OMGWTFLOL: Presidents of the United States of America – “Lump” (1995)
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 15, 2008
Is this song out of my head?
“When my kids ask what the 90s were like, I’ll just play them this song” were my words upon completing my first run through “Lump” on vocals in Rock Band 2 today (don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll have a full-er article on that one sometime later on). Back in the mid-90s, the Presidents were certainly all the rage, but now, it’s very, very hard to remember why this was. To say that they couldn’t have happened in any other decade would be something of an understatement–I think it was more like they were the living emobdiement of the excess fat of 90s culture, such a seemingly pointless cultural artifact that I’d even hesitate to refer to them as a band. Yes, “Peaches” was an OK song, but mostly because of the outro and the unexpected twist in the accompanying video. Beyond that, it’s all just bubble-over from the irony decade.
Listening to “Lump” for the first time in at least a half-decade, I was left unbelievably cold. It’s a song that just doesn’t do or mean anything. The lyrics appear to be designed to leave no impression whatsoever–non-sensical in their storytelling, quirky but not funny, so muddled in tone that it almost feels contradictory. They don’t even bother to rhyme correctly some of the time (“Mud flowed up into Lump’s pajamas / She totally confused all the passing piranhas”). And listen to the Wiki analysis of the song’s meaning:
The song gives a seemingly nonsensical description of a girl named or nicknamed “Lump”, from the point of view of someone who knew her personally (someone who may have been in love with her). Lump is, during the song, lying in a swamp. It is uncertain whether she is catatonic, unconscious, or dying. Her life, as it is described, seemed to have been a wasted one. She was probably either unintelligent or had possibly suffered mental deficiency from heavy consumption of alcohol or drugs, though the latter isn’t stated explicitly. It is also implied that Lump was sexually promiscuous.
So basically, the song is about someone named Lump, who is either alive or dead, and is probably sung by someone who knew her. Yeah, sounds about right.
Musically, you’re not given too much more to work with. It’s catchy, but not too catchy, memorable but sort of irritating, fast and rocking but certainly not to be confused with anythign resembling punk, and ultimately too short to be anything conclusive. Both versions of the video, too–the one where they’re singing in a “boggy marsh” (making the video appropriate for the song’s first five seconds and totally pointless after that) or the one above where they’re performing in silhouette, mixed with concert footage and shots of random people lip synching the chorus (apparently deemed too “dark and disturbing” for MTV, which is pathetic by just about any standards). It’s all just…nothing.
But hey, in a very real way, that was the 90s. Not everything was good. Not everything was bad. Sometimes stuff just existed, with no real cause or effect to be easily associated with it. This was the decade of alternative rock, after all, and alternative rock occasionally meant just that–rock that, for better, worse, or for nothing at all, just didn’t feel like all the other stuff. And that was OK. We didn’t have to like “Lump” for it to be popular. Sometimes American culture just decides that it’s time for a couple smart-looking but largely talentless musical pranksters to have a big national hit or two, about nothing, for no particular reason. And the 90s was the decade for the Presidents. And dear lord I hope that no one born afterwards ever has to hear them again.
Except for my eventual kids, of course–as the pop culture tastemakers and standard-bearers of the future, they need to know about these things so future generations are not doomed to make the same mistakes.
(Oh, and just because I know SOMEONE is gonna mention it, yes I am aware of the existence of a Mr. Weird Al Yankovic and that he happened to make a Forrest Gump-related parody of this song with an unsurprising title. It is perhaps the only Yankovic parody in existence to be LESS pointless than the song it is satirizing.)