Taking the Dative 1 2

Cover of Taking the Dative Back of Taking the Dative

Released: 1994
Label: Car in Car Disco Product

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Liner notes


We ran away from the nine month ice blast of Portland to Las Vegas, eyes bloodshot, our bodies coming alive with fear. We checked into a ground floor room at the Stardust 3 and went to sleep for two days. Three years later you got pregnant and the tickets to Florida were cheap, cheap. It was either Florida or back to California, and that was just out of the question. 4

We are John, Rachel, Sara, Rosanne and Amy. Thank you Joel for just plain everything. Sequenced by Peter Hughes himself. OK.

(typed text):

Long-tailed Weasel Mustela frenata 5

Like the related skunks, Mink, and Badger, weasels have five toes. But in weasels the fifth toe is small, so that tracks usually show just four toes. All weasels are quick and agile, with long, slim bodies that enable them to enter narrow crevices and burrows in pursuit of small mammals, reptiles, and frogs; they also prey on birds. In turn, they are captured by hawks, owls, foxes, and large snakes.

Taking the Dative was included in its entirety on the compilation Ghana.

Table of contents

  1. Orange Ball of Peace
  2. Standard Bitter Love Song #8
  3. Chino Love Song 1979
  4. Wrong!
  5. Going to Jamaica
  6. Alpha Gelida

Orange Ball of Peace 6 7

They wanted me to be a lawyer
They wanted me to work in a machine shop 8
They wanted me to be a designer
But I came out on top

I'm a fireman
I'm a fireman

Stand and watch the smoke
See the flames rise to the sky
I stand and watch the flames climb higher
I feel the smoke get in my eyes

I'm a fireman
I'm a fireman 9

Standard Bitter Love Song #8 10

I went down to Lloyd Center 11
Looking for you
But a mouth full of anger
Blocked my view
He took your hand
There in the skating ring
God will give him blood to drink

Saw the two of you leaving
I didn't want to follow behind
But I could see the rest of your evening
Burning in my mind
Sky's black
The moon's pink
God will give him blood to drink

I looked over the railing
Ice was white
On the northeast side where I saw you and your boyfriend
On a Friday night
I went mining for gold
I struck pure, fresh zinc
God, God will give him blood to drink
Hey hey hey

Chino Love Song 1979 12 13

"... family, and, uh, cleave to your wife — and, and that, that, I think that really set the theme for us, as far as the oneness. And that was the, the oneness and the completeness." 14

And the May sun shone down on California
And the strawberries grew fat and full
And thick and red and as big as your fist
And the traffic on Riverside Drive 15 was thin
But by no means nonexistent
When I saw you
Against the soda machine
I saw you leaning there

And your hand in the basket
Was nimble-fingered and red-fingernailed
And it made me remember the sunflower
That popped up outside my window one morning in Norwalk 16
It was bright yellow and it was real inviting
And I almost forgot that it was an intruder
And I saw you
Against the soda machine
I saw you leaning there

I saw you
Against the soda machine
I saw you leaning there


You know
You know
You see
What's going on with me
But you don't do anything
You don't do anything
You don't do anything

You feel
You feel
And you hear
The time's near
But you don't do anything
You don't do anything
You don't do anything
You don't do anything
Two, three, four

Going to Jamaica 17 18 19

We saw the last of the brightly-colored birds
Check out and make for the other world
And you asked me how much longer we'd have to stay here
But I'm not at liberty to say
And what flowers there were around Kingston 20
Were blue

I ripped them up from the dry soil
And draped them over you

We saw the last of the bright birds coming home
I saw you address them through your megaphone
And you asked me when we were leaving
Well, it's any day now
And what flowers there were around Trenchtown 21
Were red

I stole them from the hands of children
Braided them around your head

Alpha Gelida 22 23 24

Popcorn was snapping in the hot oil on the kitchen stove
And the sky through the kitchen window was cold and poised and threatening
Heard your voice come lilting 25 through the wall
I heard your voice come sailing from the other room
Let the young lions come
Let me break their jaws 26
Let the young lions come out
Let me break their jaws
With my bare fingers

