Davey Von Bohlen Might Be Rock's Cleverest Lyricist

Milwaukee supergroup Maritime, which merged emo cheerleaders the Promise Ring and the Dismemberment Plan, are blessing us with their newest album, Magnetic Bodies/Maps of Bones on Oct. 16 via Dangerbird. A standout trait of this band is the way Davey Von Bohlen manipulates language. He is their resident cunning linguist who loves to tinker with semantics and sentence structure. Here are some of our favorite verses of his:


“Light You Up” (Maritime, Magnetic Bodies/Maps of Bones): “Lost our feet underneath cities grown like weeds/We recede.”

Von Bohlen speaks to the malaise of a metropolis as drummer Dan Didier pounds the hell out of his kit. The rhythm is snaking traffic, the hum of engines and the volatile hopes of citizens. For such a giddy-sounding song, its lyrics are stark, with that brilliant play on words at the end of the line.


“Nothing Feels Good” (The Promise Ring, Nothing Feels Good): “I don’t know Billy Ocean from the ocean floor.”



His similes can get cheesy, but this one from the quintessential Promise Ring number is too nerdy to not love. The goofiness of namedropping the “Caribbean Queen” performer belies the subject of depression, where one’s greatest passions are reduced to rubble. The song was so powerful, its title was used as the name of Andy Greenwald’s must-read book on emo.


“Deep South” (The Promise Ring, Very Emergency): “You look amazing stuck between me and the moon.”


It’s not comical like some of our other selections on this list; it’s brilliant and beautiful. Von Bohlen brings together two awe-inspiring images and superimposes them onto a bouncy time signature. It’s short, sweet and romantic.


“Faint of Hearts” (Maritime, Human Hearts): “All your efforts can’t pay for it / Maybe that’s to your benefit.”


If the Cure and Toad the Wet Sprocket ever collaborated, it would probably sound like this 2011 track. We’re not being facetious— “Faint of Hearts” is a dreamy, reverb-kissed yearning. The chosen line represents the costs of love, something all too familiar to an emo scribe.


“No One Will Remember You Tonight (Maritime, We, the Vehicles): “Naturally, it is a disaster / But is it unfair?”



Coupled with the frantic upstrokes of Von Bohlen’s and Dan Hinz’s guitars, this song is a beast to croon along to. The writer’s inflections are scattershot and twisted, especially on this mouthy verse.



See also: almost every song title off Human Hearts. Von Bohlen has his Pun-o-meter up full blast: “Out Numbering,” “C’mon Sense,” “Apple of My Irony”— he’s one turn of phrase away from becoming alternative rock’s “Weird Al” Yankovic. But we love him all the more for it.

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