Public Affection

The Death of a Dictionary

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The doe-eyed idealism shown on Live's 1991 debut album Mental Jewelry is prevalent on Public Affection's The Death of a Dictionary, which was recorded two years prior. There's just a hint of the Eastern spiritualism that dominates the band's later work, as the foursome was still in high school during this recording. Some of the lyrics are incredibly dated ("I don't mean to sound like a whale trapped in the ice") and some are unintentionally laughable ("Oh why does she water them/Paper flowers?"). There are also lots of boy-to-man references ("Raising a Man") and schoolish treacle ("Hands of a Teacher"), but that's to be expected of a 17-year-old songwriter who is starting to question life and his religious upbringing. Overall, it certainly sounds like a 1989 recording by a bunch of high school boys, but its serious topics foretell the band's future songwriting aspirations (no songs about girls or cars here). "Good Pain" is the only track that made it to a Live album, though "Ball and Chain," "Who Put the Fear in Here," and "Morning Humor" would have fit just as well on (if not improved) Mental Jewelry. Dated and full of boyish, utterly noble intentions, The Death of a Dictionary is for Live completists only. [Originally released on cassette; available on bootleg.]