Linda Treiber

Linda Treiber
April 04
a.k.a. Linnnn
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SEPTEMBER 30, 2011 11:18AM

Pumped Up Kicks

Rate: 55 Flag

Driving my daughter to school before dawn yesterday, after the daily slap fight to control the tuner, I found myself enjoying a song she had chosen on the radio.  That alone was a miracle with the gravitas of a full galaxy convergence, but this song was good.  It had a fresh infectious beat and some auto tune effects limning the vocals in a creative way. 

The lyrics caught me too.  Something about a “cowboy kid” rolling his own cigs. 
Robert's got a quick hand.
He'll look around the room; he won't tell you his plan.
He's got a rolled cigarette, hanging out his mouth, he's a cowboy kid.

We were cruising along to this tune, bobbing our heads and I lost track of the lyrics in favor of the cute pop beat and the actual riff of whistling threading through the melody.
“I really like this song. I guess that’s the kiss of death for it then?  If I like it, it must be crap, right?"
She looked at me like I’d fatally fired a rogue synapse. “No, Mom. I like the song, but ‘like’ might not be the best word here…” I hardly heard her. I opted instead to lose myself in the tune again, bopping down the road with my surly daughter.

Yea, he found a six shooter gun.
In his dads closet hidden in a box of fun things, and I don't even know what.
But he's coming for you; yeah he's coming for you.
Cowboy kid.  Six shooter. I remembered when we played cowboys with our cap guns in the back yard with my cousins. I chuckled to myself about sharing some genetics with Jesse James, many degrees removed from the immediate family tree…

All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you'd better run, better run, outrun my gun.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you'd better run, better run, faster than my bullet.
Faster than my bullet?  Must be some reference to Superman. Faster than a speeding bullet. I spent a few seconds talking myself into some fantasy and out of what I had just heard. But then the story of it broke through the contagious beat.

Daddy works a long day.
He be coming home late, yeah he's coming home late.
And he's bringing me a surprise.
'Cause dinner's in the kitchen and it's packed in ice.
“Mom, you know what this song’s about don’t you?”  She was familiar with my expression, a face clench when something hideous just dawns on me.
“Not until now.”
“Well, it’s about an abused kid who shoots up his family and his school with his dad's gun.  You know, like Columbine."
The song was ending as I swung into the circular drive in front of Boone High. A silent stream of crusty-eyed disheveled teenagers shuffled by.  The sun was sending sprays of red above the horizon as my daughter jumped out of the car, adjusted her ass exposing low cut jeans, and threw her backpack over her shoulder. Red in the morning, sailors take warning...
She went to slam the car door…
“Bye , Mom. I love you.”
“Wait!” I blurted it out, a bee stinging my tongue.

I've waited for a long time.
Yeah the slight of my hand is now a quick pull trigger,
I reason with my cigarette,
And say your hair's on fire, you must have lost your wits, yeah.

I pictured myself jamming the car into park.
I saw myself running, (better run), and dragging her back into the car. I saw myself burning tire rubber to leave that god forsaken place where every angry looking kid with a backpack now haunted my mind; where every bitter bullied kid plotted mayhem to make "them all" pay for slights, real or unreal, finally attaining the kind of cool only a killer can earn. 

It wouldn’t matter if my daughter was a gentle unassuming shy person or the sharply witty, loud and sometimes confrontive personality that she is. She’d still be one of all the other kids.
I saw myself there to rescue her from it. But I can't.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you'd better run, better run, outrun my gun.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you'd better run, better run, faster than my bullet.

“I love you too. Be careful in there, ok?”

Thank you to Foster The People for their song Pumped Up Kicks.

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You did this really well. I often wonder if my parents had it easier because they had no clue what I was exposed to. r
Catchy tune, but once you know the meaning, it becomes a little haunting.

I liked how you put this in the context of your relationship with your own daughter, and your own fears.
Do you remember the song by Pearl Jam called Jeremy???
Good song scary lyrics..
This is one great song..

