10 Essential misfit love songs

Treble staff

Have you made your Valentine’s Day plans yet? Time’s a-wasting, though if you’re anything like most of us here at Treble, you probably don’t care for the cliche romantic gestures. A dozen roses and a heart-shaped box of chocolates? Thoughtful, certainly, but a lot of us are misfits at heart—freaks, weirdos, outcasts, or just not down with the mainstream way of doing things. So to honor the bizarre among us, we compiled a list of 10 of our favorite misfit love songs, be it those that glorify unapologetic badassery, speak to the geographic desperation that brings people together, or simply tell tales of freakish honeymoons. Love songs don’t have to follow the Hollywood script to be real—they just have to be honest. Or not. You can’t tell us what to do.


born-to-runBruce Springsteen – “Born to Run”
from Born to Run (1975; CBS)

“Born to Run” is the quintessential misfit love song. It’s the song that more or less can be said to have inspired all the others on this list and all the songs that didn’t make it past the shared Treble Google doc. “Born to Run,” Springsteen’s career-making 1975 anthem, is a love letter from one desperate loner to another, stuck in a dead-end town with no future but the possibility of what lies beyond its district boundaries. The Boss sings that “I gotta find out how it feels… I want to know if love is real.” Reaching that conclusion may be a long way off yet, but for the meantime, “Tramps like us” can get the hell out and figure out the rest later. If wild, impulsive escape fantasies aren’t romantic, I don’t know what is. – Jeff Terich


Damned - Machine Gun EtiquetteThe Damned – “Love Song”
from Machine Gun Etiquette (1979; Chiswick)

If you’re looking for a love song for a special sort of outcast, misfit, weirdo or freak, it’s hard to do better than the leadoff track from The Damned’s perfect third album, Machine Gun Etiquette. “Love Song” is exactly what it says it is in the title, but considering the lyrics are being crooned from kitschy vampire frontman Dave Vanian, naturally they’re going to be a little bizarre: “I’ll be the luggage if you’ll be the porter… I’ll be the rubbish, you be the bin.” Doesn’t take too much effort to see some double entendres in there, but while it’s not an obviously obscene song, it’s definitely a cheeky one. This isn’t how the romantics pitch woo, but that doesn’t mean this goofball punk love is any less valid. – Jeff Terich


misfit love songs the replacementsThe Replacements – “Customer”
from Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash! (1981; Twin/Tone)

The 1981 classic Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash! was sonic proof of The Replacements’ idiosyncratic tendencies. At the time, the album existed on the fringes of hardcore, materializing through four Minneapolis boys’ blind pursuits of guiltless self-discovery. “Customer” may be Paul Westerberg’s most innocent, straightforward confessional. The song bluntly portrays the dynamic between a customer and his unreciprocated love interest behind a counter of a convenience store. It’s genuine, yet frank. And when it comes down to it, it’s kind of hilarious. Westerberg paints an incredibly vivid image of romantic self-consciousness as he hopelessly grasps to the feeblest attempts to strike up conversation: “Yea can I get change?/Uh, where are the Twinkies?/What’s on sale?” – Patrick Pilch


misfit love songs die die my darlingThe Misfits – “Die, Die, My Darling”
(1984; Plan 9)

Well, it is a list of misfit love songs, right? So why not an actual love song by The Misfits? I suppose that’s a little misleading. “Die, Die, My Darling” is technically a love song of sorts, and maybe even a romantic one. But like all of the ghoul-punk band’s tracks, it’s morbid in a b-movie kind of way, coming across more like the last words the titular “darling” would hear before being murdered. But Glenn Danzig makes it clear that they’ll not be parted permanently: “I’ll see you again…I’ll see you in hell!” Romance is dead. Literally. – Jeff Terich


misfit love songs  Magnetic FieldsMagnetic Fields – “Take Ecstasy With Me”
from Holiday (1994; Merge)

On “Take Ecstasy With Me,” from the Magnetic Fields’ fourth album Holiday, things take an ominous turn. The first verse is innocuous enough, as sadsack romantic and proverbial misfit Stephen Merritt remembers when “you used to make gingerbread houses [and] we used to have taffy pulls” over woozy, melancholy indie-pop. In the second verse, however, as he recalls that time when “a vodka bottle gave you those raccoon eyes,” Merritt’s vague longing becomes lucid. (And if it wasn’t explicit enough there, he spells it out quite clearly in the next line: “We got beat up just for holding hands.”) And yet, it feels off-the-mark to reduce the entire point of this song to an unfortunately memorable instance of homophobic violence; Merritt is more clever than that. Take the titular chorus line “take ecstasy with me”; is Merrit trying to revitalize a dying romance? Trying to celebrate and enjoy some of their last remaining days? Or just wanting to have some fun in general? (The song does sound a bit more optimistic during the chorus.) – Ben Braunstein


