It's late at night. Or, it's after dark, anyway, which means, it turns out, that it's the wrong time to start looking into the history and interpretations of songs on They Might Be Giants's album Apollo 18. I am now terrified, and can't walk through dark halls, and keep glancing uneasily at the sliver of black visible between the mostly-closed curtains of my office. The fact that the door doesn't shut all the way doesn't help, either. On the other hand, that makes this an excellent time to talk about the album. Which holy crap is so good.
General features: The singles from Apollo 18 were "I Palindrome I," "The Statue Got Me High," and "The Guitar."* The album also contains 21 songs under 30 seconds long, called "Fingertips." Apparently, I stumbled on the correct application of these songs, which is to turn on shuffle so the regular songs are interspersed with weird little moments.**
My favorite song on the album is "Dinner Bell," which is just so much fun. The reason I'm freaked out, though, while it trails back around to that, starts with "Turn Around."
"Turn Around" features lyrics such as:
I was working all night in my office When a man I had recently killed Called me up from a phone near my building So I looked out the window at him
Until the engineer whose back had been turned And who we thought would find this highly amusing Quickly swiveled his head around And his face which was a paper-white mask of evil Sang us this song
and the chorus,
Turn around, turn around, There's a thing there that can be found Turn around, turn around It's a human skull on the ground Human skull on the ground Turn around
The thing is, it's such a cheery song, it didn't really sink in that it's freaking terrifying until I actually read some people's interpretations of it on the They Might Be Giants Wiki.
Now, that scared me enough that I really needed to find something to make me feel better. So I started looking for another song that might help.
- I'm arachnophobic, so Spider was no help.
- I already know that I Palindrome I is about familial murder.
- Which Describes How You're Feeling is weirdly existentially terrifying
- None of the Fingertips aren't in some unknowable way horrifying
- I didn't even click on Dig My Grave
And Dinner Bell, which is my favorite song on the album, has a hard-to-hear refrain alluding to Pavlov's conditioning experiments, and an inexplicable section that John Linnell learned how to sing by memorizing the lyrics played in reverse, singing those backwards words, then reversing them back to the correct order of phonemes.
Those lyrics are:
Shoulder, bicep, elbow, arm Forearm, thumb, wrist, knuckle, palm Middle, pinky, index, ring Dinner bell, dinner bell, ding
Goddamn I'm freaked out now. I may not be sleeping very well tonight.
*(The Lion Sleeps Tonight)
**Please pass the milk, please... please pass the milk, please...