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Strangers Knowing Our Secrets

By Jonathan Skufca | 8/2/18 2:24pm
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In case you’re a new reader of Another Kind of Currency, you may not know of my deep passionate love for indie-punk band Titus Andronicus. I’ve written about them quite a few times before (even getting a recognized by Patrick himself on the band’s twitter) but I haven’t said much about them lately. However, that is going to change, as they’ve announced their fifth studio album, A Productive Cough, and have release two single from it so far. Today we’ll be looking at the second single, ”Above the Bodega (Local Business).”

According to the official press release the band put out, the record “find +@ setting aside the leadfooted punk anthems of yesteryear in favor of a subtler, more spacious approach that pushes Stickles’ soul-baring songwriting to the fore.” And from the first few nots of “Above the Bodega,” this is incredibly apparent. While definitely more uptempo than “Number One (In New York),” the first single the band released, the song definitely has a chill, cool vibe, with “shoop-shoop-sha-la-la” backing vocals and half-time sleigh bells. This all gives me a Springsteen vibe, perhaps more than I’ve heard in a lot of +@’s other efforts. I’m definitely excited for the rest of the album to drop next month based on the sound alone, but Patrick’s lyrics, fantastic as ever, are what most drew me to this song.

The opening stanza sets the stage for what is to come beautifully. They summarize the song’s overall message without giving too much away. Upon first listen, I found myself wanting to see where Patrick is going to go…almost like we all learned back in College Writing.

I can keep a secret from my mama
I can keep a secret from my pa
I can keep myself out of trouble
Stay one step above ‘em all
And I can keep it from my neighbors
It ain’t like they even care

But I can’t keep a secret from the guy at the store downstairs.

It’s a feeling we’re probably all familiar with. Be it the guy checking you out at Tenley Liquor with your 30 rack of PBR and box of wine, or the Chinese delivery person with enough food to feed two (that’s really just for you for the next few days). You aren’t necessarily ashamed of your choices, but there is the worry in the back of your mind that they may be judging you. Especially if you keep getting the same checkout guy or delivery driver. Stickles here is specifically referring to the guy that runs the bodega on the ground floor of his apartment, so he frequently sees the same person every time he blows his paycheck on vices early in the day:

Because by 11 in the morning you’ll find him selling smokes
Laughing in another language but we all know a joke’s a joke
Then by seven in the evening, I’m darkening the door
Lord, it’s so hard to keep a secret in that goddamn store

He’s there to see me buying cigarettes
He’s there to see my buying beer
He’s never seen me on the internet
And five o’clock is nowhere near

And while Patrick has generally eschewed religion in the past, the concept of not being able to hide your worst behaviors and vices from someone is eerily similar to the concept of an omnipresent God judging your actions. However, the way Patrick is framing the situation, the person judging you is not omnipresent. He only sees you purchasing the cigarettes and beer (or whatever other good you may be buying at the bodega but what you do once you leave his story is up to his imagination. And that part is almost scarier than if he knew exactly what you were doing.