A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
Track #47 on Thommy Ford’s Playlist
I like to think of “Range Life” as one of those the-road-is-so-tough songs. You know, like Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page” but for gen x’ers. It’s got a great ’90s slacker vibe about it, not to mention some gossipy alternative band bashing too.
The lazy pace and driftless music are really the perfect setting for the lyrics, which have frontman Stephen Malkmus (or, as I’ve heard suggested, some kind of aging roadie character) complaining about the demands of touring and claiming “if I could settle down I would settle down.” In between laments for not having made some more traditional life choices we get a few nice poetic passages, including an evocative little skateboarding scene: “Out on my skateboard/The night is just hummin’/And the gum smacks are the pulse I’ll follow/If my Walkman fades.”
What’s made the song famous is really the last verse, in which Malkmus seems to take shots at fellow alternative darlings The Smashing Pumpkins and The Stone Temple Pilots.The lyrics aren’t directly insulting at all, yet they could be, maybe… I mean, would Billy Corgan be peeved about it to this day, if they weren’t?
Out on tour with The Smashing Pumpkins
Nature kids, like they don’t have no function…
The Stone Temple Pilots, they’re elegant bachelors
They’re foxy to me are they foxy to you?
I well agree, they deserve absolutely nothing
Nothing more than me
I’ve always suspected that the “no function” line is really just a failed, ill-formed attempt at a math joke about those annoying “zero” t-shirts Corgan was always wearing—but maybe that’s just my nerdy way of making a perfunctory rhyme seem clever. I can also see how a line like “they deserve absolutely nothing/Nothing more than me” might seem more likely from a roadie character than Malkmus. But whatever, deliberately insulting or not, it’s still a perfect little piece of ’90s rock, and the references to other alternative groups only make it more so.
Review by Matthew