Country Music

"Pontoon": Most Insidious Song of the Summer, or the Best

I had a bit of medical trouble late last year, so I spent the entire first six or seven months of 2012 immersed in '80s alternative rock. I suppose it was a sort of cocoon of some kind. I was in a rotten mood most of the time, so anything by the Cure, Echo & the Bunnymen or the Smiths was perfect. Most of that crap is pretty bleak.

But I am feeling much better now, and my sunnier disposition has led me to popular country music, or else it's the other way around. I can't even drink anymore (and don't want to), but these guys are giving me a healthy buzz all the same.

Trashy fun is all over country radio right now -- it's none of this apocalyptic end-times BS afflicting so much of pop culture. I had trouble describing Tim McGraw's stupefyingly masculine "Truck Yeah" at his recent Reliant Stadium show; I should have just left it at "awesome." At some point I realized I like country music because the songs are about things: Trucks, girls, girls in trucks.

Luke Bryan slurs something about a woman throwing cherry bombs into his fire, while Dierks Bentley wonders if he's the only one who wants to have fun tonight (he's not), or else he's going 5-1-5-0 about a girl. A new group called Florida Georgia Line has one about a woman so hot she makes the singer want to roll his windows down. That's good stuff.

We'll leave how much today's country has appropriated its swagger and slang from hip-hop to another blog. Perhaps we'll discuss Blake Shelton's "Hillbilly Bone" then.

Then along came "Pontoon." My heart almost stopped again.

"Pontoon" is a song by the four-piece Nashville-via-Alabama group Little Big Town that may have been written by the Antichrist, although the actual credits list Barry Dean, Natalie Hemby and Luke Laird. I have recently taken to listening to KILT in my office, and have found myself holding my breath a little when the station comes back from commercial, wondering if I'll be greeted by that mandolin lick that sticks into your ear like a screwdriver.

It happened Thursday morning. If there's one thing country stars these days love more than their trucks, it's a boat. "Pontoon" describes an afternoon on the water in painstaking detail, with a back-and-forth rhythm that approximates actual floating. Here is the first verse, a step-by-step guide to enjoying your own aquatic matinee:

Back this hitch up into the water

Untie all the cables and rope

Step onto the Astroturf

Get yourself a coozie, let's go

However, there is also a strict code of etiquette that must be followed if one wants to float with Little Big Town.

Who said anything about skiin'?

Floatin' is all I wanna do

You can climb the ladder

Just don't rock the boat while I barbecue

Later comes yet another rule: "Reach your hand down into the cooler, don't drink it if the mountains aren't blue." Then the chorus.

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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray