Interpretations:Feign Amnesia

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It's about Alberto Gonzales' testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. --Lars


In the lyrics, there's a question mark next to a pivotal line. I think the line starts out "Then lost HIS life", refering to the crazy guy dancing behind us. Perhaps this song is the brilliant plan the narrator came up with when questioned about the death of the drunken stranger. Cheery!

     The question mark is there because whoever put the lyrics there was unsure of the line. It's slightly hard to distinguish the correct lyrics

Knowing that Flansburgh dislikes Bush, Lars might seem to be right 24.205.162.202 02:15, 20 May 2007 (UTC)


It's also plausible that the song could refer to Scooter Libby.


As much as I like the political interpretations, I have a feeling this song predates the Gonzales hearings. In any case, I think this song is more about music than politics. As I read it, it's about a band that's constantly reinventing itself, and it's fans who have to "feign amnesia" by pretending they've always been that way. At least, that's what's suggested by the first verse. I can't really get the rest of the lyrics to fit this interp quite as well.


I think Flans is referring to the Sidewalk Cafe in the east village, "we were standing outside of Sidewalk / with that crazy guy dancing behind us." Anyone who's been there could relate to this line...there's a lot of crazy homeless dancing people in front of it all the time (no exaggeration.) And obviously he is referring to an actual venue (not just any sidewalk, since it's capitalized.) Also everyone who plays there calls Sidewalk Cafe "Sidewalk"... ALSO the line "why half settle for something half new" reminds me of sitting in the audience at Sidewalk and listening to the shitty music there! -J


Feigning amnesia = pretending you don't know what's going on or went on. Pretty awesome song. Don't have much of an interpretation besides that. *shrug* --Lemita 02:03, 25 August 2007 (UTC)



Before reading, note that I am not fully convinced myself that this dialog was intended by TMBG, or is even correct, but it is a fun way to look at the album as a whole. My interpretation is based on the premises put forth by Milhouse911 in his/her interpretation of the song Impressed.

After reading Milhouse911's impressive interpretation of this song I have looked for similar themes in other songs on the album. The basic theme I see is a dialog about the transition from They Might Be Giant's limited fan base for 25+ years, and seeming carelessness about popularity into an attempt to move toward the mainstream; especially by working with mainstream producers for The Else. This dialog is put forward from several voices, each showing a different piece of the argument from one another, but as a whole creating a full picture of the Johns' real thoughts on the subject.

For a summary of my interpretation:

1. I'm Impressed introduces the idea to the audience just as TMBG themselves were introduced to the concept when they first thought of working with a mainstream producer. Read more about this interpretation of Impressed by Milhouse911.

2. Climbing the Walls, along with the original argument from Impressed, are pieces of the dialog arguing for going more mainstream.

3. Feign amnesia, along with slight words of encouragement from Take Out the Trash, and The Cap'm, provide a regretful voice, and argument against going for more mainstream.

4. The Mesopotamians wraps up the dialog as seen from the collective consciousness of the band, much like #1. This song portrays a conclusion where although voice #2 seemingly wins out, TMBG does not forget it's background or voice #3's argument.

(see my interpretations in these 4 songs)


Feign Amnesia, along with several lines from Take Out the Trash, and the Cap'm present the argument against going more mainstream and working with mainstream producers. The voice in feign amnesia can barely believe that The Else is turning out so mainstream, and the argument presented in Climbing the Walls seems to be winning. This voice wants to pretend it hasn't happened, and TMBG is not trying to become more mainstream. The brains, or the originality of TMBG is going upstream, and becoming barbarous.

Supporting lines:

"Now I know just what to do Feign amnesia How I wish it wasn't true Wish it wasn't true right now" - This voice wants to pretend that this isn't happening – that the band is trying a new thing.

"Not much quiet about reinvention" - It hasn't been much of a secret, especially with the voice in Climbing the Walls being heard so strongly.

"Barbarians and seeds the lost and the remains" - This line is hard to interpret, but I see it as saying the seeds of barbarism, or mainstream music, are seeping into TMBG's originality according to this voice (I do not agree with this voice!).

