Some of my favorite childhood memories take place in the backseat of my mom’s blue minivan, music blasting and windows down with me and my sister’s hair whipping around our faces. Without fail, when we got in the car and the local alt-rock WFNX radio station was on we knew we were in for a good time. We didn’t have your average pop and classic rock household and as the music-snob of a kid that I was I took great pleasure in not having a “mainstream” artist anywhere near my top five list. With artists like The Pixies, Houndmouth, Joy Division, Young the Giant, Radiohead, and The Clash being the soundtrack of my childhood, it’s no wonder alt-rock still holds a special place in my heart.
To this day, certain songs comes along that instantly transport me right back to these formative years of my music education, knowing that they would have frequently graced the WFNX waves if the station still existed today. Pepper Said’s “Pretty Funny” is one of those songs. Don’t be fooled by its ethereal, siren-esque beginning; as the first words are sang its undeniably alt-rock foundation is crystal clear.
“How did you get here / I thought you lived in 2016 / And how is your existence / Still so persistent / When I’m so different”
Heavily driven by a strong and persistent percussive beat and crystalline vocals, the listener feels instantly pulled into a story rooted in the past. There is an underlying sense of repetitious anger; a bridled, roiling frustration that is being dredged up by a trigger yet again. You feel as if you have been pulled into the middle of an argument that had existed long before your first listen. Although the overall sound is rather upbeat and driving, the careful stiltedness of biting off of words results in an eclectic amalgamation.
“Pretty funny / I took her screams so seriously, she was so angry / Pretty funny that she took me seriously, I was pretty crazy / Really funny”
With each repetition of the chorus, there is a growing sense of there really not being anything funny about it. “Funny” seems to be used almost used as a word of coping, a band-aid used to plaster a situation that contains more pain than humor. A feeling well-known of human existence, sometimes it is all we can do to laugh through the sting in order to make progress forward. Full of blunt fervor, there is never a moment of pause.
“I was sick of choking each morning / On her old words coming up again / And my teeth they were cracked they were broken / From the stale words, that I never said / Lips were chapped from trying to revive the dead”
Progressing throughout the duration and piquing in this final verse is the stark imagery of a struggle that has worn long and hard on its victims. The hint of morbid humor we first tasted in the chorus solidifies by the end, revealing the limitation of just how raw, honest, and jocular “Pretty Funny” truly is.