Monday, September 14, 2020

Certain Songs #1913: Rhett Miller – “Happy Birthday Don’t Die” | Medialoper

Album: Rhett Miller
Year: 2009

For whatever reason, after calling his first two solo albums The Instigator and The Believer, Rhett Miller decided to self-title his third one, released in 2009. This is and of itself wouldn’t be anything, except he almost immediately started titling his next solo albums things like The Interpreter and The Messenger, making Rhett Miller really stick out in his solo discography.

So it’s possible that he conceived of Rhett Miller as being different from all of his other solo albums or maybe he decided he liked the previous naming convention, or something else entirely.

The planet is covered in steel
Yeah, the moon goes on wasting its light
While the widow is watching the reel
It won’t keep her warmed at night

Her children are light years away
Asleep as the ships hurdle on
Where she once had a reason to stay
But her reason is long gone

In any event, the most compelling song on Rhett Miller was the speedy glam-rocker “Happy Birthday Don’t Die,” which was sent in the year 2106, just six years before 2112, and I am arbitrarily declaring is set in the same universe. (And a reminder that there are people currently alive who will be listening to “2112” in the year 2112. Assuming we make it that far.)

There is some speculation is that the subject of the song is Miller’s own daughter, who was born in 2006, and has a quite a life in store for her.

She gave birth to seven grown men
Oh, and then they each had seven more
She would do it all over again
But the soles of her feet are sore

Nightfall is just an idea
It’s suppertime when she succumbs
The tiny pension is real
Plays on although she is done

Even with all the space noises and references to a dystopian future where one of her grandchildren is the seventh son of a seventh son — Jack White reincarnated! — the genius of “Happy Birthday Don’t Die,” is the catchy-as-fuck chorus.

Happy birthday, happy birthday, happy birthday
As we all go spinning off into the sky
Happy birthday, happy birthday, happy birthday
Don’t die, don’t die

I mean, even out of context, this is a pretty good birthday song, even if it might seem a little bit dark, what with the whole “don’t die” part at the end. But hey, that just makes it more real, and in a just world, this might even rival “Birthday” as a rock ‘n’ roll birthday song.

In any event, “Happy Birthday Don’t Die” has one more cool thing up its sleeve: after the final chorus, it comes to a complete stop, seemingly dead. After a few seconds, however, it revives and spends the next 90 seconds in dual guitar solo plus SPACE noises rave-up mode. It’s totally unnecessary, which just makes it that much more fun.

“Happy Birthday Don’t Die”

“Happy Birthday Don’t Die” Live in 2014

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