Help me think of phrases that evoke youthful angst?
October 2, 2011 12:05 PM   Subscribe

Help me think of some phrases, lyrics, or quotes that evoke youthful angst.

I am titling a book about coming of age on antidepressants, and it's challenging. I am searching for phrases or lyrics or quotes that get at the feeling of youthful emotion (and/or youthful identity crisis, since the search for identity is a theme of the book). I've come up with things like "sweet little agony" (Smashing Pumpkins), and "a common disaster" (Cowboy Junkies) and "jagged little pills" (Alanis!). 1990s-era stuff would be perfect, since the core subjects of the book are in their late 20s and early 30s.

Thank you, hive mind.
posted by toomuchkatherine to Writing & Language (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
"I feel stupid and contagious/here we are now, entertain us" - Smells Like Teen Spirit, Nirvana
posted by unannihilated at 12:09 PM on October 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

The lyrics to Blind Melon's Change and No Rain pretty much cover this ground. Check em out, there might be a little turn of phrase you like.
posted by Jehan at 12:20 PM on October 2, 2011

She's calling me to come to her and curl inside her womb
I hear lies, acid too
But I won't die, the pain is so beautiful
The urge is so real, it smells like glue
 — The Gerbils, Glue.
posted by scruss at 12:21 PM on October 2, 2011

Marcy Playground - "Sex and Candy"
Eve 6 -- "beautiful oblivion"
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:22 PM on October 2, 2011

I always think of The Freshman by Verve Pipe when I think of angsty songs from my youth.

For the life of me I cannot remember
What made us think that we were wise and
We'd never compromise
For the life of me I cannot believe
We'd ever die for these sins
We were merely freshmen
posted by cecic at 12:35 PM on October 2, 2011

We have a saying in our home: When in doubt, the Replacements. In this case, I'd maybe go with "Bastards of Young".
posted by peagood at 12:35 PM on October 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Not from the 90s or even the 80s, but still relevant to the topic of teenage angst and being pressured to make something of yourself and feeling overwhelmed.....

Thinking it right
Doing it wrong
Is easier from an armchair.
Waves of alternatives
Wash at my sleepiness
Have my eggs poached for breakfast, I guess.....

(Drowse by Queen)
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:35 PM on October 2, 2011

The Replacements totally popped into my mind as I was reading your description. My two top song picks would be "Sixteen Blue and "Bastards of Young," but there are definitely others in their songbook that play on your themes. Bonus that they're the quintessential 90's garage band.

From "Bastards of Young" :
God, what a mess, on the ladder of success
Where you take one step and miss the whole first rung
Dreams unfulfilled, graduate unskilled
It beats pickin' cotton and waitin' to be forgotten

We are the sons of no one, bastards of young
We are the sons of no one, bastards of young
The daughters and the sons

and "Sixteen Blue" :
Try to figure out, they wonder what next you'll pull
You don't understand anything sexual
I don't understand
Tell my friends I'm doing fine

Your age is the hardest age
Everything drags and drags
You're looking funny
You ain't laughing, are you?
Sixteen blue

I'd give them a listen just for inspiration, but maybe "bastards of young" or "the hardest age" are the kinds of things you're looking for. Titling is tough. Good luck!
posted by libertypie at 12:36 PM on October 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Heart full of napalm (Stooges)

Head like a hole (Nine Inch Nails)

Touch me, I'm sick (Mudhoney)
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:41 PM on October 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

"City of the dead / At the end of another lost highway / Signs misleading to nowhere"
from Jesus of Suburbia (Green Day)

"I am a patient boy / I wait, I wait, I wait, I wait / My time is like water down a drain"
from Waiting Room (Fugazi)

"Let me go on, like a blister in the sun"
from Blister in the Sun (Violent Femmes)

"See I'm a 21st century digital boy / I don't know how to read but I've got a lot of toys / My daddy's a lazy middle class intellectual / My mommy's on Valium, so ineffectual / Ain't life a mystery?"
from 21st Century (Digital) Boy by Bad Religion

"Smack, crack, bushwhacked / Tie another one to your racks, baby / Hey kids, rock and roll / Nobody tells you where to go, baby"
from Drive (R.E.M.)

