I wonder if Daniels’s appeal has something to do with the fact that many men, if asked to cast their lives without undue conceit, might settle on Jeff Daniels to play themselves.

– Magic Hours, Tom Bissell


In October of 1994, some friends and I drove up to Philadelphia to see Pulp and Blur at the Trocodero. Pulp were opening.

The opener took the stage and we were like: … huh? It was obviously not Pulp.

Deciding to chat up a nearby concertgoer, I asked, with wry and salty disparagement, who was onstage. In my storied ledger of rejections, hers was among the more emphatic. She damn near took the roof off with her eye-roll.

In fairness to me, there may have been other factors; after the set the singer came up to her and they embraced and left together.

I later learned that Pulp had left the tour to go back to England as shortlisters for the Mercury Prize. I finally saw them a few years later at the Paradise in Boston, and they were terrific.


When it comes to pop songs, these are a few of my favorite things: Handclaps. Xylophones. Full stops. Pre-intros. Choral shouting. Intermittent bass lines. Toms instead of snares.

I also like songs that don’t have choruses, and songs that speed up, and songs about heartbreakers. Voilà le hat trick!


Steve Mackey, their bassist, died in March. His Guardian obituary declares him “a model of self-contained cool.”

So long, Steve. I declare, with over-due conceit, those dummies can have Jeff Daniels.