Every now and then I wake up from a dream with a song looping in my head. Oddly enough, the song usually isn’t one I have a strong connection with (a notable memory is when I woke up with “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” repeating in my head), but throughout the rest of the day I will crave to hear the song to an extent that it grows into something I love (yes, even with the example I just gave).
This morning, I woke up from “playing” a secret agent hunting down a mass murderer hiding on my cul-de-sac (I watch too much 24). Towards the end of the dream, everything starts spinning around me as the second, more disco-y half of the song “Animals” by Talking Heads starts playing in the background. It was pretty awesome.
1. Fear of Music is an album I really enjoy but I’d definitely place “Animals” in the second half of favorite songs from it. I just couldn’t find the pay-off towards the song’s conclusion reasonable for the slower beginning. Of course, the charm of the song clicked after the song soundtracked that super intense dream I had. While hunting down this killer, I felt an overwhelming sense of frustration and disappointment towards my neighbors. Why am I the only one upset and taking initiative to bring justice of the death’s of my fellow neighbors and friends? I felt so alone in my cause that it brought me to a point of nausea *cues “Animals”*
I recently read some post about Steve Albini and OF and how artists love imitating the role of a villain but never consider the mindset of a victim; however, Fear of Music is an album that both ventures and succeeds into the territory of victimization. If a spectrum existed that placed villain and victim on polar ends, Byrne’s character would exist at the very tip of the “victim” side. His character feels such an overwhelming sense of helplessness and betrayal among the people surrounding him/her (“Air can hurt you too”) that by “Animals” he/she reaches a breakdown in which everyone around him is so untrustworthy, so inherently set on fucking him over that he rations that he’s a lone human among savage beasts. Perhaps to an extreme, Byrne captures a common feeling in the human experience where one is constantly let down and disappointed by their environment and the people around them that they begin to dehumanize their peers to make their problems feel more unique, their situations more helpless.
2. Musically, this song is groovy as fuck. I listened to this song three times while lying in bed and I felt like there was a discrepancy in the way I was listening to the song and the way it was meant to be played, but I couldn’t really place why this whole setup felt wrong. Finally, I played the song while I sorted out laundry and started doing some phancy footwork. The song’s bass rhythm with that great disco drumming made me start dancing in a crip-walk/superman-that-ho fashion (plus spins!) that I couldn’t even control. David Byrne always sings with strange tonal inflections but on this song his grunts sound so downright primal, so I think combining the song’s basic funk groove and Byrne’s vocal style, dancing just felt so instinctive to appreciating the song.
As I went back to folding my clothes, I realized that since I went to college I rarely ever dance to music anymore (specifically songs that I like). There’s a weird connection you can make with a song by dancing along with it (especially in private), by letting the song’s individual components take over you and treat your muscles like puppet strings. This works even with songs that aren’t meant for dancing (I remember a particularly embarrassing dance session to “Train Under Water” by Bright Eyes in high school). “Animals” is such crafted so fucking well because it reminds you how to connect to a song on such a basic level, a level that feels shunned upon at concerts and too corrupted by abrasive Skrillex songs in 2011.
I decided to separate these two ideas because they touch on different aspects of the song; however, I think it’s interesting to note how these components of the song clash with one another. On one hand, you’re dealing with pure paranoia: feeling so much cynicism towards society you isolate yourself and dehumanize others by reasoning they are just “animals that will let you down”. However, the funkiness of the rhythm makes me feel the complete opposite. The beat makes me want to dance; I don’t know about you but I can only dance when my guard is completely let down and I lack any sense of vulnerability. I don’t really know what to make of this clash in the context of the song because I was not alive in the late 70s when people actually thought the Cold War might lead to something or another, but I guess 2011 isn’t that much different and I know there are people who might not want what is best for me (a thought that can be briefly anxiety inducing) but I know that I can’t let this stop me from ~LiVinG mY LyF~. And I guess that might be what Byrne is getting at? That it’s important to be conscious that people might try to fuck you over, but that’s not really any reason to completely block yourself from the world? Sometimes you just gotta groove with the people you love, make real relationships, hope someone will stand beside you when that knife goes in your back.