Thing a Week 4 – Shop Vac

By JoCo October 7, 2005

This is me doing Fountains of Wayne – you know, funny tragic suburban angst power pop ennui, etc. I started recording this one before it was written, which is something I never do. But I knew I was going to do hand claps in the chorus and I couldn’t wait. I came up with the chorus when I was actually using a shop vac (which is awesome by the way, it sucks up everything).

You may notice that there is no guitar solo after the bridge. I was going to go through the whole process of cutting together snippets of decent playing, beating myself up about not being a better guitarist and cursing my useless sausage fingers, but forget that. I leave it to you, dear minions. Anyone who wants to should record a solo and email it to me or post a link here. I’ll mix them in and post clips and we can all decide together which one works best. The song is in the key of E major and it’s 150 bpm. You’ll want to target the 8 bars right after the bridge, starting at about 2:20 and ending somewhere before the third verse. It can be shreddy or pleasant or noisy or whatever – it doesn’t even need to be that musical as long as it’s interesting, and as long as the recording is just the isolated solo (if you record yourself playing your bongos in front of your speakers I won’t really be able to use that – you will want some kind of multitrack situation so you can hear the song but record only your solo). And any instrument is fine – come on clarinetists, make your voice heard! Once a winner is chosen I’ll change the link to the new mp3 and give the player credit in the notes. Here’s the song:

Shop Vac

Also, if you’re in the Philly area and you’d like to hear John Hodgman read from his book and me play some backup music, we’ll be at the Philadelphia Museum of Art tonight in between sets of the band Beau Django. Details on the Areas of My Expertise site.


TipMonkies says

Free Music Friday - Paul Warner, Death Cab For Cutie, Ghotti, and Jonathan Coulton

Welsome to the first installment of Free Music Friday. Every Friday we will bring to you three to five artists who have at least three of their tracks available on the internet in non-DRM, no restrictions, free-to-download, MP3 format. Most (but not a...

Edminster says

Okay, I've listened to the song a couple of times now, and I have one question:
What the hell is the newscast saying in the background starting around 2:20 and continuing till around 3:00?
I'm catching something about a guy going berserk, and something that is just "silly".

Glenn says

I'm impressed you can do this stuff this quickly on a regular basis, keep it up!

Dan says

"OMG DUDE! I'm gonna record the most bossest riff evar, and leik, its gonna rock so much, that JC is going to change the name of the song to THE DAN SONG, and I'm gonna be all famous and stuff!"

But seriously, I think asking for sample submissions is a pretty awesome idea. Very revolutionary. Viva!

Lee says

I love the suburban angst. There is not enough of that in music. I have found myself sitting and waiting for you next thing a week. I know this is blatant kissing up, but you are the man.

Brooklyn Bluesman says

Cool song , but where's the part when Stacy's mom uses the shop vac in novel manner? Look forward to final version.

Glenn says

Heyyyyy. That's the guy that did that bit on the Secrets of the Mall of America! I thought I recognize "food, drink and cheese (a type of food)" from somewhere. Cool.

Incidentally, I can't find the text from See You All in Hell online -- am I a dope for looking?

rohit507 says

Edminister, its much eaiser to hear the news cast if you listen through a headphones, and remove 1 of the earbugs , for me i had to remove the right one to hear it.

Ahsirakh says

Anyone armed with a Shop Vac and willing to try interspersing its sounds with whatever instrumental solo you might be planning? (Unfortunately, I have zilch musical prowess and live in a traditional household with brooms as our primary cleaning implement, so I'm throwing this to y'all here.)

Brian P says

Another great song! Thanks, Jonathan!


Dan Lurie says

Ahsrakh. That's a brilliant idea! I bet it would even be possible to just record like 30 seconds of the vac, and modify the tone in GarageBand or logic to make some sort of solo! I'll have to try and see if it works.

Aman says


This is completely off topic, but remember that robot you built that can feed, soothe, and put babies to sleep? You know, that thing that will prevent me from going completely insane?

Can you e-mail me the instructions so I can build one?



Travis Braud says

I just became a zombie and let me tell yah human brain is delicious

JoCo says

Sorry I haven't responded to anything here guys, I was in Philly this weekend and the only available computer was a spyware zoo with something called "Dial Up" for internet. First things first:

The newscast is a segment about ads above urinals, and then another about a guy going nuts with a shotgun. It felt a little goofy to drop that in there, but it also gave me chills, so I kept it.

