Some songs find a way to say the least profound things in the most profound ways.
It’s no secret that people use alcohol as an escape—a tool for a temporary departure from whatever reality they wish to leave behind. It’s also no secret that alcohol often fails to offer a real remedy, and instead, serves to compound the problems facing the person on the other end of the bottle.
Countless songs have been written about the struggle against alcoholism. Many of these songs are deeply personal and powerfully depressing, lending credence to the idea that, sadly, tortured artists are often the greatest artists.
The Handsome Family has a bit of “tortured” to them. One commentator described their music as “a safe place to express terrifying things.” Perhaps this explains why their song “Far From Any Road” was chosen as the theme for the eerie HBO series True Detective.
“So Much Wine” isn’t all that terrifying, but it is ugly. The lyrics tell a story of a plastered significant other who spends her Christmas chugging wine, wrecking shit, and passing out on the floor (been there). The verses describe the events as they unfold, while the refrain contains the advice that the singer whispers to his drunken companion. The advice itself isn’t all that revolutionary:
Listen to me, Butterfly,
There’s only so much wine
You can drink
In one life
But it will never be enough…
But what gets me about this song is not what the singer says but the way that he chooses to say it:
…To save you from the bottom of your glass.
To save you from the bottom of your glass…What a gorgeous way to say something so depressing.
To me, that single line showcases the immense power that music has to shine light on the darkness. It can take a depressing topic like alcoholism—a disease that has painfully affected nearly every person on the planet either through their own struggles or the struggles of a loved one—and turn it into something beautiful. The beauty, in this case, lies not in the disease itself, but in the truth that’s expressed about the disease, so plainly and so simply. Alcohol may seem to offer a temporary solution to whatever it is you are hiding from, but once the glass is empty and the buzz fades, the whatever still remains. Accompany that truth with a melody, an acoustic guitar, and a harmonica, and it’s almost enough to make you cry.
Like most songs, “So Much Wine” can speak to different people in different ways. For those who struggle with alcoholism, this song can offer both company and comfort, reassuring the struggling that they don’t struggle alone. For those who have overcome alcoholism, this song can offer redemption and a reminder of the journey that led to sobriety, and hopefully, a more meaningful existence. And for those who don’t struggle with alcoholism but still like knocking a few back, perhaps this a song to ironically enjoy a glass of wine to. After all, music always plays better to the tuned up ear.
Songs w/ Substance is a running segment that explores songs that say something meaningful about the world and the human beings that inhabit it. Aside from being good music, these songs provide powerful social commentary about the human experience—about what it means to live and love and laugh and die on this planet. These write-ups represent my reflections on those lyrics. If you would like to share your own, please do so in the comments section below.