David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 263: Oysterband (Don't Slit Your Wrists For Me)

June 27, 2023

I'm going down the Mark Mulcahy path again, choosing something wickedly funny, but sadly obscure: Oysterband's "Don't Slit Your Wrists For Me," off of their 1995 CD The Shouting End of Life.

Allow me to get some perfunctories out of the way. First, learn from me. Don't search "Don't Slit Your Wrists For Me" without including "Oysterband" in your Google terms. You get a whole lot of suicide prevention sites. That's o.k., but when I do the search from my work computer over lunch, I might have set off some warning bells across campus.

Second, if you don't know Oysterband, get in line.  Recognize that they share nothing with Blue Öyster Cult, except the un-umlauted bivalve. You may not even know them by one name, as they went from Oyster Ceilidh Band to The Oyster Band to Oysterband. The Shouting End of Life also doesn't share much with most of their own canon of music, regardless of band name; the CD is one of maybe two punk records in and amidst another dozen or so folk records. The rise of their folk punk sound (yes, those two words can be used together) seems to coincide with Chumbawmba's punk success. They even collaborated with the Chumbs (is that an acceptable group name for the group)?

And, finally, of interest almost entirely to me, members of Oysterband (whichever incarnation) have also been in James and The Blue Aeroplanes. So, there are some musical chops here (beyond band member Chopper).

O.k., with all that stuff out of the way, now, I must explain why you need to hear "Don't Slit Your Wrists For Me." It's a punk love song, I suppose, if we accept a punk cynical view of romantic love. It's ostensibly a duet between Oysterband lead singer, John Jones, and guest vocalist Linda Duggan, a punk version of the Garden of Eden and the dangers of lust. In this way, "Don't Slit Your Wrists For Me" is a lovely companion piece to The Pogues' "Fairytale of New York," another duet of two losers/lovers "chained" by their mutual sexual attractions.

The "love" story evolves with Jones proclaiming, "I met her in the garden, she was laughing like a drain," the pair standing dangerously close together under an apple tree to avoid the rain. The rain isn't all they need avoid, they've got her parents, her father especially "purple and insane," and apparently a judgmental older generation described as the "blue rinse fire brigade."

The woman, in this case, Duggan, much like Kirsty MacColl in "Fairytale of New York, seems most attuned to the dysfunctionality of the pairing, noting that he's "all hot air and hormones as far as I can see," thinking more of his "lurchers" than her.  Even in a world of regular body mutations, the male finds fascination (he can't help but notice "the bone stuck through her nose" and that she is "wearing studs in places where the gardener never goes") while she, meanwhile, requires standards, singing, "people judge us by the company we choose, I can't be seen with somebody who's got the wrong tattoos." 

Eventually, Jones pleads, pleads and pleads, blaming biology, perhaps, for the moment, but also for the generations of pain to follow because of their original sin. "Please don't shoot the messenger," he sings/screams, "they're coming from my genes."

The song is at least a little subtle as to the eventual act itself, confirmed only by both Jones and Duggan singing defiantly by the end, "Sex is like chain gang, there are no volunteers. We get handcuffed to a maniac for 60 years." Not sure if the maniac is the other, or our self, the one who has "been hearing voices since I was in my teens."

Best of all, through it all, we get the lovely touch of "darlin'," in the chorus. "If love is what you're dying to discover, darlin, don't slit your wrists for me, darlin', don't slit your wrists for me." All set to concertinas, accordions, and banjos. As I get ready for the summer semester version of the punk rock lecture, I wish I had a little time to get into this folk punk thing . . . darlin'.

Oysterband. "Don't Slit Your Wrists For Me." The Shouting End Of Life. Cooking Vinyl, 1995. Link here.

Day 262: The BoDeans "Still The Night"

Day 264: The Clique "We Didn't Kiss, We Didn't Love, But Now We Do"

See complete list here.