Everybody loves a good joke. The comedian, the class clown, the comic relief are critically important and revered characters that lift spirits and ease pressure, reframing some of life’s most difficult moments with a quick one-liner and witty observations. Behind the smiles and the jokes inherently hides considerable depth and vulnerability, qualities that those easiest to laugh and quickest to please keep hidden away beneath a polished veneer of humor and conviviality. Gymshorts has played that role for a while, firmly establishing Sarah Greenwell as a scruffy prankster and perpetual life of the party replete with some of the most engagingly crafted shenanigans this side of Bart Simpson. As the world settled into lockdown isolation back in 2020, Greenwell began to use this time reflecting on deeper emotions and communicating her perspectives on heavier topics through an acoustic solo project under the name Greeensleeves. Her latest release is a physical expression of this dynamic duality, a new track titled “Love You Funny,” recorded as both Gymshorts and Greeensleeves, pressed onto individual sides of a 7-inch record.
On the A-Side “Love You Funny” explodes with a crunchy guitar line that chugs along at an electric cadence immediately recalling the iconic opening riff of The Cars’ “Just What I Needed,” firmly establishing the track within Gymshorts’ troublemaker punk wheelhouse while pushing beyond into power-pop’s trademark irresistibility. Exuberant lead guitar explodes in fits before simmering back down into a groove while layering in limited synths for a more detailed composition that makes a direct link between the instrumentation and the nuanced complexities of the track’s narrative structure.
“Love You Funny” is a beguiling track, inviting the listener in with the promise of a good time, an energetic track that bounces and crackles with sunny vibes and a light-hearted disposition. At first blush “Love You Funny” details a manifesto from a one-sided relationship guided by selfish objectives and a cavalier sense of disregard for the needs and feelings of the other party. Lines like “I’m gonna kill you, baby, with my blue jeans on; I’m gonna milk you, honey, for the things that I want” and “I’m gonna hold your hand till you hand it over” spell this out pretty clearly; Gymshorts is single-minded in the desire to get what they want at another’s expense, but the presentation is playfully sassy, like Sandy Olsson strutting her stuff in black leather and red heels to finally land Danny Zuko on her own terms.
About half-way the track gets flipped on its head, revealing the true motivation behind the story – revenge. “Love You Funny” is a long game, positioning the callous actions of the opening lines described in delicious detail as a response to a disconnected partner’s casual disregard for the empathy of an egalitarian relationship. “Once you earn my trust, once you think I’m real, then you can understand the way I feel” sings Greenwell as the hook transforms from “love you funny” to “love you ugly,” cracking the grinning façade wide open and exposing the unpleasantness lurking beneath. Driving home the point with one final barb, Gymshorts adds another layer to the track’s already substantial structure with a parting shot; “I’m mad ’cause angry is easier than sad,” encapsulating a rollercoaster ride of emotion into a single, potent expression of motive strong enough to justify even the most heinous acts of sabotage.
Greeensleeves provides Greenwell with an outlet to express her most vulnerable moments, reinterpreting “Love You Funny”‘s energetic revenge fantasy as a wounded ballad that swaps riffs and rhythms with delicate acoustic guitar and a slower, hushed pace. The lyrics and structure are the same, but in this context take on an entirely new degree of meaning. Where Gymshorts relished in taking their unworthy partner down a peg or two, Greeensleeves sees the same actions as a last resort in the face of a toxic relationship; the only remaining option is to hurt the other party as much as they hurt you, but the end result is pain and loneliness on both sides. “I’m mad ’cause angry is easier than sad” hits like a ton of bricks in this version as Greeensleeves delivers the line with unbearable actual sadness, implying that the true depth of their despondency lies far below even this melancholy mood and contrasts both interpretations of “Love You Funny” as opposite sides of the same coin or, in the case, the same record.
The Gymshorts version of “Love You Funny” gets the video treatment and falls right in line with the band’s tongue-in-cheek attitudes, framing the track as part of a public access comedy open mic night complete with Seinfeld basslines and a faux brick backdrop. Taking the stage after a seriously weak opener, Greenwell begins her act to an unenthusiastic audience of literal mannequins, cranking out comedy tropes with continually diminishing reactions. Halfway through the set Greenwell essentially says “fuck it,” donning red-rimmed Wayfarers and adopting a self-assured swagger as she shreds on a beat up axe. The newfound confidence ignites an adoring audience as Greenwell moves beyond one-dimensional pandering into a moment of true self expression made not for the entertainment of others but for her own personal fulfilment, proving that the greatest happiness comes from loving ourselves and the rest will fall into place.
Gymshorts will be celebrating the release of “Love You Funny” with a show at Purgatory on February 23 with support from 95 Bulls. Tickets available here.
“Love You Funny” is out now on limited 7″ vinyl via Freeman Street Records and Gymshorts’ Bandcamp. Stream the track on Spotify and follow Gymshorts on Instagram.