I have been struggling with what is so powerful about this song for a while now. There’s something shamanistic and incurably psychedelic about Gold Lion. My temptation is to say something narcissistic about knowing what Karen O is trying to tell us. Those attempts at relating to her message come out something like this:
“Karen O what are you trying to tell me? There’s only darkness and wind. We have inherited this hopelessness. We are the misunderstood. Rejected even by ourselves. Destined to be misrepresented in our every success and jeered in our failures. Tempted to live our whole lives in disguise rather than approach true expression. Dry, barren, cold or unbearably hot. Gold Lion has a secret about where the light is. But it seems so impossible. I search the darkness. Impenetrable…”
It’s so terrible it’s almost embarrassing. I struggled around in this vein for a long time trying to get at the essence of the song. Why do I feel so damn cool when that incredibly sparse drum beat begins? And finally that question did it for me.
Gold Lion is so unbearably cool. I want to be that cool. I want to know what she’s saying. I want to know every nuance of meaning behind those Karen O bangs. I want to write 1000 words trotting out my punk street cred and why it’s me that knows what she’s saying. I want to be elevated to the status of punk saint because of my understanding of the deeper cultural significance of the Gold Lion. Then I’ll explain what the light is that the Gold Lion knows the location of. I would trace this song’s origins backwards through all alternative and punk history. I would be able to draw analogies that reference Sonic Youth and Iggy Pop and David Bowie and Johnny Rotten and Patti Smith and Nick Cave. I’ll even make sure to spell the names right so you understand that I actually owned their records.
I can’t help but even fail at my self referential circle jerk. Karen O is way cooler than I’ll ever be. Brian Chase is so hip that I can’t even begin to understand what makes him think he can get away with so much space in his grooves. Nick Zinner redefines guitar raunch with powerful riffs with enough space to drive a truck through. Nick’s so cool that every sound that comes off his rig sounds like he meant it. In Gold Lion, all of the ideas are simple. All of the execution is monstrous. I have no fucking idea what the song means, but every time the song comes on I feel my face changing shape.
This song makes me question everything I do. Have I made a right choice about what to do with my life ever? Isn’t there something else I should be doing? Shouldn’t I just get up and walk out the door and never turn back? Everything is so certain. That drum beat is the right beat and no it doesn’t need to be embellished. Gold Lion is going to tell her where the light is. Those guitars come and go as they please. Now I know what makes a moon without a tide. Cold desire.
I could go on but the song is over and I feel like throwing my guitar down and leaving the stage. My life is so completely uncertain. I want that kind of certainty. Show me where the light is.