Interpretations:Erase

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Button Marked "Erase"[edit | edit source]

What a great way to begin the Dial-A-Song Direct project! I think it definitely has to do with the creative process, which is wholly appropriate for the first of a whopping 52 new songs this year. The old adage of "kill your darlings" is referenced (thanks to a Facebook comment for helping me come up with that link). I can't help but imagine Linnell sitting there trying to come up with song #49 later this year going, "I've already written so many songs, what more can I do?" But then he remembers the erase (i.e., backspace) button and clears out his thought process for yet another song. A number of other images in this song imply starting over: the disappearing box on the sidewalk, the people getting in a bus and leaving town, ignoring "shrill alarms" that say you shouldn't be getting rid of the ideas...and so on. All these pains you take will eventually lead you deeper, like into a metaphorical mermaid's embrace at the bottom of the sea. --MisterMe (talk) 08:35, 6 January 2015 (EST)

I really hope that, once the year is up, they make all of these Dial-A-Songs into an album. -A freedom-loving, sister-hugging, screaming, yelling TMBG fan

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind[edit | edit source]

This song sort of fits as being told from the perspective of Clementine, noted owner of an orange hoodie. -- Sonderling (talk) 10:58, 7 January 2015 (EST)

Definitely seems strongly related to that movie.
"Darlings must be murdered" strengthens this considerably - "oh my darling Clementine" being the popular reference. Darling is also said band of clementines often found in the supermarket.
On a side note, many of the songs on the album seem connected to this theme:
- Mermaid = Underwater Woman
- "Darling" is also mentioned in Music Jail
- Good To Be Alive may be referencing waking up after the memory erasure
- An unpronouncible name in the "white noise" :- partially intact memories
- Lazy Boyfriends getting around doing anything by whiting out the to do list (ie: erasing the memory)
- "Aaa" - asking the questions better left unasked, investigating into the lost memories
- And finally, back full circle - "Let me tell you about my operation", where the memories are again removed, restarting the cycle.
cyclopticinsight (talk)
Good job dude. I've been jokingly asserting that the entire album is about Eternal Sunshine without actually wanting to think about it too much. This is just the evidence I needed. -- Sonderling (talk) 15:26, 19 May 2015 (EDT)

It's grim, but...[edit | edit source]

This sounds like this is a person in the process of killing their former lover/friend/whatever. They are strangling someone - the other person's neck is the metaphorical "button marked Erase"--Pittsburghmuggle (talk) 15:47, 18 February 2015 (EST)

A song about starting over[edit | edit source]

I think that this is a song starting over. All of the metaphors in the chorus are about erasing what was there and starting anew. The 'button marked erase' that literally clears everything, the (maybe moving?) boxes and their disappearance, and everyone leaving town. The part about the deep sea diver and the mermaid is a bit trickier, but I think that it implies the unknown, a diver, exploring things that have never been seen and the mermaid's embrace is a surprise, the embrace bringing you down to a new world. I love this song and I think that it was a great start to this year! -Echo (o_o)

I get a similar read, but I think it's a song romanticizing endings without really thinking about what you'll do next. The singer strikes me as someone running away or trying to push their demons away - to the point of actually killing them - but because they don't know what they're aiming for they just end up sinking back into the spiral, back into the deep. The skeletons won't stay down, and the heartbreak goes from overcoming their heart to being something they can't even face. They're trying to just 'erase' their problems without actually resolving them, and the end result is that they keep finding their problems waiting for them in the next stage - they can never complete their escape.

Suicide[edit | edit source]

I still think it's about suicide. Ostensibly-self-drowning deep-sea driver, catching the bus (a metaphor for suicide), erasing one’s past/memories, succumbing to a “heartbreak [that] overwhelms your heart”. It’s so easy: “find the button marked erase” and make it go away; “ignore the shrill alarms,” “see the way the deep-sea diver falls into the mermaid’s arms” - don’t fight it. “Darlings [who] must be murdered” calls to mind school shooters who off themselves (e.g., Sandy Hook).

Boxes on the sidewalk disappearing as new ones are being brought? Sounds like a futility of life thing to me.

Don't know what to make of the orange sweater; maybe a prison jumpsuit?

Love the song, and I hope this tune about strangulation doesn't morph into a kids' tune. (I'm lookin' at you, Four of Two...)

-FallenOutWithMyHead (talk)

To add to the above, drowning and strangulation are both asphyxiation. Hmm...--Pittsburghmuggle (talk) 20:31, 9 March 2015 (EDT)


To me, this is really on point. "I won't wear an orange sweater", interpreted as talking about a prison jumpsuit, feels like a statement about not putting up with the conditions of one's life. "Think of this as solving problems that should never have occurred", seems to be convincing another person (or perhaps yourself) that it's a good idea, solving a problem. "When it's as it someday is, It always will have been the case" is a little tricky to parse, but it seems to be talking about how everyone is going to die (as it someday is), and possibly a statement on how life doesn't matter once you're dead. The way I hear it, the "button marked erase" is the trigger of a gun, or something similar. -- Anonymous


