The Man from San Sebastian

Like most people, I discovered DeVotchKa (apparently Russian for “girl”) in the delightful film Little Miss Sunshine. And I’ve heard a bit of their music since then and generally liked it all. Just today, I came upon a song from their most recent album 100 Lovers called The Man from San Sebastian. It is a wonderfully energetic song, produced in an almost wacky manner. The stark opening accordion somehow reminds me of the zither used throughout The Third Man.

I wish I could say that I knew what the song was about. There seem to be many clues in the video, but they mean little to me. At one point, a headline appears on the screen, “45.3 Kilos de Uranio Altamente Enriquecido”: 45.3 kg of Highly Enriched Uranium. That’s pretty specific, but still, the people in the photos? I’m not a modern man! I don’t know what’s going on now or recently. What’s more: I’m sure I’m not the only one who does not remember the man from San Sebastian.

My hunch is that the song itself is post-modern in the sense that it isn’t about anything. It is a song that pretends to be about revolution but is more about love but is really about nothing but word play. Here are the main lyrics:

It’s never too late to co-conspire commiserate
All it takes is a little bit of love and an awful lot of hate

Is it real? Does it exist?
I know it’s wrong, but who am I to resist?

All I want is one more time
Some of yours and some of mine

I don’t want to spoil the fun but am I the only one who sees what’s going on
Am I the only one who remembers the man from San Sebastian

It’s just a few more miles, I’ll make it smooth and worth your while
Don’t look so nervous man, we’re just here to lend a hand

According to the director of the video, Vincent Comparetto, the political photos are from people in the Basque Separatist Movement in Spain. He apparently did an interview with NPR, but you are best to check out the DeVotchKa—Making of Video video at Prometheus Productions (sorry, no direct link).

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