"Six shooter" I though you were at first listening to the 80's song by Appolonia 6??:)
Great song, and great post.
Foster the People got it right when they juxtaposed the catchy snappy music with the dark screed. All the hipsters will dance to it and never really know. For a bunch of beachy white suburban looking dudes, they knocked it out...
"I saw myself there to rescue her from it. But I can't. "

I often have that thought / feeling about my daughter. She is in her first year of college, living in the dorm 325 miles away. Happy for her as she is doing well. Afraid for her because I know what the world could do to her. I believe the schools she is attending lost 8 students last year for various reasons, and 1 already this year. Heck of a song. Thanks.
- well done, linnnn!

I used to be surprised that, at the beginning of every school year, there would be a section in the welcome package to remind us about security and lock-down procedures. It's sad that this is standard practice now.
This song has gotten a lot of air play and a lot flak. But don't worry its infectious pop beat will be forgotten like five minutes ago gum as soon as the next ditty comes aling. R
I heard two pharmacists discussing this tune the other day. One was appalled and had understood the lyrics partially. The other didn't believe the first one had heard it correctly.
That's how it's going to go around the water cooler.
I once had a minor argument with my nephew and godson about the violent lyrics in his generation's music, and he nailed me good. "Oh, you mean like in folk songs like Tom Dooley and Down by the Banks of the Ohio? He had me there.
I'm totally out of it when it comes to popular music, but I fully appreciate the skill of this post and the message. You did a great job, Linnnn. I think our parents probably freaked out about the Beatles et al. RRRRRRRRRRR
Great writing! I was with you all the way. The song? Well, I can't express what this topic means to me in a few words. Enjoyable post Linnnn--
I absolutely love this song and I figured out the words. Yea it's a scary world anymore.
A++ writing here, linda, and the subject makes my skin go cold for you and parents of kids in schools since the shootings like columbine happened. selfishly, i'm glad my kid is older and was out by then. and now there are songs about it? oy.
Wow, do I ever get this. And how well you told it. ~r
Putting the words "pumped up kicks" together this way is sheer genius. Beyond that I don' wanna know... Don' needta know. K? Yikes. No one, but no one can tell a story like this like you. No one. I could go on and on and on and... (as Con says, continued in the footnotes), but why? It would be like trying to explain why the funniest joke in the world is funny. It's just funny. Try to explain it and you get the kind of look your daughter gives you when you bumble into something like Pumped Up Kicks. It just is. K?
This is one of those "stick in your head" songs. Now I am doomed to be humming "pumped up kicks..better run better run..." all day!
My 25 year old son is a fan of punk and what I call rage rock. I was at his apartment a few weeks ago and flipped through his ipod to check out what he was listening to (old habit, I once banned The Dead Kennedy's from my house). I commented that this song seemed a bit "fluffy" for his tastes even with the dark subject. He told me that this band has a huge hot chick following and the shows are 3 to 1 girl to guy ratio.
I'm with you all the way on this. I thought it was so catchy, la la, then I 'heard' the lyrics. It's still catchy but in a new way. Our protection ends at so many doors...
Great post, Linnnn. I like the song a lot, too. If we rewrote the lyrics, I would be bopping down the road to it, too. Frightening direction we are headed in.

Haunting. I love the combination of lightness and deep fear here. As for the song, I don't know it but from the comments it seems like others do - as soon as my computer is behaving I'll try to watch the video you helpfully included. Reading this made me think of how I felt when I found out that Sarah McLachlan's song "Possession" is about a stalker.
I know. I was cruisin' along, jammin' thinking, "Oh, this would be awesome on a movie soundtrack." Then, I found the lyrics...
The Giant always claims that he understands that we parents worry . . . I don't think any kid really understands until he/she becomes a parent and has the worries. Kudos for controlling the urge to snatch your daughter back into the car . . . and for writing a fine piece, here.
Hadn't heard this song until now. Quite catchy. Found out a little more about it on Wikipedia.