The See You in Hell text came to me through an email and I haven't been posting lyrics for any of the weekly things, so you won't find it out there. I'll see if I can get it together to make a thing a week page or something.

And finally: where's my solo, people?!

Garrick Van Buren .com » Tuesday’s Triple Play - Suburban Adventures says

[...] [...]

Pmppk's Hideout says

Jonathan Coulton - Shop Vac

It looks like paying tribute to Fountains of Wayne is the popular thing to do nowadays! Jonathan Coulton has written and recorded a song called Shop Vac that captures that familiar FoW sound. From Jonathan's blog entry about the song:...

Dave Kinsella says

I love this song, I've been singing it all weekend since I heard it and annoying my wife (who asked me if I was hinting that I wanted a Shop Vac for christmas)

Evil Genius Chronicles » Shop Vac Music Video says

[...] Garrick Van Buren did an amazing job editing together some found video from and Jonathan Coulton’s song Shop Vac into this glorious music video. Behold the mighty power of Creative Commons! [...]

pmob test » Archivio Blog » even the fake ones have stopped calling says

[...] Jonathan Coulton - “Shop Vac” (post with mp3) [...]

Chris Robison says

This is a really fantastic song, at least as I understand it. Trouble is, I'm not sure I do, entirely. Through most of the song, it sounds like a funny (and if you can identify with it personally, perhaps somewhat poignant) comment on the typical unsatisfying yuppie suburban existance.

But toward the end, starting with the line "I’m floating up above the house and looking down" I kinda get lost. Is there a hidden meaning here, with "headlights rolling across the sky"?

Brandy says

My husband thinks so too. According to him, Shop Vac is not just about suburban blahs, but the guy dies on a trip back to the city and his ghost comes back to haunt the wife - by turning the shop vac on in the basement - which is why she is crying. Which may not be the case, but makes the song kinda spooky. » Blog Archive » Code Monkey Like You says

[...] Also, I think I’ve finally figured out what I like most about Coulton’s songs. It is his sincerity. Whether it is a song about slaving away in a cubicle, Thor inspired IKEA, post-suburban-marital-shop-vac problems, or even a tribute to the easy girl from high school, Coulton manages to make me care about his silly songs. Some how they are able to evoke an emtion that makes me laugh and choke up at the same time. Needless to say they are very cathardic. [...]

Liam says

Someone pointed me to your "Code Monkey" song a few weeks back, and I've been enjoying discovering all of your other music. I really love this one. It's catchy and fun and full of angst.

It reminds me a lot of the quirkiness of early They Might Be Giants or Barenaked Ladies.

Thanks for sharing it with us!


Friday Fiascos #4: The Things « Time Off for Mediocre Behavior says

[...] See You All in Hell is short and sinister, My Monkey’s chorus is quadruple-voice, W’s Duty takes hard work to administer, The Shop Vac solo was selected by listener’s choice, Baby Got Back got aired on radio stations, Someone Is Crazy thinks that you’re insane, Brand New Sucker has bitter vituperations, Sibling Rivalry pits Joan versus Jane. [...]

Guy Tunes at says

[...] Shop Vac brings wonderful memories of my dysfunctional suburban childhood back to life. [...]

Wilbur Tillinghast says

Scariest song in the world; if your relationship starts in a small college room and eventually moves to three levels of suburban home, drifting apart as a physical reality that becomes an emotional one is entirely too possible.

Similarly, the cats we got in this house are less well-socilaised than the mones that spent a good chunk of their time in the one room that was their mutual home territory; these fight less, but are also less friendly.

Am I alone in wanting to hear this performed not by "Fountains of Wayne" but rather by Elvis Costello and band c. 1979?

JoCo & P&S @ Johnny D’s in Somerville « Vaguely Amusing says

[...] live, or even learn one of the solos submitted for the contest, but I’m happy just to hear it. A few of us tried to start the handclaps in the chorus, [...]

KFW says

Am I alone in wanting to hear this performed not by “Fountains of Wayne” but rather by Elvis Costello and band c. 1979?

Not at all, but then I think that Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen, and John Fogerty all need to record a "shut up and play yer guitar" album before they die, so what do I know?

Ted says

Shop Vac - what an awesome song. I discovered it via Pandora and the Fountains of Wayne channel. Do you know how you ended up on Pandora?

Eileen Robinson says

Todays fresh passes. 4/11-09, Barely Legal Pass! Link/Download (