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The 300 Best Guided By Voices Songs: #300 “Not Behind the Fighter Jet”

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Some of you may believe that I chose this song as the 300th best of the 983 Guided By Voices songs in my collection simply because I’m pandering to Farley … and you’d be partially correct. This song is both great and has fighter jets in it, as you can hear for yourself below:

More importantly, it’s a moving — if sloppily done — adaptation of William Butler Yeats’ “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death,” which is a poem, and a good one at that. Granted, it lacks the chiasmatic magic of the original and the First World War context, but other than that, it’s about fighter jets, which the Yeats poem is also about.

In all seriousness, though, the two lack any connection other than their fatal airiness, but what makes Robert Pollard’s lyric here so moving here is the contrast between the grandiosity of faux-narrative and its narrator.

A wounded mercenary bleeds,
In the hall of fantastically fine things.
Where the path of glory leads,
Lately, I think it’s grown too hard.

As I’ll say countless times, no doubt, depending on how long I pretend to be doing 300 of these, I do believe Pollard tossed this lyric off.

He went big when he was half in the bag, probably, with tales of mercenaries and their fine halls, but sobered up, pulled back, and admitted that even lying about his exploits proved too hard. Which, admit it, is what humanizes this track in the first place.

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