I guess this is another reason I can be somewhat relieved about not having children.
Were you to drive teens and tweens to the beach to surf you'd have been hearing, and discussing with them, this song for months already. What it is is a warning to bullies.

I am, however, much more concerned with the many Moms I've seen singing Katy Perry in the car with daughters, some as young as pre-school. Now, this is scary:

There's a stranger in my bed,
There's a pounding my head
Glitter all over the room
Pink flamingos in the pool
I smell like a minibar
DJ's passed out in the yard
Barbie's on the barbeque

There's a hickie or a bruise
Pictures of last night
Eended up online
I'm screwed
Oh well
It's a black top blur
But I'm pretty sure it ruled

Parenting ain't easy, it requires the extra effort to stay on top of what the kids are into- (this is, admittedly easier for me at the beach) but you have to do it anyway. And, while it easy to want to be the fun parent and sing in the car, what the time behind the wheel really is is time your teenager can talk to you, and they can't get away!
My mom is 55 years old and I'm 36. We both love this song. Great that you acknowledged it here.
Well, now I feel out of touch because I haven't heard this song before now. (Once your kids leave home it's a TRUE effort to seek out recent music. And I was good at it at one time!) I can imagine bopping your head to the catchy beat and then coming to understand what the lyrics mean -- and how much more they hit home when you're driving your daughter to school.
Great post. Congrats on the well deserved EP.
I swear to god- that song is stuck in my head for a week. Humming it non stop. I love it just the same now that I know what it's about.
Never noticed much abou the lyrics, just " all ther other kids... run.. Better run, Better run faster than my bullet."
Great piece. I love the idea about writing about a radio experience.
Perfect ending.
You capture the moment very well, and, if this makes any sense, very cleanly. As in there's nothing extraneous in the telling. Beside the juxtaposition of the bouncy melody against the grim lyrics, I like the choice of singing the verses through the handheld ... whatever type of mic that is. First off, it gives the singer, and hence that character in the song, a slightly non-normal sound. Second the mic is the type used with police loudspeakers, so there's a foretelling aspect to the song.
It's really, really hard to listen to the radio with my 11 year old these days. Fortunately, I don't think she's really comprehending the lyrics. But she does get some of it, and I agree with Oahusurfer that the KatyPerry-type stuff is very scary for parents with daughters.

