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Mike’s Song of the Week: “Forest Whitaker” by Bad Books

Posted by Mike Moynahan on 09/24 at 10:07 AM

Bad Books is somewhat of an Indie/Alternative super group consisting of members from Manchester Orchestra and singer/songwriter Kevin Devine. The group released their debut self-titled album in 2010 on Favorite Gentleman Recordings, the record label Manchester Orchestra started themselves. It was well-received but was not as popular as the albums Manchester Orchestra and Devine released on their own. Their new album, appropriately titled II (referred to by some as Bad Books II) has already seen a bit more prominence, as the first single from the album, “Forest Whitaker,” was debuted by Rolling Stone on their website this past August.

The song opens with a heavy drum beat and record scratches before transitioning into lighthearted whistling that will be sure to get stuck in your head for the rest of the day.  Andy Hull, Manchester’s lead singer, and Kevin Devine share vocals on most of Bad Books’ tracks and “Forest Whitaker” is no different. “We started a fire that was never supposed to burn out,” starts Hull. From this lyric, the listener knows that although the musical portion of this song is happy, the vocals could steer us in a complicated direction.

We hear how the relationship began to break down in the next verse as Hull continues, “I started to fight with the neighbor next door and his pesky wife. You started a job that you hate when you’re sober and hate even more when you’re not.” The chorus follows this lyric with Hull, aided by Devine’s backing harmonies, saying “I know you hate me too. You always say you do”. Although coming to terms with a failing relationship could be very troubling, the whistling starts up again right as Hull finishes his affirmation of his significant other’s contempt for him.

From the first chorus on things keep getting both worse and weird. “You moved to Japan,” sings Hull, “thought a clean bill of health and a camera could show you the plan.” While one partner seems to be making the most of the recent separation, it seems the other is struggling as made evident by the next line, “I bought a bird that repeats what I say but ‘I’m lonely’ is all that he’s heard.” This line is both humorous and troubling. It’s rather funny to imagine a parrot or bird simply saying “I’m lonely” over and over again but it becomes very sad when the listener considers the source of that statement.

His former lover finds someone new. Hull describes, “the opposite me with a black motorbike”. Hull says he looked for new love as well but found, “it’s just like a movie whose picture is off with its sound.” After a while the ex-lover reaches out to the protagonist by trying to write to him but we find he refuses to write back. She even tells him she’s doing well and, “had a baby with biker and named him Forest Whitaker.” The song ends with Hull claiming he’s “laying low on a probable chance you convince me to give him a home”. It’s a rather sad end to a sad story as the final chorus reminds the listener how she always would tell him how much he was loathed.

This might be a sad song of love lost but the instrumentals are uplifting enough to make the listener forget that. Upbeat guitars along with the contagious whistling make for a great first single off of what is hopefully a great second album from this group. II is out on October 9th but until then you can check out “Forest Whitaker” below:

{name} Author: Mike Moynahan
Bio: Mike Moynahan is a senior majoring in English and minoring in Media Studies. In addition to writing, he co-hosts the Indie 500 show every Wednesday at 7PM on The LION 90.7fm. He enjoys watching T.V. (especially Breaking Bad), digging deep into the bowels of Netflix for instant viewing when he’s bored, reading and napping in his free time. No artists will ever be greater than the Beatles or Elliott Smith but he commends the rest of the pack for trying their best. Some of his current favorites include The Gaslight Anthem, The Weakerthans, Death Cab for Cutie, The Front Bottoms, Titus Andronicus, Arcade Fire, Built to Spill, Manchester Orchestra, Kevin Devine, The Hold Steady, Los Campesinos!, Bon Iver, and Coldplay. Especially Coldplay.


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