This interpretation is really insightful.
* The lights going out make me think of "lights on but nobody's home"--both the departing buses and the vanishing boxes may be the person's life ebbing away. The lights could also be more literal lights, indications of vital signs on hospital equipment.
* Drowning is supposed to be a peaceful way to die, and mermaids and sirens lure people to their death underwater, so that may be why the person keeps looking at the diver as someone to emulate ("See the way").
* I think the "darlings must be murdered" is metaphorical; it's a phrase writers use a lot, referring to sentences or even scenes that the writer personally likes but that don't serve the story and need to be taken out of it. So in the context of suicide, that's a sneaky way of saying that even if you like yourself, you still don't belong and need to be removed. The world will be better off without you.
In other words, this is the voice of depression, luring you into self-destruction despite your lingering desire for survival. Which makes the opening "You and I will be together" really super creepy. Brrr. -- Rosefox
A more recent relisten brings to mind imagery of a double-suicide, or perhaps a murder-suicide. "You and I will be together, when we shed our memory" sounds to me like a couple that know they can't stay together, and suicide is their answer. This kind of idea has plenty of precedent in both reality and fiction.
I think it fits both the suicide and murder interpretations, if you look at the from the perspective of the depression being the murderer by proxy. This might get a bit darker, but the line about strangulation sounds like idealization. If you're at a point where you're considering hanging yourself/strangling someone, you're likely not thinking about it as a grisly task, as much as a much-needed exit.
Something else occurs to me, though it may be a stretch: in terms of the whole futility of moving the boxes and discovering they're gone by the time you come back out, this might also specifically be referring to dealing with the problems pushing you there. In other words, chronic depression. You'll be shifting your focus to manage one aspect of the issue ("mindfulness," I suppose you can call it), but when you're forced to do that, other dark parts of your depression take the opportunity to creep in, making any feeling of progress seem pointless after a while. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but it struck me as an apt description that had to come from someone dealing with this.
If that's the case, the line about being together is downright chilling. We don't know what comes After. And what you're really trying to escape isn't so much life, as much as yourself. What if there's something left of you after you die? What if that's ALL there is? --97.87.92.229 12:27, 22 January 2016 (EST)

Holocaust connection to modern mass killings[edit | edit source]

First - I like all of the previous interpretations, but here's another one to consider: What I hear is a song about parallels between the tragedy of an attempted erasure of a people in WWII to those who are in fear for their lives today. Here are my connections, following the order of the lyrics.

The first person is the victim, talking about his/her death and going to heaven/nirvana/whatever and shedding memories. The orange sweater refers (as stated above) to a prisoner jumpsuit, but in this case, it's not the killer, but could be the Christian victims who were beheaded on the Libyan coast recently (or similar mass murders in the middle east). The second person ("your ever-searching finger finds the button marked erase") is the murderer. The boxes on the sidewalk is cryptic, but could be this: Linnell didn't say put the box in the kitchen, or on the porch, he said, sidewalk. What is a sidewalk for? People walk on it to go places. A box could be obfuscating the term "boxcar". It could be a reference to putting people in boxcars on a RR track and sending them to a concentration camp. When you return with another train, the first one is gone. This is immediately followed with "Everyone gets on a bus out of town, and the lights are going out one by one" This could be an allusion to empty Polish ghettos after the population had been removed, OR it could be a modern reference to people in the middle east fleeing from their hometowns to avoid mass killings.

When darlings must be murdered - it could be that Linnell doubled back on a literary reference to mean actual murder. From the perspective of the perpetrators, mass killings could be a regrettable action that must be taken for a twisted goal they have in mind. The song instructs the listener to "think of this as solving problems." The next verse on strangulation is a bit of a stretch because it's not the same thing as beheading or poison gas, but the song would be too obvious if those terms were used.

The deep sea diver and the mermaid - I came up empty on that one. It's wonderful lyricism, but I looked for superstitions of deep sea divers, and sailors, but nothing fits. But above it was suggested that it could mean an acceptance of death. That sounds reasonable to me.

"The skeletons that won't stay down, The mercy kill that can't be drowned." The skeletons could be a sad acknowledgement that in all of the genocides that have been perpetrated, the graves, the skeletons, the evidence never stays completely hidden, as has been documented today in the middle east were families have returned to find relatives' skeletons, clothing, etc.

That's about it...except for this: when this started rolling around in my head, on a lark, I thought about checking to see if there was a connection to the Nazi concentration camps. It turns out that Erase was released as a dial-a-song in January 2015, which happens to be the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Russians, and it was then released on Glean in April 2015, which happens to be the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Dachau by the American forces. In both of those cases, the Nazis ordered remaining prisoners to be evacuated by foot, referred to by some as "death marches."

Judge for yourself, but this is what I think of when I hear this song. --Flac (talk) 12:00, July 26 2015 (EST)

Break up song of the future[edit | edit source]

Though I like the suicide idea, when i first heard this it immediately struck me as sort of a companion (or prologue) to Let Me Tell You About My Operation. The song takes place in an alternate/future world where one can erase memories. The singer discovers that his ex is going to erase memories of their relationship, and as the song goes on, he contemplates doing the same.