Well done, I totally related all the way through.
neilpaul - A friend pointed out a Talking Heads tune called Psycho Killer that was cool in my youth. Parallels.
hugs,me - Neither did mine.
jane smithie - It's catchy in an ear worm kind of way, isn't it?
Cranky - Although I think my daughter is capable of defending herself well, there are things beyond her ability. That's what scares me.
Linda - Jeremy? I'll look it up...
Leeds, jr. - Thank you for reading!
desert rat - I though it was supposd to get easier once they started walking and talking. Who knew how intense it gets as they pull away?
Catherine - Cops armed with tasers stroll the campus at Boone, and although it is ominous, I am gald they do.
Trudge - Yes it is a pop tune. I understnad Foster is a jingle writer so you are correct.
alsoknownas- You really kind of have to crank it up and listen closely to pick up on it...That's why water cooler talk is happening kind of by design.
Tom - As much as it makes me cringe, I love it when they have a good answer like that.
Bea - The Beatles and Elvis both made my Dad harumph and banish us from the living room when they appeared on Ed Sullivan.
Dr. Spudman - From you, I am so flattered.
micalpeace - You are a poet. The lyrics are pretty adept poetry, no?
Candace - High school appears to be much harder socially than when I was a kid. My daughter tells me things...
Joan - Thank you my friend.
Chicken Maan - I get you, dude, I see you.
keri - It sure does hang on, that tune.
itried - Foster the People are not hard on the eyes. The whole band looks like the bunch of guys my daughter hangs with.
mypsyche - You nailed it. The word I never could pull out while writing this was "protect."
Lezlie - The direction is being dictated by kids who, in the absence of stability, seek attention in the worst of ways.
alysa - Possession is a masterpiece in my humble opinion.
Razzle - Still, it could. Just not a goofy romance...
Owl - How hard it is to relinquish control as they take control of themselves...
Jeanette - Parenting is quite a journey. We'll keep you informed because for some of us (me) it tends to be all absorbing.
oahu - Those lyrics and some of the words sung by Rihanna floor me. But we talk about them so I know what her thoughts are...
Jonathan - I'm sure you'll be interested having been and administrator at a school.
Rei Momo - Thank you for reading me.
Bellweather - You are so correct. It was one hell of a convergence. My fevered mind just took off...
fernsie - The radio seems to have been there at many junctures in my life...Thanks for reminding me of that.
Stim - You have confirmed something i have been working on, so thanks! That is cleaning up and streamlining my writing style. Did you notice the effects in the beginning of the tune that sounded like buzzing, and the tight percussion all depicting the noise inside a troubled mind.
sweetfeet - Enjoy the 11 year old. The changes are coming hard and fast. Soak up all the kid love you can now...
Wow. What an intensely personal post, with the fears we moms have of dropping off our babies (sullen, mouthy babies wearing on-the-edge-of-inappropriate clothing, as far as my babies go, anyway)
at the local high school...really well done.
I've been haunted by Columbine ever since that day...
Your daughter sounds like a good kid. Perhaps she can introduce you to some of the rap artists, like Eminen and Common.
Congrats on an EP on an outstanding post, up there with your best!!
I had the same experience. Heard the song, LOVED IT immediately. Then actually listened to the lyrics... Wow. I realized quickly, at least to me, it's a reminder to be kind to all... An anti-bullying song. Great post, Linnn! Thanks for sharing.
Nicely woven slice of life.
Nicely woven slice of life.
O for the blithe teenage days of Mawell's Silver Hammer ;-)

I loved this, Linnnn, especially "Red in the morning, sailors take warning ..."
Almost what we used to call bubblegum music and just as infectious as it was...I did like looking at the young men singing.
I worry about this more than I should probably but working at a school we need to be ever vigilant and it sucks.
It is a very catchy tune!!
Oh, yes, I can completely relate to this! Really wonderful post, Linnnn. Deep breaths might just get us all through okay. At least that's what I tell myself. :)
So bands are still making songs that freak parents out? Thank God!
Anything goes in modern music. My daughter gave me a cd of Sujan Stevens and on it I listened to a song about John Wayne--Gacy!
I've a 16 year old and I know she is happiest when she is listening to music. Music at 5AM each morning and sometimes I'm bit shocked at my shy girl's taste of hard rap or tech music.

Wanting to call her back after those dern lyrics punched you. I get that.
Know why you have a following.

Danke. Rated.
The Boomtown Rats have them beat with:
(Tell Me Why) I Don't Like Mondays

Horace Mann Junior High. Missed that shooting by two years (thankfully.) They asked her why she did it and her response was:
I don't like Mondays.

I can relate to the intense sense of insecurity that one can derive from hearing a song like that as you're dropping your kid off to school. [Shudders]

Never heard the song -- then again, I have basically stopped listening to radio on the whole. The more I attempt to "tune in" to what's going on, the less excited I am to be living in this time. I see changes, though, and I expect another revolution of the soul in this country, similar in theme, but stronger, than the mid to late Sixties.

Let's all hope that I am correct.


I'm not so sure it's just a harmless song...some kids are susceptible.

