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“Villains” Lyrics

Although Gabriel Kahane’s "Villains" is nominally linked to one address—the iconic Lovell Health House at 4616 Dundee Dr.— there are a number of buildings alluded to throughout the song. Kahane also pays lyrical homage to several blockbuster films (most notably, 1988’s Die Hard), so we’ve created an annotated version of the song with references and hyperlinks to ensure you don’t miss a beat.

The Ambassador runs through Saturday, December 13 in the BAM Harvey Theater.


Why do villains
Always live in houses
Built by modernist masters?[1]

Why does Hollywood
Insist on destroying
The city by numbers,
By natural disasters?[2]

An elemental earthquake[3]
A furnace of a fire[4]
A rippling rainstorm
Nuclear bombs or martians from the future[5]

A dithering police force[6] 
A mutant sprung from a cage
A giant half man horse
A frustrated actor on a spitball rampage!

Are you nostalgic for a time
When you could put a face to ev’ry crime
And the violence was as wholesome
As it was imaginative, baby?[7] 

How would you feel
If we moved into
The house where they shot
Pulp Fiction?

We’d put the nursery
Where Uma OD’d
A reminder of greed
Of the dangers of
Heroin addiction.

A cantilevered beachhouse[8]
With clerestory windows
An open air sleeping porch
Frank Lloyd Wright[9] built a whole lotta bungalows!

Rudy Schindler and Neutra
They had a great big falling out
Two great architects
Let me tell what that was all about

Is something absent in design
Where the heart is mastered by the line
And all you’ve got is the reflection
Of what’s on the outside, impure?
Say, all these houses look the same
The uniform of steel in ev’ry frame[10]
You could think about a lot of things
Waiting for the concrete to cure.

I’ve been thinking a lot
About action movies of the 1980’s
Particularly Die Hard,
Which seems to illustrate
So many of the anxieties
Central to a time + place:

Japanese capital[11]
The waning of the cold war[12]
Pride in a downtown.[13]

What did they build it for?
Risen from the ashes
of a once great neighborhood
All the ghosts of Bunker Hill 
Who needs history
Was history ever any good?

Are you nostalgic for a time
When art + commerce toed the line
When entertainment had an easy smile
As it looked upon you, too?[14]

Back then Bruce Willis had some hair
He smoked in airports, no one cared 
And in the end, Alan Rickman
fell out of a window, boo hoo

Are you nostalgic for a time
When you could put a face to ev’ry crime
And the violence was as wholesome
As it was imaginative, baby?


The Ambassador
Dec 10—Dec 13, 2014
The Ambassador
Dec 10—Dec 13, 2014

Detective fiction drunks, race riots, and natural disasters are all fodder for this personal portrait of Los Angeles from singer-songwriter Gabriel Kahane, directed by John Tiffany (Once) and commissioned by BAM.

BAM Illustrated: Freak Architects of Los Angeles
The true story of two icons of Los Angeles architecture who were friends, partners, and embittered rivals: Rudolph Schindler and Richard Neutra.