The Weakerthans, “Everything Must Go!”

Everything Must Go! (song | official lyrics)
The Weakerthans

Garage Sale. Saturday. I need to pay
My heart’s outstanding bills.
A cracked-up compass and a pocket watch
some plastic daffodils
The cutlery and coffee cups I stole
from all-night restaurants
a sense of wonder (only slightly used)
a year of two to haunt you in the dark

For a phone call from far away
with a “Hi, how are you today”
and a sign recovery comes
to the broken ones.

A wage-slave forty-hour work week weighs
a thousand kilograms,
so bend your knees — comes with a free fake smile
for all your dumb demands,
the cordless razor that my father bought
when I turned 17,
a puke-green sofa and the outline to
a complicated dream of dignity

For a laugh (too loud and too long).
For a place where awkward belongs,
and the sign that recovery comes to the broken ones.
To the broken ones.
To the broken ones.
For the broken ones.

Comment:

You’ll note the official lyrics aren’t the ones actually sung. The same thing happened with “None of the Above”. It was fairly significant for the theme of that song.

Here the imagery stays fairly obvious. “Compass,” “watch” – ways of tracking space and time used, now for sale. “Plastic daffodils” – pleasant and decorative, but not lasting in any genuine way. “Cutlery and coffee cups” – stolen, indicating our speaker hasn’t really had a home. We’re willing to put up with wandering, fakeness and dependence on paid-for hospitality because of wonder. Maybe there’s something better out there. Just gotta keep searching, scratching.

Does wonder create stalkers? Not really, but I don’t want anyone in an adolescent “I love her she’s the best thing I’ve ever found I’ll never find anyone like her again” mode thinking anything less than gentlemanly is ever justified:

a year of two to haunt you in the dark

For a phone call from far away
with a “Hi, how are you today”

“Haunt you in the dark” is not describing a stalker here. This speaker is far away and in his own darkness. This just sounds like how we deal with ex-lovers that are now “friends.” We feel like ghosts in their lives until we’re approached, until we can seriously feel we were something important to them.

Our speaker moves back to the garage sale and how he actually lives. The first sign recovery will come (the phone call) is far off. (I should say that until very recently I was unaware just how much people wanted to hear from their ex, to hear something that wasn’t mere closure but also affirming.) We’re introduced to his job (“wage-slave forty-hour work week”). No surprise, it seems to involve carrying burdens full-time. How can work be a recovery when it is the same as a broken love-life?

The key is the “dream of dignity,” I think. The cordless razor, the awful sofa, the trying to please in both public and private, the bad job: we’re all there or have been there. The “dumb demands” can be every day, including that of the garage sale. But at the garage sale, everything that is our speaker is public. The outline he’s selling is all over the place. Everyone can see what’s up. Weirdly enough, this is his moment. It doesn’t matter if customers make dumb demands. He’s in charge.

That’s the ultimate sign recovery comes. The laugh, the awkwardness – that’s how it’s always going to be after a broken relationship. How we’re trying to explain her and not explain her while making a sale of something ours. Thing is, it’ll be sold, we’ll be done and ready to move on. We’re ready not so much to wander, but to wait. We didn’t need a garage sale to reveal ourselves.

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