It's a scary world these days. When my daughters were going to school, thank the gods, the concept of one of the kids shooting up the place was totally out of the realm of the conceivable. For parents today, it's an ongoing possibility - remote, perhaps, but real.
I could be wrong but it seems to me that the kids who put this kind of thought into words are a lot less likely to carry out those actions. My kids are grown, with kids of their own. Those kids go to school with other kids, kids growing up in homes where the theme is always hate. The punishment is always harsh and every influence in their lives is violent and cold. Kids are learning that there is no point in allowing for the differences in people and opinions. They are shown images of killing and force as the only acceptable means of maintaining society. We are living in a world where all must become the same and to be different is cause for humiliation and ostracism and ultimately removal from the population.

The song? Well it has a catchy melody and some fairly profound lyrics but it is a symptom not the problem. The problem lies in the way that our world has changed. When we can celebrate our differences instead of requiring conformity we might get back on track to making a world where we welcome each other and stop seeing differences as a threat.
I never have a clue!!!
I so get this Linn. What a great piece this is in so many ways.
Wow, Linn, you NAILED it with this post. Excellent, tight writing and vivid imagery. So very well done. You skillfully addressed every parents' fears and trepidation about letting our kids go forth into this scary world. Well-deserved EP!
Loved the song, loved the post. Loved the juxtaposition of lyrics & melody in the song, the song & the mom in the post. It was good enough that I didn't read too critically. And now you and the comments have sent me to you tube ... And I was going to listen to Linda Ronstadt today.

My most important parenting lesson: it just keeps getting harder once they start walking. (Except for 9-11, some part of which is universally great even with the hormones starting up.) And you will be amazed what they can get themselves through.
Ok, you can tell me if I'm taking this too seriously. I went to youtube and watched the Austin City Limits music festival long performance of this song. (Which was terrific.) Generally I find it creepy to watch mobs of people waving their arms in unison or holding up lighters and swaying in unison, reacting emotionally to music (or religion or whatever) and I've never joined in. I've never been a fan of the mosh pit, either.

At the end of this performance the lead singer jumped into the audience. They held him up and moved him around the crowd. Then the official security guys, wearing bright t-shirts labeled "SAFETY", wrestled him down and spirited him away. The singer acted with faith and trust in the mob, they reacted with cooperation and care, and officialdom interfered. There's something there for a deeper thinker than I but it gives me some faith in the kids, maybe even in the mob though I wonder if they would act just as cooperatively if they wanted to tear someone to shreds.
Okay, my computer is behaving for now and I could come back and watch the video...dude, for a subject so heavy, this is one disappointing clip! They could have done so much with it - just about ANYTHING is better than band footage and whatnot, when it comes to a song about something like this.
Great piece. I too like that song but had no idea what it was about, and maybe liked it better that way!
It's a great song. It even has a melody and a strong but melodic baseline. Enchanted, it took me two weeks to learn the name of the song and to get the video.

OK, I learned the lyrics do not describe Unicorns dancing with Winged Lions, Pooh Bear curing cancer, etc....

What's also interesting is even the video for the song is also a bit off, although it's off in a meaningful way. The members of Foster the People would be among those Robert would shoot. They refer to this 'fact' by showing band members kicking their heels, jumping, etc. Those dancing to the song also would not fair well.

Lou Reed would approve, I'd imagine.
How do you know it was about a kid shooting people up? The lyrics seem a bit vague. What the heck is a pumped up kick? Maybe it is a dark song about a sick kid, maybe it is deliberately vague high-school poetry that is supposed to shock adults, or maybe it is controversial so they can sell records. Last generations "shocking" song was "Jeremy" by Pearl Jam. The one before that was "I don't like Mondays" by the Boomtown Rats. Here's the shocker: they all sold very well. Don't put too much stock in a song. It's just a song they're trying to sell.
I didn't have time to watch the video last time. Damn, it's good!
rated this the other day but didn't comment. I cannot get this song out of my head- not sure if it's the catchy tune or disturbing lyrics.
Remember Sunny Came Home? "It's time for a few small repairs she said." *humming*
what is it in our nature that we celebrate the intersection of cheerfulness and destruction?
Pumped up kids can be fun...
[r] Linnnn, great writing, great message. thank you. libby