On the Occasion of their Apparent Breakup, Rilo Kiley’s “Better Son/Daughter”

07/14/2011 2:05 PM |

This is probably the quintessential Rilo Kiley video: Recorded at a 2005 concert somewhere in Pennsylvania, the band performs their best song, “Better Son or Daughter,” from their best album, The Execution of All Things. Like so many great rock and roll songs before it, it’s about overcoming something, a lot of things, actually. It’s full of promise and resolve, but it’s also born of massive self-doubt, without which there would obviously be no need for the mantras the song’s second part is built around. But back to the video: Jenny Lewis is in the foreground, well-lit and almost stone cold, but still very clearly aware that all eyes on her. In the background, guitarist and songwriter Blake Sennet moves in and out of the shadows—at times content to be left out of the spotlight and at other times totally starved for it. All the while the crowd, composed of some of the most dedicated fans indie rock has ever seen, sings every word. Before in-fighting and major label pressures knocked them so far off course, to the point where it seems they’re done forever, these guys understood as well as anyone what a certain breed of messed up kids were looking for.

One Comment

  • Aw, I was bummed to hear about this, even though it turned out to be only sliiiightly more concrete than anything else anyone in the band has said for the past two years or so (that is to say, it’s kind of weird that an interview is being treated as a break-up announcement, rather than the third or fourth kinda-confirmation that they’re done for now). “Better Son/Daughter” truly is a great song, and you describe a lot of what is great about it. I’d also say that they were pretty underrated as a live act — not just for the kind of beautiful stripped-down stuff like you showcase here, but as a pretty kickass full band. Blake is an especially underrated guitarist, I feel.

    It’s too bad they had to fall apart, although probably inevitable, more due to what seems like a pretty complicated Jenny/Blake relationship than their major-label woes. I feel like I’ve read multiple interviews where different members of the band all kinda try to make it sound like songs on Under the Blacklight weren’t really their idea somehow… but nothing short of signed confessions could convince me that WB execs were standing over them forcing them to write a Gloria Estefan riff. Anyway, too bad UTB will go down as their ruination, because there’s great stuff on it. “Silver Lining” and the title track are as beautiful as anything they’ve written. I like “15” a lot, too, even though apparently Blake does not. They obviously weren’t writing for messed up kids anymore; really, their evolution across four records while still sounding more or less like RK is pretty impressive. “Better Son/Daughter” is exactly the kind of song that can be especially diminished if you try to copy it a lot.