Brian Appio
"For the First Time"

by the Script

(Sony)

This song is damn near a semiotics essay! "She's all laid up in bed with a broken heart": oh, those kind of cornballs, eh? "While I'm drinking Jack all alone in my local bar": wow! "My local bar"! That's how people refer to it all the time! Either this guy is a middle manager, a marketing director, or a new AOL City Guides hire, or he's the most tin-eared songwriter on earth. Unless this denotes something even more unspeakable: the complete immersion of ad-speak into everyday language, the wall between how we live and what we're sold all but collapsed.

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"Trying to make it work, but man these times are hard": This is unobjectionable on the page, but Danny O'Donoghue's voice isn't the page. He bleeds sentimentality; he makes the guy from Train sound like Bob Dylan or something. Next line's the payoff: "She needs me now, but I can't seem to find the time/I got a new job now at the unemployment line." This skirts kitsch—actually, it walks directly to kitsch and plants one right on the mouth. But it's slick, smarmy, utterly phony—you need to be damn clever to twist what, for a hell of a lot of people, is not a laughing matter into something resembling a punch line and get away with it. O'Donoghue sounds like an inept boss trying, and failing, to relate to the person he just laid off. (It also gives the lie to an earlier lyric: Jack costs decent money in most "local bars.")

This all occurs within the first 45 seconds of the song. The rest is exactly the kind of folk-rock snake oil you'd probably expect of something put across with such idiotic sincerity. It's a song of perseverance in the face of bad times that comes off like a company-enforced booze cruise whose high point is a very special screening of a very special episode of Friends. It reaches a zenith of bad faith with these lines: "Drinking on cheap bottles of wine/Sit talking up all night/Saying things that we haven't for a while." Text: Maybe the recession will make us better people, individually and as a couple. Subtext: Being poor gives you soul. The former is simply an angle, ineptly handled; the latter is not even the hoariest thing going on here. Just what the economy needed—its very own "How Do You Talk to an Angel." recommended

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