When it's as it someday is/It always will have been the case

When darlings must be murdered/When your heartbreak overwhelms your heart/When your heartbreak overrides the very/Thing you can not face The skeletons that won't stay down/The mercy kill that can't be drowned

The use of the word "button" emphasizes how simply and easily their lives may be forgotten.

I won't wear an orange sweater/When I get it off of me The orange sweater might refer to a particular pet peeve that his ex had, and he is subtly mocking her for it, i.e. "you'll forget about my orange sweater". As the song ends, the words begin to become stilted, reflecting the fading memories, which are now like "lights going out one by one" or "putting a box on the side walk" (this line also might refer to a lover moving out of an apartment).

-Superotter

Exes And Alcohol (not lohoca dna sexe)[edit | edit source]

My original feelings about this song was this it would be a great replacement for the audiotrack in the move Primer during the third act/ending montage. I feel it would make at least as much sense whilst describing the goings on at least as well.

But then a friend mentioned how she was waiting to see a shrink to get some sort of meds whcih could help her with her depression and anxiety cause blackouts (aided by alcohol) and it made me consider that this could actually be exactly what the song is describing.

The opening line sounds like its an obvious reference to a situation where a break-up has taken place but one party still has feelings for the other. The orange sweater lends itself much more easily to the movie Primer (or Groundhog Day if you like) in changing every single detail in order to make everything perfect. But in this case I think it actually refers to the inability to let go of the aforementioned feelings in a similar way as the Eve 6 lyric "Waiting for the month of come what May / I smelled you on my shirt today" from the song Amphetamines. But the orange sweater lyric refers specifically to wanting to let go, but not having yet been able to (as taking off the sweater would seem a simple thing to do, remains inexplicably undone).

"When it's as it someday is it always will have been the case" Also seems like it might be a reference to time travel and maybe this time to the HitchHicker's Guide To The Galaxy talking about how semantics are the most difficult problem with it. But instead it now looks to me like something muttered in slurred words by one drinking alone and talking to themselves. And whilst the next line might appear to be a reference to how a moving present might exist in a relativistic universe, but instead of going on a tangent about temporal philosophy I'll refer it instead to the drunken narrator's subconscious deciding that dealing with the pain and the alcohol simultaneously is just not feasible, and so provides the Ego with the answer to the pain it was searching for which is to forget it (by blacking out).

That's when we enter the repetitive lyrics continually referring to erasing everything. Now when one enters a state of blacking out it's not uncommon for them to perform actions repeatedly as they continually appraise their physical surroundings, often deciding to do something whilst being oblivious of the fact that they've just done it. Since I can't/wouldn't go further into my friends' personal experiences in this regard I'll have to replace some explanation by describing my own past experiences diving deep undersea and falling into the mermaid's embrace of alcohol itself to the extent where it causes a blackout.

"Put one box on the sidewalk Then you return with the next And the first one's gone" One night I called a friends of mine 8 times, though I only realized this the last time I called when his voicemail box was full and I looked at might phone and discovered with alarm and confusion my call history. For the sake of pleasantry I'll not go into how this would feel when realizing you'd just called an ex 8 times in a row but were completely unaware of the fact that you'd ever even dialed the number, let alone what you might have left on the machine. But just as you're realizing this your brain gets on the bus out of town and bulbs lighting your memory/awareness of the situation go out one by one.

"When darlings must be murdered When your heartbreak overwhelms your heart" Beautiful line. Murdering your darlings refers to editing a piece of writing. Getting rid of the parts which might even be your favourite if they don't matter or aren't important. This line refers to your brain deciding that all the obsession which led to the drinking which led to further weeping obsession about the situation is all just too much and too pointless to keep, so it stops transferring things from your short term memory to your long, resulting in the blackout.

"Think of this as solving problems That should never have occurred Please don't call it strangulation, That is such an ugly word" Again, would have worked much better in the Primer interpretation where the lead character is murdering his former selves (darlings). But in this interpretation it has a much simpler meaning which is the self-destructive nature of alcoholism and/or turning to alcohol in times of distress.

"When your heartbreak overrides the very Thing you can not face The skeletons that won't stay down The mercy kill that can't be drowned" This line describes Aaron's motives in Primer but that doesn't matter. What matters is that it takes things past just the alcohol experience of blacking out and describing the inevitable repetition of the turning to alcohol to drown feelings that just won't die. It also provides the only real solution which all addicts are aware of but many still continue to ignore which is that you have to face the feelings that are causing your sorrow if you want to escape them.

Then John only repeats every other word involved in the cycle, showing how the problem itself and the reasons for it gradually become lost as the cycle itself becomes the only constant. This is confirmed in the final lines of the song as the repetition keeps going, but we've now lost all of the initiating feelings because the loop is all that is important. Just like as Primer ends it loses what more temporal mechanics would call logical coherency, but I would only call story structure coherency (But I'm currently alone in that point of view amongst actual philosophers and scientists, and as such fully recommend the watch in case it may inspire anyone in the field to agree with my argument).