Everyone knows the feeling: That cherished establishment that’s always there, anchoring the neighborhood, providing you with shelter and sustenance and beer — until one day, it isn’t. If only you’d dropped by more often! If only you’d bought more rounds! If only you’d ordered more than just the dollar-special longnecks! When a dearly loved neighborhood spot closes, the blood is on all our hands.
At last, that feeling of bittersweet, guilt-ridden sorrow has its own theme song: “Be True to Your Bar,” the 37th track on the Magnetic Fields’ new concept album “50 Song Memoir.” (Like many albums from the Magnetic Fields, prolific songwriter Stephin Merritt’s primary band, the album is a pastiche of musical styles and references, built around a central conceit: In this case, it’s the literal story of his life.)
“Be true to your bar / And don’t let it down / Or else it might not always be around,” sings Merritt as the track reaches its climactic emotional swell. “Be true to your friends / And let your friends know / Without the bar you’d have no place to go.” It’s an anthem in the truest sense, a song all dive bars and locals should play to close out the night, sloshy patrons singing along, lifting their bottles in a communal promise to keep the doors open and the taps flowing with their steady, loving patronage. After all, as Merritt sings, nothing creatively beautiful ever came out of sitting around drinking tea.