Asking me to pick my favorite song is kind of like asking me to pick my favorite hair on my head. Each individual song I like is less important than the whole bunch of songs together, and also that none of them are tickling my ear. It’s even harder to choose one because I’m a song person. Few and far between are the albums I’ll listen to in a sitting, and many of these are a product of preteen years spent in my friend’s mom’s Jeep Cherokee with a handful of CDs to fill the drive between Salvation Army and Goodwill.
That said, there are certain criteria that will guarantee a song a spot on the soundtrack during a pivotal scene of Kathy: The Motion Picture:
1. It is short. If it takes you more than three minutes to say what you have to say, I think someone should confiscate your Moog, or your Pynchon, or your psychotropics, or whatever has gotten into your bloodstream.
2. It sounds good sung in a car at a volume that will cause you to be hoarse.
3. It is somehow sad, despite sounding mostly happy. See: Robyn, Dancing On My Own.
There is one song that continually spackles these holes for me. It’s kind of a weird choice because, as far as I can tell, it first appeared on the Friends
soundtrack. After the Replacements called it quits, Paul Westerberg shit popped up on a bunch of soundtracks (Dyslexic Heart, for example) and the song “Stain Yer Blood” is my favorite. Ever. Of everything.
Paul Westerberg is basically the world’s best rock star. I’ll pick his brand of sloppy, dopey genius every time over something more self-serious and grand. You married a guitarist? Great. You still live in Minnesota? Better. You’ve decided to make questionably bold eyewear choices in your middle age? Fantastic.
My friend Kai and I had a mixtape blog for a few months a while ago and I put this on the “Songs for Those Dreamy Girls (…We Wish We Were)” playlist. At the time, I wrote that it was:
My favorite song about a girl because Paul Westerberg is kind of my favorite guy. This one hits close to home because of how real it is: she’s hanging around, he knows she wants him, he’s all let’s do this thing tonight, whatever, no big deal, people are gonna talk about it, fuck them. But then! Transcendent musical magic that differentiates the pop muse from my average self: “Is it love?”
I still sort of agree with that description, but I’ve come to think that the great thing about this song, and about all concise guitar pop songs that so accurately hit home the singular feeling of romantic possibility, is the way that it lets you write your own starring scene. I'm not the girl who inspires songs to be written, nor is virtually anyone that girl, but "Stain Yer Blood" lets you be her three minutes at a time. When I hear “Stain Yer Blood,” I’m wearing the fictional vintage dress of my dreams, leaning against a wall at a party that never happened, feeling some sort of cinematic sadness that is neither annoying nor selfish.
Whatever romance I picture thereafter is less important than the romance of the song itself, that double knot it ties in my stomach and the possibility of feeling an adolescent intensity about everything forever. Paul Westerberg, in his song "It's A Wonderful Lie," kind of cops to the charade of songs like this:
So don't pin your hopes
Or pin your dreams
To misanthropes or guys like me
The truth is overrated
It a wonderful lie
and I still get by on those
But that's why I love "Stain Yer Blood" so much more.
(You can find Paul Westerberg's "Stain Yer Blood" on the album The Resterberg on Spotify.)