This is not A Drinking Song (in the grande style). It's not the California Drinking Song or the Irish Drinking Song; this isn't really even a drinking song, let alone the drinking song. Not surprising, really. But, despite the title, this is also not another drinking song. It appears on The Mighty Mighty Bosstones' 1997 album Let's Face It. The Bosstones are not known for fluffy ska lyrics; Dicky Barret's voice wouldn't carry throwaway lyrics very well. They tend to attack social and political problems in their songs, and occasionally personal problems. Another Drinking Song is a dark pun on itself, with a punchline you can dance to.

The first verse is quiet, all bass guitar, horns, and light cymbals, and only two chords, both minor. The first line is rhythmic, almost iambic, but each line thereafter is a little different in rhythm--not only does the verse feel off-balance, it's not the kind of meter you can sway your mug to. The internal rhyme and repetition add to the stutter-step feel of the verse, and just when you've got the feel of minor chords, the verse resolves on a major one.

The first chorus has guitar chords overlayed, and is more coherent, but still dark and minor, and sung with quiet plaintive backing vocals. The meter is more straightforward, but the A-B-B-A rhyme scheme is at cross purposes with rhymed couplets (the preferred rhyme scheme of drinking songs). To further separate the song from its title, the chorus is not upbeat (yet), it's not in a major key (yet), and the only reason you can even call it a chorus is because later on, the same words show up in the same order. Nobody will stomp and clap along with this section.

Whew! Bloody grim, that bit about calling a disease a "remedy". But now we're in the second verse, and at least the lyrics turn to singing, and pattern themselves on the first verse. So all's well? Not hardly. The song becomes hideously self-referential, as many drinking songs do--is he singing about this drinking song, or about another drinking song? The tone and lyrics are defiant, but who sings meaningless drinking songs defiantly? And in case you were wondering, just as in the first verse, there is a grand total of one major chord... the references to slurred speech ("if you can make the lyrics out at all"), comfort in repetition, and "belting out a ballad" should ring true with anyone who's been seriously drunk. A pint of bitter, indeed...

And then, pow, the chords get major. Is this the song he promised to sing? Listen to the song from the 2:07 mark on, and you might not recognize it if all you'd heard were the rest. He sounds almost gleeful as he celebrates his drunkenness, and the syrupy horns wag major chords at us in the gaps between lines. Perhaps this is another drinking song after all.

Countin' on a remedy I've counted on before!
Goin' with the cure that never fails me!
What you call the disease, I call a remedy,
and what you're calling the cause I call the cure.

The tempo doesn't change, but in the bridge the bass line and guitar blend together to play almost straight eighths, giving this section a feel of increased speed, and a moving tension. Where the rest of the song's suspense came from the feeling that it was hanging over you, the bridge is falling towards you, and fast. The lyrics at this point can no longer be ignored as inner monologue, and whatever he has to say, you'll listen to, because the rhymes ("devotion to a potion", "dedication to a medication") and the tune here are just that catchy.

And then from there, the song immediately hits a bright segue into another up-tempo chorus, with the same bitter, hopeless lyrics sung in earnest happiness, in hope, and in a major harmony this time.

Is he on the road to recovery? Can we take the triumphant tone of the last chorus with the same grain of salt that we took his defiance earlier? I think he is, and I believe we can--the decision to write the last chorus in a major key is more to allow the song to resolve musically. After all, if you can't sing the chorus loudly and boisterously at the end with the whole band playing fortissimo, it wouldn't be much of a drinking song, now would it?

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