Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Shins' "Sleeping Lessons" - An Interpretation

Albuquerque then, Portland now, indie-rock band The Shins have recently released their fourth album, Port of Morrow. Chris is an ardent fan of The Shins and per his usual mode of operation whenever a new music album that he enjoys is released we listen to that album on a daily basis. The album's cover song, Simple Song has been getting heavy rotation in the media on shows like David Letterman and Saturday Night Live, which we watched in awe of James Mercer's utter awesomeness. Whether you like The Shins or not, it's hard to deny that that man can sing.

Since Chris has been "in a Shins mood of late" (exactly how he puts it), we have revisited songs from their past, like A Comet Appears and Australia; we have listened to The Shins perform acoustic sets with the entire band, and solo sets with only James Mercer; Chris has played certain songs on repeat, trying to figure out the meaning behind the lyrics. This may all sound dorky but his fascination with music and dedication to understanding meaning are some of the reasons I love him. 

One night in Honduras, when we had already been spending the majority of our time together, Chris told me to lay down, close my eyes, and listen to an "epic" song that he really liked from The Shins then-newest album, Wincing the Night Away.  I obliged him and put in the ear buds he offered. I laid back, closed my eyes, and waited for the song to begin. The music began slowly, a repetitive crescendo of notes that immediately put me in a trance. When the vocals started I was hooked. The intensification of the music in the background kept me frozen in place, eyes shut tightly, heart pounding, and then, halfway through the song, that intensity reached it's peak and I was amazed, covered in goosebumps, at the effect that good music can have on a person. When the song finished I was convinced it was one of the best songs that I'd ever heard - beautiful instrumentation and lyrics that made you want to weep in sorrow and then rejoice and dance. That song was Sleeping Lessons. Yesterday Chris exposed this memory for me when he sent me an email at work titled "sleeping lessons = occupy".

The email, apparently written after a motivational run at the gym, was Chris' literal interpretation of the song. He equates it to the Occupy movement because they both (according to him, and after listening to it I also agree) have to do with revolution and rebellion. When I came home from work he made me sit down and read his interpretation while listening to the lyrics on his laptop. Those same opening notes had me absorbed once again and his analysis of the song was so brilliantly perfect that it reinforced my opinion that it is one of the best songs of all time. What follows is Chris' meaning of Sleeping Lessons. I highly recommend listening to the song while reading his interpretation. Click this video and then read on (lyrics in black, Chris in red):

Go without [stay the course minion.  don't ask for more than your share]
'Til the need seeps in [but wait a second, how come those wall street douches get so much, pay so little, never work -- this doesn't seem fair]
You low animal 
Collect your novel petals for the stem [go you low animal and do something that benefits us fat cats, like buying a bunch of bizarre crap you don't need but we make you believe you need to keep us in charge]

And glow
Melt and flow
Eviscerate your fragile frame [go work yourself to death -- the more you work the less you'll think about this injustice/imbalance.]
And spill it out in the ragged floor [uh oh -- we've hit a tipping point.  you can't take anymore of the unfairness, it might be time to revolt]
A thousand different versions of yourself [wait a second -- you don't have to take this if you don't want to; there are millions of people who feel fed up the same way that you do]

And if the old guard still offend [you hear that wall street and the old guard -- you need us.  if you're offended with our beliefs or ideals, deal with it or else we'll change turn system upside down.]
They got nothing left on which you depend [we don't need the old fat cats anymore -- we never did.  they need us to consume; to pay them? no they depend on us to shoulder the burden]
So enlist every ounce [occupy, be creative, uprise, unite, mobilize!]
Of your bright blood 
And off with their heads [you see that? that's change!  eat shit madoff and Goldman Sachs!]

Jump from the hook [free yourself from chasing the worm]
You're not obliged to swallow anything you despise [we don't need to take this anymore.  all of us together are stronger than the few puppet masters.]
See, those unrepenting buzzards want your life
And they got no right [where do they get off thinking they are better than us!?!]
As sure as you have eyes
They got no right

Just put yourself in my new hooves
And see that I do what I do [this is the hardest part -- putting into action what we all believe.  but just imagine if it were true]
Because the old guard still offend
Their pudgy hearts and slimy hands
They've got nothing left on which we depend
So enlist every ounce
Of your bright blood
And off with their heads

Jump from the hook
You're not obliged to swallow anything that you despise

And there it is! I just got chills rereading it again. This song is so good. What do you think? Spot on or waaaaaay off?


Anonymous said...

Chris is a genius! Good music; first time I heard of them (but then I am so old I was singing Neil Diamond to myself earlier today! ;-)

Carol said...

Did you hear about what happened to some Miami Occupiers? Kind of old news, but I think it's pertinent to this, your latest and wonderful post.

Paraphrasing Allison Kilkenny (who was reading from another news source):

Dozens of cops equipped with shotguns and assault riffles stormed the apartment of some local peaceful Occupy protesters and their CHILDREN who were legally residing there. The cops thought these protesters had guns and were going to use them at a protest, but that was not the case.

I heard about this from Citizen Radio.

Download episode 497 which was on 3/15/12, and at about minute 10:15 they start talking about it. Link below:

They also mention the tank that Florida's going to roll out at the RNC in Tampa!

Quoting Allison Kilkenny: "You're (the Florida people) lovely; your government is crazy, and your police officers as well..."

Ana Lucia said...

First time I heard of them also, and I really like them! ... and Chris' interpretation of the song is SPOT ON. I agree with him 100%