Okkervil River

    Pop Lie


    In what’s becoming one of the band’s most fun traditions, Okkervil River has marked the halfway point of its recent albums with a disaffected yet irresistibly catchy pop song. On Black Sheep Boy’s clever “All The Latest Toughs,” songwriter Will Sheff throws his hands up mid-song, conceding to the listener, “I can’t think what lines you’d like me to sing or say,” so he pauses, allowing them to add their own (the lyrics sheet even included blank lines for them to fill in). “The Plus Ones,” a slice of rock-fan fiction from The Stage Names, Sheff imagines the casualties cropped from pop’s songbook, including a wayward 100th luftballoon, an unceremonious 17th candle and an ominous 51st way to leave your lover that “admittedly, doesn’t seem to be as gentle or as clean as all the others.”

    But “Pop Lie,” from 2008’s The Stand-Ins, is Sheff’s most meta song yet, a parable about “a liar who lied in his pop song, and you’re lying when you sing along,” which, of course, is so catchy that the listener can’t resist doing just that. It’s a clever tune, one of Okkervil River’s most accessible and the perfect gateway to this wonderful band. Here the track is given the CD single treatment with a couple of extras of interest only to fans: a “one man band version” of the title song and a new track, “Millionaire.”

    The alternate “Pop Lie” is a step above the usual demo or acoustic version, recasting the song with a slower, heavier arrangement that strips the original of its new-wave perk. “Millionaire,” meanwhile, is a drowsy dirge that captures Sheff at his most jaded and stern. Recorded sans band, it lacks Okkervil River’s usual energy, yet its a fitting thematic complement “Pop Lie,” casting the song’s charming, lying minstrel less flatteringly as a profiteering rock star. “Just this one time, I will believe him,” Sheff sings. “I know that it’s a choice, I’m aware but just don’t care.”