Song of the Week: Jonathan Coulton’s “Code Monkey”

Jonathan Coulton.

I remember being introduced to Jonathan Coulton’s music while staying at Ethan Zuckerman’s and Rachel Barenblat’s place in the Berkshires back in the early summer of 2005. Wendy and I were visting to work out the details of our wedding ceremony (Rachel was one of the officiants). While having a very delicious dinner, Ethan and Rachel played us selected tunes from their music library, one of which was Coulton’s Skullcrusher Mountain, a love song from an evil genius to the woman he’s infatuated with.

Coulton’s sound could be described as Ben Folds’ and They Might Be Giants’ musical style married to Weird Al’s and MC Frontalot’s nerd sensibilties, with a dash of Green Day’s power pop thrown in for good measure. Among the songs in his ironic, clever and geeky oeuvre are pieces were office culture and zombies intersect, an ode to SkyMall, quite possibly the only pop tune about Benoit Mandelbrot and ubiquitious household items.

If you’d like to find out more about Coulton, he was featured in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine.

One of Coulton’s best and most rockin’ numbers, Code Monkey, is an incredibly spot-on portrait of what it’s like to be a developer at a medium-to-large sized company, something that Coulton was until he decided to become a full-time musician. Here’s the first verse:

Code Monkey get up get coffee

Code Monkey go to job

Code Monkey have boring meeting

With boring manager Rob

Rob say Code Monkey very dilligent

But his output stink

His code not “functional” or “elegant”

What do Code Monkey think?

Code Monkey think maybe manager want to write

    god damned login page himself

Code Monkey not say it out loud

Code Monkey not crazy, just proud

If I had a dime for every time I’ve had to stifle the urge to bitch-slap a manager with a cast-iron skillet because he had know-nothing issues with my code, I’d probably be living a Jimmy Buffet-esque lifestyle on a very nice yacht.

Code Monkey.

The second verse reminds me of my days in a dot-com-era startup called OpenCola, which grew out of an ad agency, which meant that the women were young, good-looking and outnumbered the men by at least two-to-one:

Code Monkey hang around at front desk

Tell you sweater look nice

Code Monkey offer buy you soda

Bring you cup, bring you ice

You say no thank you for the soda cause

Soda make you fat

Anyway you busy with the telephone

No time for chat

Code Monkey have long walk back to cubicle

    he sit down pretend to work

Code Monkey not thinking so straight

Code Monkey not feeling so great

Code Monkey like Fritos

Code Monkey like Tab and Mountain Dew

Code Monkey very simple man

With big warm fuzzy secret heart:

Code Monkey like you

In honour of RailsConf, the Ruby on Rails conference that’s taking place this week in Portland, Oregon (and which I’ll be attending), I hereby declare Code Monkey [4.3 MB MP3] the song of the week. Download and enjoy — and if you like it, send some money Jonathan Coulton’s way!

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