You can also listen to “Manhattan (I’m Done)” and the rest of The Grand Theatre Vol. 2 streaming on kxt.org.
JEFF: This song was originally known as “Grand Rapids,” and I think the name change was smart. Because while I am admittedly not familiar with that place, I feel like there’s an element of Manhattan that this song captures perfectly. That melancholy feeling of being alone in a place so crowded — this song just nails it. The word that comes to mind on this one is “mature.” It’s the product of a band in full control of its abilities, one that’s capable of tackling damn near any genre and making it their own. What I hear in this song is the perfect melding of Rhett’s solo style and the sound of the Old 97’s. It’s a song that wouldn’t have fit on any of the band’s albums from the 90’s, yet works perfectly here. It’s a beautiful little number that sticks in your head, a catchy melody that belies the sorrow in the lyrics. There’s an easy, groovy vibe, with a guitar sound I’m not thinking we’ve heard Ken use before (see his note below). It’s definitely a highlight on this album, and easily one of my top three songs on it — and that’s coming from a guy who normally prefers the rockers.
MARIE: Warning: Gushy Fangirl Alert.
I absolutely LOVE “Manhattan (I’m Done).” I cannot get enough of this song! Seriously. It’s become my go-to track. I don’t know if it’s the catchy, Kinks-ish power-pop melody, or the way in which Rhett delivers the lyrics with a whisper or how I find it impossible not to feel upbeat while singing its darker-toned sentiments.
saddest of Saturday mornings
thinking what I shouldn’t be thinking
thinking how it could have been
Whatever it is, I can’t bear to hear Ken’s last note linger without at least three or four consecutive replayings. I’m like a petulant child, torturing her parents on a long drive with the constant cry of “again, again, again.” Thank God I’m usually in my car alone, right? This gem bears all the hallmarks of the classic 97’s dichotomy, marrying misery to a ridiculously poppy beat.
Did I mention how much I dig the lyrics? I do, a lot. They aren’t complex, but for whatever reason this collection of words has struck a chord in me. Is the protagonist done with the rat race of the Big Apple or is he through chasing the elusive metropolitan girl he’s been seemingly stalking?
keeping it warm for the next guy
and I wonder where we go when we die
and I want to do it over again
I was watching you for so long
kiss me goodbye once and I’m gone
Manhattan, I’m done
I could quote on and on and on, but I’ll spare you. Go listen for yourself. There’s even a nod to the Psychedelic Furs buried in there. I think it is anyway. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go hit the repeat button one more time…
STEPHANIE: When I think of Manhattan and the Old 97’s, I can’t help but to think of the crooked man in TFTC‘s “Broadway” or Holden Caulfield’s disgust with the phonies of Catcher In The Rye.
Manhattan is known for swallowing souls and spitting out cynical shells. This song sounds like a melancholy break-up song, (in a stoic Brit pop, upbeat tempo sort of way,) but in the end, I think it is more bittersweet than absolutely sad. After hearing a song about a rebel, the actor, and a creepy boyfriend, “Manhattan, (I’m Done)” is a nice visit from Rhett the romantic.
It’s the saddest of Saturday mornings, but unlike the typical jaded New Yorker, this Manhattanite makes a clean cut (kiss me goodbye once, and I’m gone) from “the scene” (I was watching you through windows, restaurant tables, all those candles) and does not give up on the idea of a simpler time and place.
I believe in white tuxedoes, blue moons, and early Beatles.
This song beautifully conveys a heart that is broken, but not irreparable.
KEN:* The coolest story on this current session was on this song “Grand Rapids.” The song is very sad. Rhett sounds miserable on his vocal and I remember the day he wrote it. He was not happy. But we just aren’t a sad band. The basic track (bass, drums, acoustic, vocal) was just melancholy. I had tried twice and failed to dress it up. Once sort of 70’s jazz style and once sort of big open ‘The Who’ chords. Both failed. I was running out of time and was freaking out that I was going to have nothing. On a Saturday night I woke up at 4am and for two hours fretted. I finally came up with what I thought might be a reasonable solution. I was going to ‘Belle and Sebastian’ it. (BTW, this is really the way we talk. As in, I ‘AC/DC’d’ the big chords towards the end of “The Easy Way.”)
I got to the studio a few days later and laid down some really nice sounding Belle and Sebastian tracks using Salim’s Rickenbacker through a Princeton. Then on a whim we decided to lay down some spaghetti western style guitars on the bridge and then the back half of the song. Sounded marvelous. The coup de grace, however, was added when Salim suggested to add what he called ‘Jackson 5’ style rhythm chords underneath the solo and then at the end of the song. I’m talking about those kind of little ‘clinky’ chords you hear underneath tons of 70’s soul songs like “Love Rollercoaster.” When I was first starting to play guitar, I was told those were called ‘street chords.’ I’m not sure if that’s true or not but suffice to say it was the first time I got to play that way in the 97’s.
Anyway, the guitars on the song are just terrific. In my top ten all time I’ve ever done. It just works so beautifully with the song, as it still starts out just Rhett and an acoustic, all sad, and ends with a total Belle and Sebastian/Spaghetti Western/Jackson 5 party. Kind of like something the Clash would have put on Sandanista. I hope people like it.
* Originally appeared in this post.