“Alec Eiffel” by The Get Up Kids

20. Song No. 134: “Alec Eiffel,” The Get Up Kids
Eudora, 2001 (orig. by Pixies, 1991)

A lot of my music tends to have an underlying social connection. There are bands I discovered because of long-ago boyfriends, concerts that have become traditions with friends, songs that sound like people, albums that exemplify a place. But plenty of other songs and I found each other in isolation. Sometimes I fell in love with a lyric in the solitude of my bedroom; sometimes a song was an escape from somewhere I didn’t want to be.

We drove everywhere growing up. Everywhere. Escape to the mountains every Christmas, down the East Coast in the spring, up in the summer, and some years looping from New Jersey to Wisconsin and back again: I have seen so much of this country from the backseat window of an overstuffed car while zoning out and desperately wanting to be anywhere else. With some destinations being more than a day’s worth of travel away, that was a lot of daydreaming and music-devouring time to fill as I watched the Pine Barrens give way to all kinds of new geography when I wasn’t nose-deep in a book or secretively tallying all of this trip’s South of the Border signs or profanity-laden parental outbursts with my brother.

This album of Get Up Kids’ B-sides and covers came out right in time to be one of the lucky ones I brought on one of those long-haul trips. In the days before iPods and even before CD folders that neatly allowed me to condense my entire musical library in roughly two Infinite Jest-sized but otherwise portable units, it was a veritable ordeal deciding on what CDs to pack. How was I supposed to predict what I’d feel like listening to days ahead of time?

It was usually a combination of trusty favorites, current obsessions and albums I wanted to get to know better that got to tag along. For one reason or another, “Eudora” joined me on some summer jawn to Upstate New York or winding trek through New England and provided a significant contribution to the soundtrack of that trip.

I distinctly remember this song in particular and finding it oddly charming (and boooooooi, any looping refrain that stays catchy instead of becoming repetitively grating gets absolutely all of the kudos). I had never heard the Pixies’ original so I had nothing to compare it to, and there is something strangely compelling unto itself about a cover serving as a song’s introduction. Make it a song about great ideas meeting petty resistance and Teenage Me was hooked.

Which is how I spent one rainy, infinite car ride far from home listening to this ode to its eponymous engineer over and over again, staring out the window at the verdant summer mountains of the Northeast, wanting to be absolutely anywhere else with all the fervor of a teenager trapped with their family and settling into the liferaft of Matt Pryor’s familiar vocals navigating an album’ s worth of unfamiliar rarities and borrowed tracks while getting lost in some welcome songs and objectively stunning scenery.

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