Other Supporting lines for this voice come from Take Out The Trash, and The Cap'm:

"You had him figured out a while ago and I know it's not exactly breaking news" - From Take Out The Trash, this voice had it figured out awhile ago that TMBG was going to attempt something new by going more mainstream.

"Do you think there's somebody out there Someone else who's better than the one you've got? Well there's not, there's not" - From The Cap'm, this voice is advising that there isn't really something better for the band out there if they lose their original style and go for the mainstream.

--JeshuaBratman 05:45, 31 August 2007 (UTC)

Phew. Some complicated interpretations, I think this song highlights the late career contradictions of the Giants work. Gleefully obtuse about politics in their early work, they were emotionally disconnected from the 60s politics and social change that they sometimes wrote about. However, as middle aged men they obviously have much to say on modern American politics and yet they still seem bound by the rules of their 25 year old selves - i.e. disguising message with layered metaphor and in-jokes to the extent that the song meaning is lost to endless unanswerable interpretation. This has worked well on the non political songs but rather misses the point on songs such as this and the shadow government and to a lesser extent I'm Impressed. Political songs need to be easily understood. Flans in particular could hit a whole whole new vein of form if he remembered. As a tune, the song falls into the late period Giants trap of being worked out in the studio rather than live. Like solo Lennon, Flans songs sometime lack melody and I feel the arrangement would have worked better if Linnell had played some accordion to give it a more organic feel and Flans had sung it a lot lower. (Mr Tuck)


When I first heard about the Loudness War, I instantly thought of this song. Specifically, this lyric:

Not much quiet about reinvention
Why half-settle for stuff that is half-new?
Like a volume beyond comprehension
If the bass won't get you
The treble will get you

Its about how music today relies to heavily on bass and loudness instead of sounding good.

Tojo 05:27, 14 November 2008 (UTC)


IIt sounds like a story about someone who did something when they were really drunk and are pretending to have forgotten what happened to save themselves from embarrassment or for some other reason. (Will)


I have no idea what the song means, but at 1:24 it quotes Elton John's cover of Pinball Wizard (4:38 in that track).


I think it's more about an ex-couple. The chorus says that when the narrator's ex-girlfriend comes by, he'll pretend not to notice her and he'll look busy so that she doesn't try to rekindle their relationship or something along those lines. "Not much quiet about reinvention, why half-settle for stuff that is half-new" means that if they tried to get back together, things would be the same (half-new) and neither would be happy (half-settled). The next verse I'm not too sure about and this is just me bs'ing it. "Hers are the brains floating on an upstream train" means that maybe she was doing drugs, maybe something hallucinogenic (LSD) or something more serious (crack) and the narrator wants no part in it, maybe he thinks she's just screwing herself up. "Hers are the brains, barbarians and seeds, the lost and the remains" reinforces this, maybe the lost and the remains are the bits of her original self left over from before she started drugs. "We were standing outside of Sidewalk with that crazy guy dancing behind us" I agree with the above, about the Sidewalk Cafe. "With our forced smiles and all of the laughing then my sister lied, didn't need that ride" They were trying to pretend that nothing was wrong with forced smiles and laughing, and maybe the sister part is meant literally, eg his sister was with them and was trying to get him out of the relationship, so she told the narrator's girl that they didn't, in fact, need a way home. Feel free to nitpick at this, it's just my idea.



I think it is about a couple that is having a fight, but instead of working out their issues they ignore them. "Not much quiet about reinvention, Why half-settle for stuff that is half-new?" I think this line is probably, as many of you said, a reference to music production but I also believe it is a reference to the reinvention of oneself, meant as sarcasm towards his girlfriend. As if he is trying to give her a mock reason for why they should not discuss their issues, because his girlfriend will not allow him to discuss any topics that might help them "reinvent" themselves because those same topics might cause them to get "not much quiet" (loud or angry) at each other and he feels that he should not have to "Feign amnesia" as shown by the following "How I wish it wasn't true, Wish it wasn't true right now" The rest I think is probably too heavily based too much on the narrators personal experience and therefor almost impossible to comprehend as it is meant to be comprehended.

Guitar Lines[edit | edit source]

Just play the air-guitar along. Its awesome when the guitar 'feigns amnesia' at the last chorus "wish it wasn't true right now!" LOL!!!