63. Song No. 539: “Art Class (Song for Yayoi Kusama),” Superchunk
Here’s to Shutting Up, 2001
Here’s to Shutting Up is one of my favorite albums of all time, and it’s definitely one of those that sounds like one, big piece of musical cohesion that moves from theme to theme as it progresses.
Back when places were things and I had a job that came with a lot of for-work travel, I was flying at least once a month and had settled into a business-traveler routine that was equal parts confident flyer and creature of habit. Maybe it was the extended airplane references, the familiar comfort of a well-loved album that’s been with me through high school, college and adulthood, or how the whole 44-minute shebang typically filled the time from boarding to takeoff, but this album was a staple of my plane-station experience.
It didn’t really change this album for me, though, like different ages and stages so often can. This is a decidedly mellow saunter through a suite of indie-rock tunes that can fade into the background or let me crawl inside for a while, depending on what I needed from it.
While “Florida’s on Fire” will forever reign supreme as my favorite among this collection of favorites, “Art Class” is one mighty close second. Though I had reluctantly abandoned my high-school art-class career after my junior-year Art Major 1 experience had me feeling pretty tepid about my contribution to the fine arts and nudged me headfirst into the literary ones by the time this song and I found each other, it did very much appeal to my love of other creative pursuits that were easy stand-ins making these lyrics still pack a punch. (Besides, my totally useful fine arts minor in college had me back in the art room and lending this song the entirely too self-aware enjoyment I always wanted it to be the soundtrack for).
Honestly, though, there’s nothing else of any real substance on my end worth saying. I love this song, the art-class connection an incidental though deeply appreciated bonus to someone who always took the arts more seriously than anything other subject; my senior year of high school was jammed with all the English, photography and writing classes I could take, setting the stage for basically my entire college experience. There’s a lot to love about the lyrics that I could self-indulgently ruminate over but does anything else matter when you’ve got a line like “So shit in a can but your art is not free” followed by the next verse’s “And yes it does involve shaking your ass”?
Plus, the titular name drop has been an excellent little mnemonic that I’ve whipped out on more than its fair share of crosswords and Jeopardy! rounds. And no one loves trotting out seemingly impressive culture-trivia quite like the kind of person who thinks majoring in writing and minoring in art is a good idea. (But also, definitely check out Yayoi Kusama’s stuff, especially if a lifetime of being within geographic proximity to Philly Art Museum’s clearly contagious penchant for kinetic sculpture vis-à-vis Calder-as-decor has gifted you a deep-rooted fondness for immersive installation pieces.)