Song 174: Future Bible Heroes, “Keep Your Children In a Coma” (2013)

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“Keep Your Children in a Coma” nails parenthood in many ways, especially in encapsulating the mania that results from keeping a human alive. Stephin Merritt’s list of potential dangers is exaggerated, but not really; these are actual concerns: “you can’t let them go to school for fear of bullying little beasts/and you can’t take them to church for fear of priests.” Radiation, Big Oil, political unrest, melanoma, “good girls gone bad.” Nobody is safe, so why not consider Meritt’s modest proposal? Keep them alive, just asleep. It’s harmless!

Merritt is something of a satirist of human behavior, and his focus has never been sharper than in this song. Being a parent, especially a new one, is a terrifying idea. I have to keep this thing alive? How? What if something happens? How much of my awful behavior will they remember? The pressure is enormous, which is why you keep telling yourself crazy things. Eating dirt builds immunity! The f-bomb I just dropped will help her develop language! It’s okay to give them chocolate cake for breakfast!

The other thing I love about this song is how Merritt adopts an “Old Man Merritt” persona (or so I call it in my A.V. Club review of this record—shameless plugs!). “Life is hard for kids today, they have to program everything/Dude, they have to use computers just to sing,” sings Merritt (surrounded, of course, computer-made production). I also love that, as in other Merritt songs, the rhymes become something of a songwriting game: melanoma; Soma; know, ma. As a far inferior songwriter, I’ve struggled with many rhymes in many songs, and I love hearing what Merritt comes up with.

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