In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week, as we regret the New Year’s resolutions we’ve already cast aside, we’re picking our favorite songs about broken promises.
Songs about being cheated on by a lover are plentiful. Songs in which the narrator is stepping out on a romantic partner are almost as common. Songs which involve marital unfaithfulness, however, are much rarer, usually limited to mournful country ballads or elegiac soul singers. And when it comes to indie rock, you can more or less forget about it. This dearth of crunchy guitars in the service of literate infidelity narratives is just one of the reasons why, when Pedro The Lion released Control in 2002, it felt like a goddamn revelation. A concept album from start to finish—back when Separation Sunday was still just a glint in Craig Finn’s eye—Control is a distortion-laden meditation on an unhappy marriage. Telling the story of a husband and wife who fall into a web of deceit and resentment, each song delves into different problems: misplaced love, family, and neglected children, finally ending in a bloody mariticide.
“Rehearsal” is the wife’s bitterly brutal retort. She knows her husband has been cheating, and she’s angry, angry enough to eventually kill; but more than that, she’s angry at the very basic-ness of it all. She’s furious that she’s been caught up in such an old, boring story, and she demands to revel in the predictability of her spouse’s behavior. “Here’s the thing that’s so much more depressing / Than the infidelity itself,” she announces, before launching into one of the great “fuck you” refrains of melodic math rock: “Darling, you are so unoriginal / Each move more obvious than the one before it.” It’s a spot-on hook, and coming nestled within one of the few indie rock albums that genuinely feels comparable to a novel, lyric-wise (only The Mountain Goats do it better), the raw nerve of the sentiment makes you want to hand her the knife yourself.