In 1984 I was hospitalized for approaching perfection.
Slowly screwing my way across Europe, they had to make a correction.
Broken and smokin' where the infrared deer plunge in the digital snake.
I tell you, they make it so you can't shake hands when they make your hands shake.

I know you like to line dance, everything so democratic and cool,
But baby there's no guidance when random rules.

I know that a lot of what I say has been lifted off of men's room walls.
Maybe I've crossed the wrong rivers and walked down all the wrong halls.
But nothing can change the fact that we used to share a bed
and that's why it scared me so when you turned to me and said:

"Yeah, you look like someone
Yeah you look like someone who up and left me low.
Boy, you look like somene I used to know."

I know you like to line dance, everything so democratic and cool,
But baby there's no guidance when random rules.

I asked the painter why the roads are colored black.
He said, "Steve, it's because people leave
and no highway will bring them back."
So if you don't want me I promise not to linger,
But before I go I've gotta ask you, dear, about the tan line on your ring finger.

No one should have two lives,
now you know my middle names are wrong and right.
Honey we've got two lives to give tonight.


Lyrics submitted by 3ric, edited by treceveces13

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16 Comments

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  • +2
    General CommentThe first and the second line are easy:
    He was "hospitalized for approaching perfection", because he was "slowly screwing his way across Europe", meaning he was traveling the world and enjoying himself. It was TOO perfect, and "someone had to make a correction". Whoever that someone is is irrelevant, the point is he was really enjoying life, and the good times can't last forever.

    It's the third line that gets me.
    Giannion November 13, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentBerman was born in 1967 so in 1984 he'd be approaching his 18th birthday. He could say it like that to maybe show he was young and arrogant? It could just be a joke. I don't know. It is a great song though.
    jandrewleeon October 13, 2007   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI don't know much about David Berman, but I know he's had struggles with drugs. The first verse, however, reminds me SO MUCH of my brother's struggles with bipolar mania. When in a manic state, "random" does rule, and the person believes they ARE approaching perfection, and can also be hyper sexual. The third line, about the infrared deer and digital snake is a mystery to me. The fourth line reminds me of how the heavy doses and powerful medications they put my brother on when he was hospitalized would actually make it hard for him to shake hands or interact with other people in general.

    I've got nothing to add on the second verse, but the third verse almost surely refers to Stephen Malkmus of Pavement, who was also a founding member of Silver Jews (along with Bob Nastanovich) and is playing guitar in this song. I wondered if the "black colored roads" was also a reference to P/pavement (after all that is the literal definition of what 'pavement' is).

    Awesome song. Somehow seems it could be a companion to "Range Life."
    engravementon March 15, 2016   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is a great first track to american water and very well written. Oh, and its deffinatly steve, one because he clearly says it and two because the speaker in the song is male and stephe isn't a guys name, it is?
    purplehaze8xon April 23, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentStephen is a real name. Steve is still the short form of it, though. You're thinking of "Steph" :)
    Tabrison August 12, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentSteve is prob a ref to Malkmus, playing the great guitar on this track, but singing it as if he were him
    iago galdstonon January 14, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI know its been many long years since American Water was released. And even though I ate up all the Pavement side project stuff like candy, this record is probably one of my favorites of all time. Since this is the first track, I figured I would say it here: Berman is one of the most gifted lyricists I have ever heard.
    couldBanyoneon February 23, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe best opening since Kinky Afro by The Happy Mondays. Fantastic.
    rubyoverdiamondson May 17, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI love this song but what does the opening line ("In 1984 I was hospitalized for approaching perfection") mean?
    Hurdy Gurdy Manon March 23, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentsuch a great opening LINE: "In 1984 I was hospitalized for approaching perfection."

    Though I have no idea what it means, bwah-hah-hah!
    jfrancison April 25, 2007   Link

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