A Poets Poet

The song “Dylan Thomas” by Better Oblivion Community Center, a band comprised of singer-songwriters Pheobe Bridgers and Conor Oberst appears in the band’s self-titled and only album. Bridgers and Oberst are known to have been long-time friends and partners in the music industry and although both contributed to lyrics for this song and others on the album, this particular song was written by mainly Oberst. This song encapsulates the feeling of knowing catastrophe is coming but not being able to do anything about it. Oberst and Bridgers use the combined circumstances of existing during the Trump administration and being overcome with addiction to portray this feeling. Bridgers herself is known to reference current events and popular media in her writing and this song follows that form. The song itself has many references to the poet Dylan Thomas with the first line being,

It was quite early one morning

This is a reference to Thomas’s collection of prose titled “Quite Early One Morning”. Bridgers and Oberst use Thomas, infamously an alcoholic, to portray the idea of addiction. They write,

So sick of being honest

I’ll die like Dylan Thomas

A seizure on the barroom floor

And

Im strapped into a corset

Climbed into your corvette

Im thristy for another drink

These lines explain to the listener how the speaker is tired of trying to get better and would prefer to die in a similar manner to Thomas, who famously drank himself to death at 39. This furthers the feeling of doom the speaker is trying to portray in the way that they know there is no hope for the future and going out with a bang seems easier. The second section also portrays this idea, the speaker feels they are living a life that simply repeats itself over and over in a mundane way, despite knowing that disaster is coming. Similarly, Oberst and Bridgers write,

If it’s advertised we’ll try it

And buy some peace and quiet

And shut up at the silent retreat

As well as,

I’m getting used to these dizzy spells

I’m taking a shower at the Bates motel

The first section is referencing rehab, which is constantly advertised through media and the speaker seems to be going along with the idea of getting help, but in the second section, it is clear that the speaker does not wish to get help because it feels hopeless in a world in which you know the disaster is coming anyway. This is portrayed by the last line, which is another reference to popular media, in which a character from the movie “Psycho” is stabbed in the shower at the Bates motel. This is referencing the idea that the speaker is willingly going to “shower at the Bates motel” or doing something they know is going to bring on disaster because nothing seems to matter anymore. It is also clear that the speaker simply wishes to continue on with the life they live as they are “getting used to these dizzy spells” alluding to the fact that they are comfortable with their addiction and would rather continue to live with it than get help.

Along with the idea of addiction Bridgers and Oberst also use this song to make commentary on the Trump administration and the feeling of hopelessness it brought many Americans. They write,

Starved for entertainment

Four seasons, a revolving door

This is a reference to the Four Seasons landscaping company where the Trump administration held a press conference, instead of the Four Seasons resort. This along with the first line explain how the speaker is so baffled that an administration such as Trumps could be running the country, and how they feel the world is simply “starved for entertainment” as in it doesn’t seem that anyone else is as concerned with the state of the government as the speaker is. Bridgers and Oberst continue this by writing,

These talking heads keep saying

The king is only playing

A game of four dimensional chess

This section is a reference to news reporters or “talking heads” speaking about the Trump administration. The speaker is emphasizing the feeling of being controlled, knowing that there is nothing they can do about the state of the government or their addicition but they have to continue, feeling like a pawn in a chess game. The feeling of despair and fear that the speaker feels is encompassed by Oberst and Bridgers in the line,

They say you gotta fake it

At least until you make it

That ghost is just a kid in a sheet

The speaker is emphasizing how their addiction and feelings of despair play out in such a way that they feel as if they must put on a happy face. The speaker also understands that while they are suffering they know that the world is in crisis and thier fears and problems are not as important or “that ghost is just a kid in a sheet” which is also a refrence to Bridgers solo work which fetures imagry of children weaing ghost costumes.

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