"you'll think i'm dead, but I'll sail away / on a wave of mutilation"
Wave of Mutilation (the Pixies)

"I'm steppin' around in the desert of joy / Maybe anyhow I'll get another toy / And everything will happen"
Lemon Tree (Fool's Garden)

"With pulses a-raging and eyes full of wonder / Kicking out behind us again"
Vagabonds (New Model Army)

"I am Human and I need to be loved / Just like everybody else does / There's a club, if you'd like to go / You could meet someone who really loves you / So you go, and you stand on your own / And you leave on your own / And you go home / And you cry / And you want to die
When you say it's gonna happen now, When exactly do you mean? "
from How soon is now (the Smiths)

"Burn down the disco / Hang the blessed DJ / Because the music that they constantly play / it says nothing to me about my life"
Panic (the Smiths)

I could go on forever, really...really, I could...but I won't...because I have to go return some videos...
posted by iamkimiam at 12:57 PM on October 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

if you're looking for more literal, "not for you" by pearl jam.
posted by virginia_clemm at 1:02 PM on October 2, 2011

Let's count it off:


Angsty goodness.
posted by humboldt32 at 2:13 PM on October 2, 2011

I've always thought "Hope I die before I get old" pretty-much said it all.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:14 PM on October 2, 2011

Yeah, and

"I'm the son and heir of nothing in particular"

is good too.
posted by humboldt32 at 2:15 PM on October 2, 2011

I'm 32. When I was in high school, my disaffected friends listened to Nine Inch Nails nonstop. (And certainly not Alanis. Maybe that came later?) So, here are some NIN options. If you're open to album names, you have "Broken," "The Downward Spiral" and "Further Down the Spiral." You could basically pull a lyric at random from any of the early albums, but here are some that I think people might remember, starting with the ones that I think are more likely to be helpful:

"Down In It" or "I was up above it / Now I'm down in it." That whole song is perfectly on topic without getting specific in a way that might limit how relevant the lyrics are: "I used to be so big and strong, I used to know my right from wrong, I used to never be afraid... I used to have something inside. Now just this hole that's open wide... And all the world's weight is on my back and I don't even know why."

"Full of broken thoughts I cannot repair," "my empire of dirt," "everyone I know goes away in the end," or anything else from Hurt.

From Wish: "the last thing left -- I just threw it away" or "wish there was something real, wish there was something true" (or "I'm the one without a soul, I'm the one with this big fucking hole" for that matter, but the length and curse words probably rule that out).

The ever catchy: "It won't give up it wants me dead / Goddamn this noise inside my head," or the less-memorable "I'm stuck in this dream / it's changing me / I am becoming."

From Closer: "You can have my isolation, you can have the hate that it brings" or "Help me, I broke apart my insides." (That song goes on to say "I want to fuck you like an animal" so it's kinda alienating though the sex does sound consensual.)
posted by salvia at 2:16 PM on October 2, 2011

Ah, the '90s! What a bleak decade, lyrically speaking. Here a few:


"Teenage angst has paid off well, now I'm bored and old" (from "Serve the Servants")

"It is now time to make it unclear, to write off lines that don't make sense" (from "On a Plain")

Smashing Pumpkins:

"Despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage" (from "Bullet with Butterfly Wings")

"Freak out and give in / Doesn't matter what you believe in / Stay cool and be somebody's fool this year / 'Cause they know who is righteous, what is bold, so I'm told" (from "Cherub Rock")

"Emptiness is loneliness, and loneliness is cleanliness, and cleanliness is godliness, and God is empty just like me" (from "Zero")

"I torch my soul to show the world that I am pure deep inside my heart ... I shall be free, free, free of these voices inside me" (from "Rocket")

Tori Amos:

"She's been everybody else's girl / Maybe one day she'll be her own" (from "Girl")

Green Day:

"She, she screams in silence / A sullen riot penetrating through her mind / Waiting for a time to smash the silence with a brick of self control / Are you locked up in a world that's been planned out for you? / Are you feeling like a social tool without a use?" (from "She")

"Seventeen and strung out on confusion / Trapped inside a role of disillusion / I found out what it takes to be a man / Well, Mom and Dad will never understand" (from "Coming Clean")