Nick Cave albums Let Love InNick Cave and the Bad Seeds – “Do You Love Me?”
from Let Love In (1994; Mute)

Nick Cave can be incredibly romantic and emotionally tender in his songwriting. He can also be dark and terrifying. The leadoff track from personal-best album Let Love In is a bit of both (and there’s a number of other darkly wonderful songs from the Cave oeuvre that would work here). Through its four verses of haunted chamber-goth, Cave combines a profound devotion to a paramour with an overbearing sense of horror that creeps up in subtle ways, whether it’s Cave’s description of his love as having “a heart full of love and devotion” and a “mind full of tyranny and terror,” or the description of “crazy bracelets on her wrists and ankles.” She’s perhaps not what she seems, and when the bells from the chapel go jingle-jangle it’s as scary as it is celebratory. So perhaps the question of “Do you love me?” is one that’s for the protagonist’s own survival. You can’t help who you love, no matter what kind of beast they harbor inside. – Jeff Terich


Sleater-Kinney Call the DoctorSleater-Kinney – “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone”
from Call the Doctor (1996; Chainsaw)

After the first two Sleater-Kinney albums, Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein began to write songs with a deeper emotional resonance and more personal reflection. Yet before the heart-on-sleeve songwriting of “One More Hour,” Tucker took on ideas of romance with a cheekier, punk-worshipping perspective. This highlight from 1996’s Call the Doctor is the band at their their most endearingly silly, flirtatiously playing rock star for fantasy: “I wanna be your Joey Ramone/pictures of me on your bedroom door/invite you back after the show/I’m the queen of rock and roll!” It’s an innocent, teenage kind of role-playing, though one that has appeal no matter what stage you find yourself. When has rock (or punk) stardom ever not been a turn-on? – Jeff Terich


misfit love songs Kate NashKate Nash – “Sister”
from Girl Talk (2013; Have 10p)

A highlight off of one of the best feminist pop albums in the last decade is “Sister,” as conflicting a love song as you can get. In it, Nash sings about hurting one lover in favor of another, and having nowhere to turn once she was hurt herself. The song starts with bass and vocals, and you can hear the drumsticks being picked up after that first verse. The chorus, which describes the neediness well (“I wish that you would pick up the phone ‘cuz I could really do with talking to you right no-o-o-o-ow“), is repeated five times, increasing in intensity with each turn, as if Nash hopes that the louder she screams, the more her own discarded love will be inclined to pick up the other line. Driving the point home, the final chorus is shouted with just a bass to back her up. She lingers on the last syllable, one more gasp of hope before giving up. We’ve all been there, Kate. – Chad Gorn


best albums of 2015 so far father john mistyFather John Misty – “Chateau Lobby #4 (In C For Two Virgins)”
from I Love You Honeybear (2015; Sub Pop)

It’s a funny thing when you take offense at someone’s criticism of a song when you feel so oddly connected to it. Father John Misty has a way of rubbing people the wrong way as a result of his off-putting social media persona (which basically no longer exists), but on I Love You Honeybear he opened himself up in a sincere way that probably only makes sense to someone who has experienced the same thing. The love on “Chateau Lobby #4” sounds like Josh Tillman doing his trolling thing against a brassy arrangement and one of the catchiest melodies he’s ever written. But just beneath that cobra-wine-drunk facade is real vulnerability: “Baby, be gentle/ It’s my first time/ I’ve got you inside.” Satanic Christmas Eve, a wedding dress that looks like somebody got murdered in it—the absurdity no doubt might seem off putting, but I’m not here for the naysayers. If both my wife and I regret the song being released too late to end up on our wedding playlist, then it must be real. – Jeff Terich


Run the Jewels 3Run the Jewels – “Stay Gold”
from Run the Jewels 3 (2016; Self-released)

Every Run the Jewels song, no matter how politically minded or absurd, is essentially about how awesome Killer Mike and El-P. And hey, if you got it, flaunt it. “Stay Gold” is basically no different, a series of tag-team verses about getting paid and doing absurd acts of criminality: “We’re the crooks, we’ll run the jux and kidnap mom from Jazzercise.” Yet the song’s hook isn’t about literal gold, but the treaasure of having a one-of-a-kind partner. In Mike’s words, “Got a good thing with a bad bitch, and that’s rare bitch.” It’s a misfit love song that’s really more of a badass love song, which is actually more of a lyrical vamp with some memorable lines about being married to someone who doesn’t give a fuck. “We fuss, we fight, we fuck like freaks, what a fabulous marriage,” Mike says, driving the point home. Like the man says, that’s rare bitch. – Jeff Terich

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