Coffee was dripping through the paper filter cone
The heady 27 scent of it nearly knocked me out
I heard your voice come lilting through the back of the refrigerator
Heard your voice come breaking through the wall
Let the young lions come out
Let me talk them out of it
Let the young lions come
Let me break their jaws
With my bare fingers

  1. Taking the Dative, Nall, accessed August 4, 2014.


Thanks to Gordon Stearns, who pointed out some alternate lyrics to Orange Ball of Peace. Thanks also as always to Caliclimber, whose Flickr page provided the album art.


  1. From the Ghana liner notes:

    Vain Priestly, a gore/grindmetal "singer" from near Ukiah, was convinced that the whole indie scene was going to break wide open and that cassettes would shortly displace compact discs in the marketplace. Grabbing opportunity by the horns, he set up a production-and-distribution center out in the woods and invited us up to see it. When we arrived, we were forced at knifepoint to write and record these six songs. I think this extra incentive is what lends "Going to Jamaica" its desperate edge. Thanks, Vain! You are a true patron of the arts.

    I've been unable to find any information about Priestly. If you know something, please drop me a line.

    Taking the Dative, like Transmissions to Horace before it, has some copies with extra songs on them, supposedly. This would include the otherwise unheard-of song "8 to 20 on a Weapons Charge".

    Mountain Goats forums. Transimssions To Horace Extra Songs, September 17, 2013. 

  2. The dative is a grammatical case used to denote the indirect (and in some languages, the direct) object of a verb. While not found in English, it is found in Latin, which is presumably where John learned about it. 

  3. The Stardust Resort and Casino was a famous casino located on the Las Vegas strip until 2007. 

  4. Given the consistency with the Alpha couple, I assume this describes them. However, this story is inconsistent with the established narrative in three ways: living in Portland, pregnancy, and flying or taking some other sort of transit to Florida rather than driving along the bottom of the country. I'm not sure if these are reliable additions or parts of the story that were later removed from the narrative. 

  5. The long-tailed weasel, or Mustela frenata, is as described. They live widely throughout North and Central America. 

  6. "This is about a guy's ambitions. You know, everybody has to have dreams. Even people whose dreams will surely result in some damage." – Showbox, Seattle, November 10, 2009

    John has explained that this describes an arsonist, not a firefighter. Mountain Goats Twitter, (1), (2), June 12, 2012, retrieved August 7, 2014; Folk Music Center, Claremont, July 3, 2012. 

  7. Orange Ball of Peace is part of the Orange Ball of ... series

  8. Also sung, "They wanted me to be a cop". Showbox, Seattle, November 10, 2009. 

  9. Often sung with a concluding "Yep!" not present in the original recording. Folk Music Center, Claremont, July 3, 2012; Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco, June 13, 2014. 

  10. Standard Bitter Love Song #8 is part of the Standard Bitter Love Song series

  11. Lloyd Center is a shopping mall in Portland containing numerous stores, a cinema, and an ice rink, as described. 

  12. Chino Love Song 1979 is part of the informal series of Biblical references

  13. Chino is an Inland Empire city in Southern California, located near Claremont. 

  14. I don't have any idea what this is from, but if you do, I'd love to hear from you.

    The opening line references Genesis 2:24: "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."

    Genesis 2:24, King James Bible, retrieved August 10, 2014. 

  15. There are several Riverside Drives, but given the Southern California context, this most likely refers to Riverside Drive, a major east-west road running from downtown Los Angeles through the San Fernando Valley, including Chino, following the Los Angeles River. 

