Jennifer dates a man in a '60s cover band
He's the Ess-dog, Sean if you wish
She's eighteen, he's thirty-one
She's a rich girl, he's the son
Of a Coca-Cola middleman

Kiss when they listen
To "Brothers In Arms"
And if there's something wrong with this
They don't see the harm
In joining their forces and singing along

See those rings on her toes
Check that frisbee in his Volvo
It's a Volvo with ancient plates
They've got a dog she named Trey
A retriever with a frayed bandanna around his neck

Trey has a window into their relationship
The baby talk voices
And the post-Class A nasal drip
But it all seems to function
At least in the dog's mind

Let me out of here
Let me out of here
You got to let me out of here
You got to let me out of here
Let me out of here, out of here
Out of here, out of here
Let me out of here, I'll hit the ground running
Running...

Jennifer left for school up in Boulder
And that Ess-dog came to visit when he could
But the strain was too much
They could not make up for distance
And the distance between their years

Neither one listens to "Brothers in Arms"
The Ess-dog waits tables, and he sold his guitar
Jenny pledged Kappa and she started pre-law
And off came those awful toe rings
Off came those awful toe rings


Lyrics submitted by Kez, edited by embassyrow

Jenny and the Ess-Dog song meanings
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11 Comments

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  • +2
    General CommentThis song always reminded me about the relationship between Gary Young and the rest of Pavment and how they eventually grow out of Gary.
    fatkid1041on December 13, 2006   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI also picked up on the similarity to Elliot Smith's "Say Yes", but I wouldn't call it the exact same melody. My interpretation:
    My interpretation of this song is that Jenny is a young girl who goes to see a local (likely Grateful Dead) cover band. Sean is in the band, and young Jenny is impressionable at the age of eighteen and believes that he has the answers to what she needs in her life. If you are familiar with Grateful Dead/Phish/"Jam Bands", you know that a lot of their fans tend to be wealthy kids who are looking for meaning in life, hence Jenny being a "rich girl", and Sean is the son of a Coca-Cola middleman. These are two people, who despite their age, have a similar mindset and worldview. They aren't quite sure what to make of their lives.
    "Brothers in Arms" is a Dire Straits song, released 13 May 1985. Their relationship revolves around the music that they listen to and it is an important element of their relationship.

    "And if there's something wrong with this
    They don't see the harm
    In joining their forces and singing along"

    Jenny and Sean are living in the moment. Knowing Malkmus, this lyric is likely ironic, but it could very well be sincere. Like the hippies of the 60's whom they imitate with their lifestyles, they feel like they are apart of something.

    "See those rings on her toes
    Check that frisbee in his Volvo
    It's a Volvo with ancient plates
    They've got a dog she named Trey
    A retriever with a frayed bandanna around his neck"

    The rings on her toes is imagery of Jenny's "style/fashion". She is the "free spirit" type, at this point. Frisbees and Volvos, are also very clear references to the types of people who "tour" with these bands. The Volvo is very old, and therefor has "ancient plates". The dog who Jenny named Trey is a reference to Trey Anastasio, the lead guitarist/frontman of Phish. If you've ever been to a Phish show, you know it's not uncommon to see the lot kids bring their dogs.

    "Trey has a window into their relationship
    The baby talk voices
    And the post-Class A nasal drip"
    Malkmus is being tongue-in-cheek with this first line of the stanza. He could be talking about Jenny's dog Trey, but I think it's more likely that he's actually referencing Trey Anastasio himself. Anyone familiar with the audience Malkmus is alluding to in the song knows that they enjoy illicit substances. It is possible the "post class-A nasal drip" is a drug reference, maybe cocaine. Some obsessed fans might even believe that Trey "understands" them on a level that others do not. Malkmus is pointing out how ridiculous this is, but "But it all seems to function
    At least in the dog's mind"

    "Let me out of here
    Let me out of here
    You got to let me out of here
    You got to let me out of here
    Let me out of here, out of here
    Out of here, out of here
    Let me out of here, I'll hit the ground running
    Running..."
    The relationship at this point has run its course. Jenny feels like she is being suffocated, so to speak, and this is her way of telling Sean she needs space.

    "Jennifer left for school up in Boulder
    And that Ess-dog came to visit when he could
    But the strain was too much
    They could not make up for distance
    And the distance between their years"
    Jennifer decides to go to school in Boulder, which in itself is known for being a part of the culture that this whole song has been playing on. At this point, they are in a "long-distance relationship", and they are seeing that it fails not just because of the distance geographically, but the difference in their maturity.
    "Neither one listens to "Brothers in Arms"
    The Ess-dog waits tables, and he sold his guitar
    Jenny pledged Kappa and she started pre-law
    And off came those awful toe rings
    Off came those awful toe rings"
    The final verse shows the changes that have occurred over time in the personalities/relationship of/between Jenny and Sean. Even when they listen to their "song" ("Brothers in Arms"), they still can't seem to feel the way they used to feel about each other. Sean has given up on his dreams of playing music, and has faced his reality: waiting tables. Jenny has decided to become a sorority girl in college, and she has stripped herself of her toe rings, both physically and metaphorically. She has decided to start "Pre-law", which is pretty much on the other end of the spectrum compared to where she was in the first verse.

    Anyways, that's my take.
    malkmuslyricson March 22, 2015   Link
  • +1
    General Commentjenny is kurt and the ess dog is his guitar or his hair
    teffjweedyon June 10, 2015   Link
  • 0
    General CommentGreat tune -- pretty straight forward, obviously. About two people in a relationship that's going nowhere because of the age gap.

    Sean reminds me of a friend of mine from high school, who at age 27, started dating an 18 year old -- they ended up parting ways because she went to school, much like Jenny.

    Jenny obviously changed, and is happy to have done so "off came those AWFUL toe rings"
    bagofbeefon October 21, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI'd like to know what happened to Trey.
    amberbreathon January 22, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOne thing the end of the song doesn't answer. What happened to Trey? Who kept him? Does he still have the bandana?
    wefflemaston July 29, 2015   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationI always though Malkmus was the "S" dog. This writer agreed:

    magnetmagazine.com/2001/04/01/stephen-malkmus-being-stephen-malkmus/

    (This is the part of the story that’s in parentheses. It’s just a theory, and Malkmus, notoriously reluctant to reveal himself in his songs, would never admit this, but I think the song “Jenny & The Ess-Dog” from his solo album is really about their relationship. Some of the names have been changed, but you don’t need a secret decoder ring to figure out who the “S” Dog is. Even though the facts have been disarranged—“She’s a rich girl, he’s the son of a Coca-Cola middleman”—the song has the same vibe Malkmus and Larimer give off when they’re together. It sounds like summer, like falling in love. It’s the catchiest song he’s written since “Cut Your Hair.”)
    --------------------------------
    back to my thoughts:
    SM is the son of an insurance salesman. He says he never writes anything literal, but that's not far off.
    engravementon March 07, 2016   Link
  • -1
    General CommentThis song reminds me of a ton of people I know. Kind of like that yuppie/hippie/trendy person. I love the part about Brothers in Arms, which is a Dire Straits album. I m also guessing the Golden is named after the lead singer of Phish. Question: Did Jenny make up Seans nickname(ess-dog)?
    taffurs888on October 30, 2004   Link
  • -1
    General CommentI always found the ending of this song to be very sad.
    Quonseton March 15, 2006   Link
  • -1
    General CommentGood call fatkid, I've thought the exact same thing.
    Quonseton April 25, 2007   Link

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