COIN Tell the Story of the One Who Got Away with “Malibu 1992”

COIN © Zachary Gray
COIN © Zachary Gray
One listen to “Malibu 1992” and you will immediately be sucked into a world of indie pop band COIN’s creation.
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Stream: “Malibu 1992” – COIN

One listen to “Malibu 1992” and you will immediately be sucked into a world of indie pop band COIN’s creation. It’s a world where floaty synthesizers, other-wordly beats, and mawkishly sentimental vocals combine to create a sound entirely unalike anything the band produced prior to this track.

The world where “Malibu 1992” lives is dreamier than this one, softer. Built on the romanticized idea of something that faded away long ago, it’s a place where a person can admit to still thinking about ‘the one that got away,’ lament the wistful pain of craving someone unobtainable, and live in the possibility of a relationship that does not and cannot exist anymore. It’s a place that only exists in COIN’s imagination, as perpetuated through this song, yet one that feels tangible; a contradiction that COIN manages exceptionally well on this track.

Malibu 1992 - COIN
Malibu 1992 – COIN
I watched you board an airplane
A high dive from the summer’s heat wave, down
A bit tongue and a taste of iron
Sweethearts that high school soured now

“Malibu 1992” is the closing song on COIN’s 2017 sophomore album How Will You Know If You Never Try. The group initially gained momentum in 2015 for their breakout single “Run” and again in 2016 with their song “Talk Too Much.” While those tracks are more sonically characteristic of COIN, which originated in Nashville, “Malibu 1992” offers a welcome diversion as the group proves their versatility and commitment to creating music that offers both depth and a catchy tune.

Despite the fact that COIN front man Chase Lawrence has spoken a lot about how the song was written, he has been remarkably silent regarding the meaning. The song does not attempt to hide that it is fueled by nostalgia and emotion. Listening to this track feels like leafing through Lawrence’s diary and reading an entry in all of its heart-wrenching honesty and regret. The song has a very clear addressee: the one that got away.

Our time to go into a closing
You moved when you ran out of money, stay
Your parents’ house in Ohio
Your old bed replaced with a treadmill now

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Interestingly, the version of “Malibu 1992” that appears on the album today is not the original. The group released a first draft of the song on their early EP titled “1992” on which the song was stylized simply as “Malibu.” Though not much altered dramatically either sonically or lyrically, the original does slightly depart from the final. On writing this song, Lawrence admitted to Baeble Music in a 2017 interview that, “Four years ago, we recorded this song by ourselves. At 4AM, under flickering fluorescent light, we carelessly wrote. Then, we put it on the shelf. It’s strange how you can’t tell how special something is until you revisit it. Maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe it’s delusion. I’ve physically changed, but I think my 20 year old self had ‘me’ more figured out than I do even now. We put this song away for a later time. I guess it’s now. Malibu 1992.”

The song opens first with a grounding beat and then ringing synthesizers. Lawrence’s clear voice chimes in moments later as he sings, “I watched you board an airplane// A high dive from a summer’s heat wave, down.” Here, Lawrence paints a movie scene-sequel picture for his listeners as he unfolds the story of how the person the song is about boarded an airplane to leave him and their life together behind. He details how their relationship combusted, singing, “A high dive from a summer’s heat wave, down.” This also parallels the “high dive” a plane must take when it lands.

Well I come here more than you know
And I’m sure you think I’ve outgrown you
But I couldn’t
COIN © Hunter Airheart
COIN © Hunter Airheart

Lawrence continues to enhance the listener’s understanding of the scenario by adding, “A bit tongue and a taste of iron// Sweethearts that high school soured, now.” By singing about a bit tongue, Lawrence introduces the concept that there are words that are being kept unsaid for some reason, as biting one’s tongue typically suggests refraining from saying something. The reasoning behind this refusal to speak the truth is unbeknownst to the listener, however. Lawrence also makes a clever play on words with the lyric, “Sweethearts that high school soured, now.” This hints at how the two met – and is a twist on the typically saccharine concept of ‘high school sweethearts.’

Lawrence isn’t done setting the scene, though. He sings, “Our time had grown to a closing//You moved when you ran out of money to stay//Your parents’ house in Ohio//Your old bed replaced with a treadmill, now.” By singing “Our time had grown to a closing//You moved when you ran out of money to stay,” it is obvious that the girl this song is about and the narrator’s relationship ended when the girl was no longer able to “stay,” supposedly in Malibu, due to the title of the song. It’s also worthy of note that the lyrics are “grown to a closing” instead of “come to a closing,” as ‘grown’ is a more dynamic verb that suggests action. Perhaps, instead of growing together, the duo simply grew “to a close,” in opposite directions that ultimately led them apart and decayed their relationship. Lawrence goes on, referencing “Your parents’ house in Ohio//Your old bed replaced with a treadmill, now.” This provides another teaser as to who the song is about – her parents live in Ohio (which is where it can be assumed she is moving back to). The lyric, “Your old bed replaced with a treadmill, now,” speaks to the fact that the physical layout of our homes alter over time to better fit our needs. This is one of the most tangible symptoms of the passage of time, and this lyric provides a colorful tidbit of imagery for listeners. There’s an air of sentimentality to these lyrics as Lawrence describes the close of the relationship and enhances a listener’s understanding of both the girl the song is about and his own character by adding detail as to where she grew up and more.