  16. Norwalk is a suburb in Southern California located near downtown Los Angeles. 

  17. "So, like a lot of my songs, this one is about anticipatory loss. Right? It's like, it's about bracing yourself, right. You get this feeling after you have a little practice that the best thing to do is to develop a good stance against incoming heavy forces. OK? That way, when it comes... then maybe you won't get knocked entirely down, right. Then maybe you can at least stand there and challenge it, and come at you again. It doesn't really work at all, because the force continues to redouble its efforts, because it has all time, and you don't have that long. This is a song about not having that long." — Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco, June 13, 2014

    "This is another one of those songs where you got two people, they were once deeply in love, and then it's like a monster came, a terrible monster. But it wasn't really a monster, it was poor communication skills. But because in all likelihood they have or have had in the past some difficulties with alcohol, it seems more like it must have been a monster, because how could poor communication skills have made such an awful mess?" — Go Rehearsal Studios, Room 4, Carrboro, October 15, 2000

    With descriptions like those above, and the similarity between this and Have to Explode, people occasionally argue that Going to Jamaica is an Alpha couple song. While there are songs that are unrelated to Tallahassee and lack Alpha in the title yet are still in the series, many songs about divorce and alcoholism exist in the Mountain Goats canon and yet are not Alpha songs. I have yet to hear anything where John states that this belongs in the Alpha couple series and so at this point I am of the opinion that it stands outside of it. 

  18. Going to Jamaica is part of the Going to ... series

  19. Jamaica is a Caribbean country located south of Cuba and west of Hispaniola, the island containing Haiti and the Dominican Republic. 

  20. Kingston is the capital of Jamaica. 

  21. Trenchtown is a neighborhood of St. Andrews, Jamaica, located next to Kingston, famous for being the origin of numerous reggae, ska, and rocksteady musicians. 

  22. This song takes place in Nevada while the Alpha couple is living on Flamingo Drive, just off the strip, similar to what is described in the liner notes. Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco, June 13, 2014

    "It's a song about a refrigerator, essentially." — Cobblestone, Dublin, October 9, 2002

    "... I don't quite get what's going on in the song. I mean, most of the time I have a pretty good idea of what's going on with the people, and I don't really know what is behind the refrigerator in this song. I hope someday to find out." — Swedish-American Hall, San Francisco, June 28, 2012. See also McCabe's Guitar Shop, Santa Monica, June 30, 2012.

    "I'm pretty sure that both the people in it are crazy, and I know — I have people that I talk to about, like, trying to, like, eliminate the word crazy as a dismissive, and I get that, right, and I understand that, but then you think about, well, but no, these people, can we at least call them crazy? Can we agree that they seem to set everything they love on fire, and that's, like, totally not a good working strategy?" — McCabe's Guitar Shop, Santa Monica, June 30, 2012

    "This is a — well, I don't really know what to say about this song, really. The people in it seem to be having a hard time of it. I hope it they feel better soon... Bet they won't." — Swedish-American Hall, San Francisco, June 27, 2012 

  23. Alpha Gelida is part of the Alpha couple series and the informal series of Biblical references

  24. Gelida is a conjugated version of the Latin word gelidus, meaning icy or ice-cold. 

  25. Other adjectives are sometimes used in these lines, for example, "ringing", "tearing", "drifting", "breaking", "keening", and "roaring". Broadway Kino, Essen, Germany, March 14, 1996; Cobblestone, Dublin, October 9, 2002; Zoop, Farm Sanctuary, New York, June 16, 2007; Swedish-American Hall, San Francisco, June 27, 2012; Swedish-American Hall, San Francisco, June 28, 2012; McCabe's Guitar Shop, Santa Monica, June 30, 2012; Bottletree, Birmingham, June 22, 2013. 

  26. A reference to Psalms 58:6, which, in describing how God will wreak vengeance upon the wicked, exhorts:

    God, knock the teeth out of their mouths;
    Lord, tear out the young lions' fangs.

    Holman Christian Standard Bible, retrieved August 10, 2014. 

  27. Nall transcribes this word as "hip", but it's clearly two syllables both here and in live versions. The clearest live show recording for this phrase in my opinion are the Zoop or Broadway Kino shows listed above