Lord knows I love a good ditty. And this two-and-a-half-minute tune from Portland's own What Hearts is the very definition of a ditty: Catchy, short, with lots of little instrumental hooks. The melody is simple enough that you can sing along on the second listen, like "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" or "Mary Had a Little Lamb." It's purposefully, almost comically repetitive, musically, as frontwoman Julie Vitells spins a tale of (presumably sweet) old people getting older and older—but the verses are packed and busy.
The chorus of "That's the Way They Do Things Now"—repeated between tales of toothaches, broken legs, chain-smoking and living wills—makes me think of a fed-up daughter leading her elderly parents along as they slide through their seemingly unending twilight years. It's almost as if we're in one of these retirees' heads, subject to endless nagging and constant noise from a much younger and speedier generation. All we want to do is watch TV and smoke and drink these final days away, and this world keeps pulling us along with its insipid routines. It's enough to make a pissy old codger out of you.
When the song is all over, we're kind of relieved. The melody is repeated so many times, and without the relief of a bridge or instrumental section—it got a little rough there at the end.
But damn if we don't miss the melody enough to start humming it ourselves when it's over.
And maybe there's a metaphor there, but please don't make me find it. I just want to drink and watch TV.
What Hearts plays tonight at LaurelThirst with Celilo and the Lords Own Choir. 9 pm. $6. 21+.