we pop on the ol’ iPod and my coworker calls my selection of music the Songs to Die By Hour. The Macabre Melissa part I made up meself. I also call my iPod the Empanada, because I replaced the i with an M, and M-pod naturally translated into a stuffed bread pastry from Spain.)

I randomly become obsessed with songs for no good reason other than the reason that the songs themselves are good. This week it’s “Werewolf” by Cat Power. I know, I know, it’s ironic that I’m rather beset with vampires and my first song post is about werewolves, but I can’t pick and choose my infatuations at will. If I could, I wouldn’t be obsessed with making the toilet water turn blue by placing one of those automatic cleaner thingies in the tank, now would I?

The song is haunting with just the slightly distorted vocals of Ms. Power, a softly strumming guitar, and a mournful violin. She croons,

I saw the werewolf, and the werewolf was crying,
Crying nobody know, nobody knows, body knows,
How I loved the man, as I teared off his clothes…
All through the night, until the light of day, and we are doomed to play.
For the werewolf, for the werewolf, has sympathy.

This is a perfect discussion for my own relationships. I’m really not lying because I’m a man-eater. The transformation of man into beast is symbolic of the losing of the self when a connection is made between two people. Do I change myself so he’ll like me more? Is he changing himself for the same reason? Any relationship will obviously incur some sacrifice upon one or both parties, and the imagery of the consumption relates this. Also, the clothes are images for all of the somewhat ridiculous beautification rituals we go through on first dates and the masks we wear in order to seduce said partner into thinking we’re something we most certainly aren’t.

Is love nothing more than a play upon which our hero-werewolf struts and frets his hour upon the stage? The idea that we act out our roles as we think they should be dooms us to mere actors in life, instead of originators; we become molds for our own selves and think the mold to be real life and reality to be a dream. The night casts its shadows and we are too enthralled to care, squinting as daylight approaches and we fear, lest our carriage turn back into a pumpkin.

Let’s not forget the allusion to “Sympathy for the Devil,” which is quite possibly the best song ever. (It’s loosely based on The Master and Margarita, so there’s a giant soft spot in my heart for it.) The sympathetic werewolf is a stand-in for a so-called “Fatal Man,” which was a figure in the Romantic Era of literature of a character who destroyed everything he loved. This was a time when evil became glamorous because of its assumed rebellion against God, as man at this time was defying established ideas of propriety and thought. The Devil became an ethos to pity through the recognition of his role as a scapegoat.

So I’m a little bitter about love at this point in my life. It doesn’t really show, does it?

But it’s really no fun to just give you the songs I love, so each week I’ll also put out a song that’s randomly derived from Empanada. I won’t cheat by skipping over embarrassing songs, and this way, you’ll get to know the recesses of my mind…if you dare venture where no man has boldly gone before.

Wheel of Empanada, turn, turn turn,
Show me the song that I should burn (literally):
Hey! It’s “Geek USA” by the Smashing Pumpkins.

*Though, to give credit where it’s due, I once saw Neko Case live in Denver. There, a rather loud — and most likely inebriated — heckler cried, “YOU ROCK,” and Ms. Case replied, “Yeah, we’re going to soft-rock your balls off.” This may or may not have ripped a hole in the space-time continuum. Well, either that or Anton Yelchin, but that’s a post for next week.