Mouse Rat is every band of every friend you’ve ever had: not great and more than a little derivative, but sometimes comfortingly so. Of their own admission, they are a mashup of the Dave Matthews Band, Counting Crows and Train. The band is a distillation of Gen X light rock come almost twenty years too late. But their outdatedness is part of their charm.
More importantly, Mouse Rat is Andy Dwyer’s id translated into music. Some people who don’t seem deep use songwriting to express some sort of inner complexity. Not Andy. There is a perfect one-to-one correspondence between what Andy thinks and what he sings. When Fairway Frank is going to die, he sings about how Fairway Frank is going to die. When he is on hold with the State Parks Department, he sings about being on hold with the State Parks Department. When he comes back from London, he sings about being back from London.
But these little interstitial ditties aside, Andy Dwyer managed to produce some truly memorable songs in the seven seasons of Parks and Recreation, songs that had become part of the spirit of Pawnee by the end. Here are Andy’s five best songs from his time with Mouse Rat and from his solo career.
By the end of Parks and Recreation you might have forgotten about Andy’s ill-fated love for Ann, but it was once the defining feature of his character. His ballad for Ann is 50 percent nonsense syllables, 49 percent a description of the ridiculous places Andy is looking for Ann (“under the house,” “in the trunk”), and 1 percent Ann’s name. To call it prosaic would be an understatement but that’s what makes it so damn funny. Andy’s character eventually got smarter as the series progressed but “Ann” will forever stand as the perfect relic of his exaggerated season one stupidity. La de da de da. La de da de da. Ann.
4. “Catch Your Dream”
Andy’s anthem for the Knope 2012 campaign is political songwriting at its finest: all major chords and clichés with no obvious rough edges. That is, as long as you don’t pay attention to the lyrics. “Catching your dream” is a nice enough image but Andy goes into a terrifying level of detail about what, exactly, you should do to your dream once you’ve hunted it down. Listen closely this time. First, you catch the dream, then you throw it into a cage, “beat it senseless,” “crush its soul and clip its wings,” eat it, gut it, stuff it, and mount it. That’s terrifying. Like, Maroon 5’s “Animals” levels of terrifying. There is a darkness somewhere inside of Andy Dwyer and this is its only manifestation. Also: bonus points for the Duke Silver sax line.
3. “Sex Hair” / “Sex Bears”
Andy’s ode to post-coital tresses is Mouse Rat (aka Scarecrow Boat aka Everything Rhymes With Orange) at its absolute finest. With lines like “you got it from me, girl,” Andy manages to make sex hair sound like an STD instead of the mildly amusing physiological phenomenon that it is. Much like Andy himself, the song is alternatingly hilarious, sweet, and a little gross. And on its own, “Sex Hair” might not outpace a Dwyer classic like “Catch Your Dream” but its season six reappearance as the kid-friendly “Sex Bears” gives it an extra punch.
2. “The Pit”
A broken clock is right twice a day and “The Pit” is one of those rare instances in which Andy Dwyer’s literal songwriting style managed to tap into a deep truth about the universe. At one time or another, we have all fallen into a pit, whether it was a physical pit behind our ex’s house or the metaphysical pit of despair that stymies all of our individual paths through life. Simplicity works in favor of “The Pit,” allowing each listener to project their own woes onto its almost mind-numbingly basic words. You might laugh at the start of this song but by the end, it starts to creep into your heart. We all were in the pit, weren’t we? In a sense? It’s not Andy’s funniest song, and it’s not his most famous—that honor belongs to the next track—but it’s the one that you might actually want to put on a mixtape and listen to in your car.
1. “5,000 Candles in the Wind”
It is the most-repeated refrain in Parks and Recreation, and for good reason. By the time the series wrapped, Andy’s touching tribute to the showhorse Li’l Sebastian had become its de facto theme song. This song is so much more than the joke that it’s 5,000 times better than Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind.” It’s a testament to Li’l Sebastian’s greatness that he inspired Andy—who, as we’ve already established, is not a terrific lyricist—to produce some actual poetry. The end result is a rather stirring portrait of “horsey heaven,” the place where ponies grow wings and chew on “heaven’s hay.” Of course, we also hear lines like “And here’s the part that hurts the most / Humans cannot ride a ghost” because this is a Dwyer jam, after all.
By re-appearing late in the series at the Pawnee/Eagleton Unity Concert, “5,000 Candles in the Wind” also became something of a meta-tribute to Parks and Rec itself. When the entire cast went on Late Night with Seth Meyers during the final season, they even sang it together (as Aubrey Plaza and Jim O’Heir inexplicably made out in the background). It was a fitting choice because the song perfectly echoes the tone of the series: goofy, good-natured, and not afraid to get sappy as long as a few jokes can still be made along the way.
May Saunders is a professional dog walker living in Minneapolis and an occasional freelance writer. In her spare time, she enjoys hanging out with her cat, who does not need to be walked. Follow her on Twitter.