“Learn to make pizza you fucking jack-offs,” Laura Jane Grace sings on “I Hate Chicago.” On its surface, the song is a tongue-in-cheek love-hate letter to Grace’s hometown, a document of the city’s famous landmarks, traditions and famous musicians, which Grace has simultaneously pokes fun of, tears down, and pays tribute to.
But halfway through the song, Grace not-so-slyly reveals the song’s moving conceit. “Alright. Christ you caught me,” she mumbles to herself, “This is actually just another divorce song. Maybe it’s not all of Cook County’s fault!”
There’s a certain pain and self-deflection lurking just barely beneath the surface of “I Hate Chicago.” It turns out that the song is less a diatribe about the Cubs, Wilco and O’Hare than it is an ode to the ways in which we shield ourselves from suffering and introspection by projecting our personal problems on our surroundings. After all, blaming the traffic is much easier than blaming ourself.