Oh, I did it again, I did it again
Ohh, I did it again
Oh, I must still want you

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In the pre-chorus, Lawrence continues to admit, “Well I come here more than you know// And I’m sure you think I’ve outgrown you// But I couldn’t.” While listeners aren’t explicitly told if Lawrence is saying he physically comes to (or more likely, drives by) her “parents house in Ohio,” or the metaphorical place where his memories with her live in his head, it’s obvious that he believes she doesn’t understand the longevity of the impact she left on him. He asserts that she probably thinks he outgrew her, but immediately disputes that notion by saying, “But I couldn’t.”

The chorus is what gives this song its whimsical, hazy, nostalgic feel. It’s melodramatic and mellow and dreamy and very California. “Oh, I did it again, I did it again// Oh, I did it again, oh, I must still want you,” Lawrence sings, his voice floating. What exactly “I did it again” is referring to is unclear, but listeners can interpret that Lawrence means he thought about the girl this song is about again. Towards the end of the chorus, he comes to a conclusion that “I must still want you.” He doesn’t sound surprised. Instead, his voice sounds rather deadpan, like Lawrence expected that much; of course he’d still want her. Lawrence’s tonality suggests that this is nothing new.

Our names carved in the pavement
Sealed by what’s left of our handprints now
I told my mom she’d love to meet you
But it’s too bad she won’t get the chance to

Lawrence continues on to sing, “Our names carved in the pavement//Sealed by what’s left of our handprints, now.” Then, he delivers two of his most sonically-grabbing lyrics, singing, “I told my mom she’d love to meet you//But it’s too bad she won’t get the chance to.” The twinge of pain that echoes in Lawrence’s normally clear voice is so obvious here as he remembers that due to the end of their relationship, his mother won’t have the opportunity to meet this girl who means so much to him.

COIN © Zachary Gray
COIN © Zachary Gray

Lyrically, the bridge of the song is simple, but helps provide insight as to why this relationship is such a source of regret for Lawrence. “And I might be part to blame//And I might be part to blame,” Lawrence croons. This is the switching point of the song. Whereas the rest of the song is detailing the decay of the relationship, the bridge is partly Lawrence taking responsibility for what has happened. Perhaps this is why he’s so hung up on this girl: because he knows he is a guilty party and he contributed to the end of this relationship. His tone infliction in the second repeat makes it obvious that Lawrence knows that he definitely factors into the equation, and regrets this.

And I might be part to blame
And I might be part to blame
How Will You Know If You Never Try - COIN
How Will You Know If You Never Try – COIN

Sonically, the lead up to the outro is one of the most gorgeous and wrenching moments in the song. It hits listeners in the gut. It provides just enough time for it to be obvious that the singer is collecting his thoughts while also delivering a gorgeous, full sound. When Lawrence picks up singing again, the song isn’t focused on the past anymore. While the first portion of the song is primarily recounting what has occurred, there’s a sudden fast forward to the present when Lawrence brings the song back to real time singing, “You’re some old man’s new trophy//Locked up in some house in New Jersey.” This lyric appears to be difficult for Lawrence to accept. His voice grows quieter as he mourns the fact that the person he loved – and still loves – is now “locked up in some house in New Jersey” and he can’t reach her anymore. She’s in a relationship with someone else now, and he is left to ponder the past while knowing there’s no way for them to have a future. He continues by bringing the song full circle. When the song started, the girl left Malibu because she “ran out of money to stay.” Lawrence sings on the outro, “Now money’s not a problem//But 20 years it seems you’ve forgotten//Malibu, ‘92.” The outro is particularly impactful because it demonstrates that though now the person the song is about is financially sound, it seems she’s lost who she was, and forgotten what they meant to each other. Lawrence sings that “it seems you’ve forgotten//Malibu, ‘92.” ‘Malibu ‘92” is essentially code for their time together; he believes the girl has ceased to remember their time together in Malibu, in 1992. This causes him distress.

You’re some old man’s new trophy
Locked up in some house in New Jersey
Now money’s not a problem
But 20 years it seems you’ve forgotten
Malibu, ninety-two

“Malibu 1992” is a heart broken confessional in which Lawrence and the crew pay tribute to a ‘forever’ that never happened. Instead, the only ‘forever’ is the enduring treasure hunt Lawrence is on in the song, constantly searching for resolution to the ongoing affliction that comes with loving someone who he can’t be with. It speaks to the fact that sometimes, it’s addicting searching for something that got away – whether that be a person, a period in one’s life, or otherwise – regardless of the fact that we know we will not find it.

Stream: “Malibu 1992” – COIN

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Malibu 1992 - COIN

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