Today we’ll be wrapping up our week of songs with a personal favorite of mine. But before we get too far into it, let’s do a quick review of what we’ve looked at so far this week.
On Monday, we looked at The New Pornographers’ “The Bones of an Idol”, and examined the symbolism of its lyrics. Tuesday, we made a genre leap to hip hop, and analyzed “Strange Ways”, by MF DOOM and Madlib as a part of their Madvillain collaboration. Yesterday, we made another genre leap to classic rock, and looked at some of the misinterpretations of “Hotel California”, as well as the true meaning according to the artists.
Today, we’ll be looking at the song “Inside Out” by Spoon. I figured that starting and ending the week with an indie rock song felt a little like bookends. Also, this is just one of my favorite songs and I wanted to talk about it so there.
Spoon is an American indie rock band that formed in Austin, Texas back in the early 1990’s. They released their debut album, “Telephono” in 1996, and their second, “A Series of Sneaks” two years later on Elektra Records.
Fast forward roughly fifteen years to 2014, and Spoon was releasing their eight studio album, “They Want My Soul” on their new label, Loma Vista Recordings. This was also the first album to feature the band’s new member, Alex Fischel on keyboard and guitar.
“Inside Out” was one of the three singles released with, “They Want My Soul”. The other two, being “Rent I Pay”, and “Do You”.
While the lyrics to “Inside Out” don’t match the level of complexity we’ve seen from some of the other songs we’ve already covered, I think there’s still plenty there to appreciate. And again, there are multiple interpretations that we can make, which we’ll look at shortly.
As always, we’ll be taking a look at the inherent symbolism found in the lyrics. Starting with the first verse, we’ll try and parse out the context, and use that as an anchor point to discern the meaning off the rest of the song. So let’s take a look at the first verse, splitting it up into two halves.
“Time’s gone inside out
Time gets distorted when
There’s intense gravity”
Here, we don’t get many hints as to what the song is really about. But the titular first line is our best bet. What does it mean for time to go inside out? It suggests a pivot, a change. So if time regularly moves forward, instead, it now feels like it’s going backward.
There’s an obvious connection here to life and death. We come out of nothing, and grow older, until we reach a midpoint. From that midpoint, we begin to shrink as we grow older, and then wither away into nothing once again. I think that this is what Spoon is referring to. The turning point when you realize that each day is closer to your last than your first. A tentative interpretation would be that this is a song about a midlife crisis.
But let’s look at the second half of the first verse before we give a premature diagnosis.
“I don’t got time for holy rollers
Though they may wash my feet
And I won’t be their soldier”
Here, we get an obvious reference to religion, as well as the narrator’s opinion on it. A “holy roller” is a term used for extremely religious Christians, often ones who go over the top with their worship. Here, the narrator is saying that even though he’s being welcomed into the Christian community with the ritual foot washing, he won’t go to bat for team God and become a missionary.
In the next verse, we get another piece of the picture.
“There’s intense gravity in you
Yeah, there’s intense gravity in you
I’m just your satellite
I’m just your satellite”
Here, we see that what’s distorting time is the subject of this song. So when the narrator is with him/her, time gets distorted because of his strong attraction, expressed here as “intense gravity”. The line, “I’m just your satellite” completes the extended metaphor. The narrator is in orbit around their significant other.
While there are other lyrics we could look at, we’re running out of space here, and we’ll have to cut our discussion a little short today. But I think what we’ve covered so far shows a good representation of what “Inside Out” is about. Take a listen if you’ve got the time. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s one of my favorite songs.
That about wraps up our discussion for today. Next week, we’ll be back again with another collection of songs.