On the surface, “Old North Ender” would seem to offer pretty regionally-limited appeal. It’s about one specific neighborhood in Burlington, Vermont, with a population of 11,000 (one of which is James Kochalka himself). Writing a song so specifically about one’s ‘hood may create an anthem for people within a ten-block radius, but presents an impediment to a track’s wider success.
Forget all that. “Old North Ender” requires zero geographic context. It’s an immediately-engaging novelty song about living rough: siphoning gas and spitting out blood, all with a twinkle in your eye. Think a dirtbag They Might Be Giants with louder guitars and gratuitous violence. The latter surely wouldn’t fly in Kochalka’s day job, as a popular children’s book author, so it sounds like a joyous exorcism for him to holler about beating kids and firebombing cars over a roaring punk band.
Check out more entries in our month-long series on The Best Songs of the 2010s.
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