From The Desk Of Finn’s Motel: Best Songs By Anyone Ever, Volume 3 (Son Volt “Tear Stained Eye”)

Finn’s Motel mastermind/auteur Joe Thebeau gifted us in late 2006 with the amazing, out-of-nowhere Escape Velocity debut, a concept album about leaving behind the drudgery of cubicle life and suburban malaise for some greater, unknown existence. Even with the help (cough) of a January 2007 MAGNET profile, it took Thebeau nearly 11 years to finally follow it up with the outstanding new Jupiter Rex (Victory Over Gravity). Thebeau will be guest editing all week. Read our new Finn’s Motel feature.

Thebeau: In St. Louis, we have a special place in our hearts for Jay Farrar. He grew up in Belleville, Ill., across the river (rode the same school bus as my wife) and played all the same clubs we did. While many of our best and brightest moved away after experiencing success, Jay made St. Louis his home. He made it out there, and he came back here. Jay’s songs are a view through a cracked window into the experience of living in a river city forever burdened by its past. One of the Best Songs By Anyone Ever, “Tear Stained Eye,” contemplates the passage of time via scattered, oblique images of flooded river towns, waxing philosophically on matters of life and truth. Conclusions are hard to come by, but when they do arrive they are stoic, yet not quite comforting:

“If learning is living
And the truth is a state of mind
You’ll find it’s better
At the end of the line”

The wandering lyrics are reined in by a straightforward musical arrangement—three verses and three choruses. There are no fancy bridges or key changes. It doesn’t need them. It’s like a ride on a tired old horse slowly shuffling through the boarded up Main Street of a once-vibrant, then flooded, now abandoned town. Though “Tear Stained Eye” is about time passing, the song itself seems to sit outside of time like it’s always been there.