Cheap and Cheerful by The Kills

Song of the week:

“Cheap and cheerful” is a British saying that means, according to Macmilliandictionary.com, “not expensive and of reasonable quality.” It’s generally conveyed as a good thing— or, at any rate, not a bad thing.

But in the Kills’ punchy track from the duo’s 2008 album Midnight Boom, “Cheap and Cheerful” is rejected wholesale in favor of something a little louder, rowdier, truer. The tune is both upbeat and minor key all the way, giving the boot to tidy societal expectations while celebrating individualism. It’s angry and empowering.

As vocalist Alison Mosshart sings in the chorus:

I want you to be crazy cause you’re
Boring baby when you’re straight
I want you to be crazy cause you’re
Stupid baby when you’re sane

Later, she snarls in the bridge:

It’s all right to be mean
It’s all right to be mean

For the Kills — featuring the American songwriter Mosshart on vocals, the Englishman Jamie Hince on guitar — this is, in many ways, a typically fierce tune. From its 2001 debut album Keep on Your Mean Side, the act’s long been known for its grit, extolling the virtues of authenticity while energetically flipping off the establishment. Their latest album was the 2016 release Ash & Ice.

With “Cheap and Cheerful,” the song’s full lyrics do not hold back, turning the whole notion of good behavior and cultural expectations on its head: the usual definitions of sanity and compliance are summarily tossed. Indeed, as Mosshart explained in a “Hardcore Humanism” podcast interview with clinical psychologist Michael Freedman, she’s found her own sense of purpose and definition of “normal” in her life on the road.

In the comments section below, please share your thoughts about the tune, its message, and finding your own “normal.”

–Amy Biancolli

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Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.

1 COMMENT

  1. Aside from the fact that I happen to like punk-ish music, I identify with this…my favorite friends and lovers were always folks many thought “weird.” I’ve always found myself drawn to intense, quirky people and have been considered so myself once you get past my unremarkable veneer!

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