Greatest Songs At This Moment--The Hives' "Fall Is Just Something Grownups Invented"
Dedicated to those songs that I can't stop playing, humming, or thinking about; the 4+ minutes you fall head-over-heels in love with. Past instances have included The Rolling Stones' "Honky Tonk Women," The White Stripes' "We're Going To Be Friends," and Rufus Wainwright's "Foolish Love."
I guess I'm a little off in my timing, listening to a song about the beginning of school during the time of year when school is letting out. Like listening to Christmas songs in August, my obsession has more to do with my fixation on the Hives themselves and their weird logical leaps than with actual calendar-backed facts. Even though I am married to a teacher, have retired teachers for parents and I hang around schools many times during the year (not like that), I still find that this point in time most perfectly suits "Fall Is Just Something Grownups Invented." Even though the message of the song is -- on the surface -- anger at returning to school, the mood of the song is joyful, and what's more joyful than the beginning of summer? Paradox? Sure, but it works.
I have no excuse for loving the Hives as much as I do, and I therefore offer little apology. They are like a hybrid of my two favorite bands, wedding the Ramones' style and humor to a Mick Jagger-like front man. I never stood a chance at resisting, but I doubt I would have fallen as hard in love with the band if not for the strange underlying insanity that is the Hives' artistic voice. This voice could be simply chalked up to their mishandling of the English language ("The Hives are law! You are crime!") along with their reckless abandon with which they use their second language. But as I've dug deeper and deeper into their catalog -- yes, there's room to dig -- I've become more convinced that they're either so smart they're dumb or so dumb they're smart and then dumb again. If you followed that, you have my pity. Your world will soon be consumed by another paradox of Hives logic, heretofore known as "logic," with sarcastic quotation marks in tact.
"Fall" was written for Cartoon Network, presumably as a kids' song for their commercial tags. Outside of just making a cool song for a cool commercial, I'm not sure what the marketing scheme was behind this decision. Was Cartoon Network selling Fall? It's not unheard of, as Fall is the time for traditional premieres of new shows. But the sentiment of the song implies that we should be upset it's Fall (or, in the present, will be some day). Unless you're MTV, you have a hard time selling something while telling people they should hate it. Fortunately, MTV and Cartoon Network are owned under the same company, so maybe this works. However, it raises the very core idea that makes the song problematic and charming: the idea of fighting an idea.
It makes "Fall" a perfect kind of kids' song, dealing with abstract ideas which are crystal clear, yet fall apart under the slightest scrutiny. Of course the idea of inventing a season is as ludicrous as launching a war against the feeling of terror, but it's a fun idea. In a way, the Hives have provided children with a safe kind of conspiracy. Normally the Swedes sing about how giant corporations are programming us into consumer robots who don't think for themselves. To a kid, the biggest corporation around is adults, so to vilify them is not only easy, but essential.
The fun part of the song comes in the fact that singing along removes yourself from the titular group, even if you're a 33-year-old grownup father-to-be 15 years out of high-school. With this song, you (who are we kidding here--I) can still be pissed at the adults who made up time period of every year I most hated. I hated school. I loved college, but something about the organization of education always rubbed me the wrong way. I think I was scared of teachers because my parents were teachers (I had my own mother for not just one but TWO English classes throughout my high school career). I knew what my parents were capable of, and I assumed the same powers upon other teachers no matter how incapable they were. We had some pretty ridiculous teachers at my high school; some were as oblivious to mischief as Elmer Fudd during Duck Season. Yet I never misbehaved. It would come back and bite me in the ass eventually. I couldn't fight City Hall. My problems wouldn't be solved by messing with this one teacher. I needed an entire system to change.
Obviously, I've hung onto these feelings for quite a while. It's a strange brand of nostalgia where you allow pissy feelings to linger so much that you're happy you have a way to let them go two decades after the fact. That's probably just the power of music in a nutshell; I haven't thought about these feelings for years, but once I've been allowed to feel this way again by way of a song I love, here they are again, not only resurfacing but being spit on. This justifies loving a "kids" song containing the phrase "Halloween is the ass" and not getting upset. While the content may not be 100% kid friendly, the spirit feels kid inspired.
Even though it's a technique they've used more and more as of late, I love the way "Fall" starts with the slow lamenting tune about how we'll all be returning to school again. "We?" asks the older fan, feeling threatened. As an answer by way of changing the subject, the song picks up the pace while Pelle Almquist "teaches us" about the truth of the matter while borrowing from the most rock 'n' roll line ever: "So I better do it now before I grow old." The rest of the band kicks in for the first half of the chorus, then drops off for the punchline, and I use that term specifically. This is a joke in execution, not just material. It's not enough to simply say that Fall was invented by devilish, fun-hating grownups; The Hives make it a full on kid-sized conspiracy. And that, to me, is even funnier. Children don't enjoy many conspiracies of their own, so to not only deliver one but deliver one on par with a fake moon landing feels huge enough to reach comic proportions.
This is what the Hives do better than any other band. They aim high and then reach even higher and pretend they want to go even higher than that. Any reasonable person will tell you that a rock band, no matter how powerful, cannot change the world, yet we like to believe it's possible. The Hives play on that mentality. They act like they're enormous stars even though most people don't take them seriously or know they exist. They take that B-List status and carry themselves like the Dukes of Music. THEN they act like they -- the royalty of rock -- will survive nuclear explosions and impending global catastrophes by way of their ability to play really loud. They get more ridiculous, and then more serious, and then more serious, which becomes even more ridiculous. They are then free to make wild declarations like "Fall Is Just Something Grownups Invented."
THE POINT OF ALL THAT IS... the title and chorus are a punchline. When we hear it, the music and "Oh's!" hit us in full glorious effect. Out of the silence comes the tidal wave of punk rock with a snicker behind it. That riff feels like a crowd laughing with an insult comic. They just told a line on someone's mom, and the crowd responds. I respond. By the end, I chant along with their chorus chants, wishing that I had something to rebel against for real but not really.
Written By Phillip Mottaz