"I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me" (from "Loser")

Nine Inch Nails:

"Nothing can stop me now, 'cause I don't care anymore" (from "Piggy")

"Don't you tell me how I feel / You don't know just how I feel" (from "I Do Not Want This")

"Grey would be the color — if I had a heart" (from "Something I Can Never Have")
posted by John Cohen at 3:41 PM on October 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Graham Parker
"I'm just another moment that flashes into nowhere
A brand name on a pill that gets you there"
posted by effluvia at 4:25 PM on October 2, 2011

My vote so far is is NIN "Grey would be the color - if I had a heart" - so deliciously angsty, as is everything on Pretty Little Hate Machine.

But let me throw a few more eighties type into contention

Anything by Depeche Mode - perhaps "Sometimes" from Black Celebration" - "sometimes; only sometimes; I question everything; And I'm the first to admit; If you catch me in mood like this; I can be tiring." "Try walking in my shoes" (from Songs of Faith and Devotion")

Or the Cure - "Hopelessness and Prayers for Rain" (from Disintegraiton)

The Smiths - "Sing me to sleep, sing me to sleep, I don't want to wake up on my own anymore"

More Alanis, "I don't want to be the sweeper of the egg shells that you walk upon", not the doctor, in, of course, Jagged Little Pill

I wanted to propose some Tori Amos, but the lyrics are maybe too complex to encapsulate what you're looking for.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 4:27 PM on October 2, 2011

My vote so far is is NIN "Grey would be the color - if I had a heart"

Yeah +1 to that one from me as well.
posted by salvia at 5:21 PM on October 2, 2011

Soundgarden "Black Hole Sun"

Black hole sun, won't you come, and wash away the rain.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 5:33 PM on October 2, 2011

Oh, and Four Non-Blondes "What's Up?"

I scream at the top of my lungs what's goin' on

(hehehe. my husband hates that song, and when he reads this, it will get stuck in his head!)
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 5:35 PM on October 2, 2011

I like "A Common Disaster" because it not only evokes the era but also underscores the prevalence of medicated childhoods. That said, I wouldn't use it if you don't intend to characterize it as a negative phenomenon.

The problem with pop culture references is that they can be so specific. There were lots of medicated kids in my neck of the woods who listened to country music. So be sure the phrase accurately reflects your work even if the reader doesn't catch the reference.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:18 PM on October 2, 2011

Don't have a cow, man.
posted by porpoise at 6:32 PM on October 2, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the liking of A Common Disaster. Yes, I'm going to be at least mildly critical of meds. Lots of good food for thought definitely does need to be something that works even for people who don't catch the reference...I'm looking forward to further mining the Replacements.
posted by toomuchkatherine at 6:39 PM on October 2, 2011

I'd check out mid-to-late 90s Radiohead songs, off The Bends and OK Computer. These spring to mind:

lying in the bar with my drip feed on - The Bends
the emptiest of feelings / disappointed people / clinging onto bottles - Let Down
Pieces missing everywhere / Prozac painkillers - Bones
posted by axiom at 7:55 PM on October 2, 2011

The entirety of Green Day's Dookie album. (My personal anthem as an angsty suburban white kid at Catholic School)

From the opening line of the first song: "I declare I don't care no more. I'm burning up and out and growing bored in my smoked out boring room."

To the last line of the last song: "You're just a fuck. I can't explain it 'cause I think you suck. I'm taking pride in telling you to fuck off and die... Goodnight"

The CD sounds like it has everything you are after. Nearly every song is right up your alley. "Seventeen and strung out on confusion. Trapped inside a role of dissolution." "Are you locked up in a world that's been planned out for you? Are you feeling like a social tool without a use?" These are just a few lines off the top of my head. I doubt there is something creative that can be pulled directly from the lyrics but the whole feeling of the CD could be very inspiring.
posted by comatose at 9:30 PM on October 2, 2011

Heck just about any part of Green Day's Jesus of Suburbia is great for this:

Land of make believe,
And it don't believe in me

Are we demented? Or am I disturbed?
The space that's in between insane and insecure

Oh therapy can you please fill the void?
Am I retarded or am I just overjoyed?
posted by pupdog at 8:47 AM on October 3, 2011

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