Apathy: noun lack of interest or enthusiasm — ORIGIN Greek apatheia, from apathes ‘without feeling’.
Oh don’t look in those eyes
Bluer than blue
Rules on the rise
And if I wear apathy‘s crown
Don’t call me highness
It’s a long way down
(Michael Penn, ‘Long Way Down’)
Watching a promo for New Zealand-born director Christine Jeffs’ new film Sunshine Cleaning recently, I noticed that the soundtrack was arranged by Michael Penn, an artist that I’ve been following for around 15 years now. Penn, the talented brother of actors Sean and Chris Penn, came to prominence in 1990 when he won Best New Artist at the MTV Awards, but like several other artists I’ve posted about here, he’s never attained the fame that is his due.
I first came across Penn through his 1992 album Free-For-All, and I instantly fell in love with his songs – particularly their melding of slightly off-kilter lyrics with a rare sense of how to construct a great tune. Later I found out that he’d married fellow singer-songwriter Aimee Mann, who I’d also been following for years, and it seemed a perfect match. Now if I only lived in the US and could track them down on a joint tour!
In Long Way Down (Look What The Cat Drug In), the opening track from Free-For-All, Penn deploys the word ‘apathy’ to useful effect in his tale of jealousy. Admittedly, it’s not a fully-fledged 25-cent word – maybe only 15 cents? But it’s still a great song. Here he is performing it on an undated Tonight Show sometime in the 90s: