Interpretations:Four Of Two
This is actually a very sad song, despite the happy mood of the music.
It's about a stupid guy, a mean girl, and of course, a broken clock.
Before the guy goes to the 5th Avenue - 22nd Street intersection, he falls in love with a girl and wants to tell her he loves her, and decides he'd tell her that on a date with her. So he asks her to a date. He doesn't know this, but unfortunately for the guy, the girl is very mean. The girl doesn't like him, because she knows he's insanely stupid. But she decides to make fun of his stupidity by saying, "Okay. I'll go on a date with you. Let's meet at the 5th Avenue - 22nd Street intersection tomorrow at 2:00." In other words, let's meet right under the broken clock that always says four minutes before 2:00. So the guy agrees, and then the girl goes on with her life, pretending no one asked her on a date at all. We never meet her again.
So the guy goes to the intersection a little bit early. It's a big clock, and it captures the guy's attention. Four minutes from two, it says. He decides to use a little time to figure out how exactly he wants to tell her that he's in love with her. He feels nervous. He wonders if she'll show up. "Okay," he thinks to himself. "At 2:15 or so, I'll decide she ditched me, and I'll feel bad, and I'll go home." He looks at the clock. According to the clock, she wasn't late yet. But probably by now it's really around 2:30 or so. He continues waiting. He gets tired. He lies down to get more comfortable. He looks at the clock. She's not late, he confidently tells himself. He keeps waiting. It starts getting dark. Definitely by now, an intelligent guy would have concluded that the clock was broken and that the girl hated him, and he would have gone home. But the guy was stupid, so he continues waiting through the darkness. He falls asleep.
Seventy or so years later. . .
He wakes up. It's a futuristic world and cars have advanced to the world of flight. There are gigantic metal bugs. (I don't know exactly what that means, but it makes the song cool.) He looks at himself. He's an old man, with an insanely long white beard. He looks at the clock yet again. "She's still not yet late," he reassures himself. So he continues waiting, we assume until he dies a few days later. (According to the DAS version lyrics, he does this by strangling himself. He dies, but his eyes stay open, staring at the clock.)
Hmmm. I personally doubt he dies a few days later, because if he slept long enough for all those dramatic changes to take place I doubt he could humanly die. (Because, of course, you can only live one month without food, and only a WEEK without water.) Although I suppose one might deduce that the man is already dead, and is waiting for his love in the after life. The girl doesn't necessarily have to be mean. They could have had a misunderstanding. (e.i. She could have been waiting at different clock) The man wouldn't have to be dumb, either. He could just be dedicated and/or driven by his love. - Mr. Nuclear
Apart from the literal interpretation, I think this song is more figuratively about being stuck in old ways of thinking-- not able to change with the times or even see that the times are changing. A cautionary tale about a rather common affliction, I'm afraid. - Ironwolf
To me it represents being in a relationship with someone who really doesn't understand or know how you feel, and the other person(the girl in the song) isn't around anymore, but you still keep waiting even though nothing happens. And it feels like forever and you don't notice how long you've been waiting for that one chance to make them understand, even when you've grown weary, until you waste away. - LostMonster
I'm thinking along the lines of the first person on this page's interpretation. He had fallen in love with a girl, and asked her on a date, and the guy agreed to her suggestion that they would meet up for the date at that intersection at 2:00. She did this because she obviously didn't like him, and thought it would be funny if he actually did fall for the clock that was stuck at 1:56, for at least twenty minutes (nobody could think someone was stupider than that). He was nervous about the date, and it always feels time is standing still when you're excited, so the fact that the clock didn't change probably just showed him that he was really nervous/excited (like when it's one minute until school's out on a Friday, for those who know what I'm talkin' about). So he thought nothing of it. Then, as time went further on, he must have realized something, but he hoped so much that she would show up that he just tried playing mind tricks because he wanted really badly to believe that she liked him and wanted to go on the date. But then, years later, he admitted to himself that he had been stood up, and that he had spent his entire life hoping for the girl whom he loved, whom he knew that he'd never have a chance with, so he committed suicide. Or in the case of the peaceful/non-violent No version, just hoped that she'd come for the rest of his days, until he died of natural causes (such as lack of food and water for years... hey, the song doesn't have to agree with biological laws). So there's my take. -magbatz Also, a question: Does that clock actually exist?
The No! version is pretty straightforward, so it really doesn't need much interpreting. The very dark and sinister Dial-A-Song version, on the other hand, I always thought was like something out of the Twilight Zone. Think about it: our hero, about ready to go on a date with a beautiful girl, suddenly finds time has stopped dead in its tracks. No movement to be seen from the clock at all, it has ceased at four of two. At first, he thinks that his mind's just playing tricks on him, and time is still marching on. Then he gets upset. Something's not right here. Time still hasn't moved forward. It's been too long. He grinds his teeth. Still nothing. Now, being frozen in a single moment in time forever is a very scary prospect. Imagine, walking around the world, the only one not dead in his tracks due to the halting of time! He grows desperate. He must stop this. He squeezes the life from his body, hoping that death will release him from this torment. But alas! Fate has something else on its mind! The clock STILL says four of two for him, forevermore.
OK, that ended up more like a creative writing exercise than an actual interpretation, but hey, that's what I always thought the song was about. - TheNintenGenius
Just wanted to remind everyone of the significance of "Four of Two": Forty Two: The answer to Life, The Universe, and Everything. This is probably intentional on TMBG's part; I'm sure they have read Hitchiker's Guide To The Galaxy
My thoughts on this song are different from the general school of thought, it would seem. If you listen to the first verse of the song, the man knows he's on time because of the stopped clock! So I always assumed that he was actually late to meet the girl, and she had given up and left by the time he got there, hence his own ceaseless waiting (because she realised the clock was stopped).
This could also shed some light on the rather gruesome ending to the DAS version. He kills himself because he realises he's lost his one chance at happiness.
I think this song is a cautionary tale about the problems with trusting authority. AaronSw
I can't believe the poster at the top bothered to explain line by line the literal meaning of the lyric, since the literal meaning is completely straightforward - of course it's about a guy waiting for a girl who blows him off.
Possible metaphorical meanings, with the requisite disclaimer that Mr. Linnell says "take stuff literally" and I say "it means what it means, not what the lyricist thinks it means":
Four or Two is about being worried that your whole life will go by while you wait for that one perfect woman. (Mr. Linnell already wrote Ana Ng on the same topic; maybe it's an idea that pestered him.) In that vein, it is also about the stubborn refusal to acknowledge that this is happening. The narrator would have realized within 15 minutes that the clock was broken, but his dream of love depended on her showing, so he selected a belief that she was still coming. Any minute! For years!
It is also, if you listen to the original DAS demo, an experiential song about the anxiety you feel when an important appointment is nearing, what it feels like to watch the clock, what it feels like to be a guy who is chronically late for appointments, the grinding anxiety the whole "getting there on time" thing causes. The tyranny of the timepiece.
The narrator strangles himself (an absurdist joke) rather than deal with the anxiety of the nearing appointment in which he might be rejected by a woman. In one sense, it is about sabotaging yourself so you never get rejected. But this is still under the "horror of not finding the right woman" label. Even in death, the narrator gets no relief - his dead eyes are left forever focused on the stopped clock.
For what it's worth, the amount of agreement about the metaphorical meanings must mean this song is one of the more straight-forward TMBG works. --Christina Miller, May 2005
Aside from what else has been said, I think the song also says something about people's dependance on technology. If the singer had just used common sense, he would have realized that it still can't be 1:56. But, the clock says it is, so it must be. He's 100% dependent on machines to do all the thinking for him, and when one of them doesn't work, this sort of thing happens.
-Mushroom Pie 'n stuff
I hear this as an illustration of people's ability (and willingness) to fool themselves - probably regarding romance, but possibly regarding life in general. After all, the singer sees plenty of evidence that time is passing, and the singer presents it as such. However, he desperately doesn't want the girl to be late, so he convinces himself she's not yet late based on one clearly incorrect sign.
I am going with the interpretation form da man...
At a San Francisco show in 2003 John Linnell announced the song thusly: "This is a song about a clock that doesn't fucking work"
Simple. But it works. Man I laughed when he woke up in a world with flying cars and giant robot bugs.
Although the idea of 4 of 2 being a reference to Douglas Adam's Hitchhikers' is amusing, the trivia notes on this songs main page make it clear that the song was inspired by an actual clock stuck at 1:56.
I at first thought the obvious - that the guy was being stood up. But then it occurred to me what was also mentioned before - that maybe the guy was the one that was late, but thought when he got there that he still had 4 minutes to spare. I'm not sure if They intended the possibility of the two different interpretations, but it's interesting to think about.
Definitely, though, it's about wishful thinking - forcing yourself to ignore the passage of time so that you don't have to admit that she just plain isn't going to ever show up.
I haven't heard the DAS version, but I love the No! version.
sounds like rip van winkle
To me i think the song represents a guy who is hopeless at finding someone. The girl he has a crush on plays a trick to meet him at the clock at 2:00. The guy does not know this obviously and waits for her eagerly. He hope that this would be the moment where he could tell his feelings for her but he falls asleep waiting for the clock to reach 2:00. While he falls asleep he dreams that its the future and he is now old the clock still being there in the future, still showing four of two and the girl still not there represents his realization that she is not coming. Its obvious that he'll wake up and leave the spot depressed that the one he loved played a trick on him. Oddly this reminds me of my friend who constant receives this kind of pain.
This song is by far one of the most depressing songs I've ever heard.
The narrator falls in love. And the woman he is waiting for never comes.
I honestly don't think I'll be able to listen to this song again. It really hits a nerve with me, for some reason. It's really fucking sad.
It's just a song people. It's funny, but kind of sad. It's not supposed to make you cry. ~AgentChronon
To the guy who thinks this is one of the most depressing songs he's ever heard: steer clear of the original DAS version. Rather than being stood up for a date, which sucks and all, the narrator of that version has a complete psychotic breakdown and kills himself.
A guy is waiting for a girl on a date. He's waiting for the girl, because he is four minutes early (according to the clock.) As time passes he still waits for the girl, because he trusts the clock above him, that still says 1:56, even though he doesn't realize it's broken.
I think this is a very depressing song, because it shows that the guy loves her so much, he refuses to believe that the clock is broken, and that she loves him. Even though she never shows up.--Mrs. H0rrible Someone keeps moving my stool 05:43, 11 April 2010
Personally, I have a slightly different interpretation of the song than the rest of you. To me, the girl isn't necessarily mean, she just doesn't love him. However, the man is head over heals in love with her. So when the woman stands him up on their date when he was going to tell her that he loved her, he deludes himself into thinking that she's going to show up and that she still loves him.
The song is, for me, about a man who desperately clings onto a shred of hope that the girl of his dreams loves him back, and wastes his whole life waiting for her.
The Guitar Riff
I like how the guitar riff for this song (da-da-da-da DAH DAH) is also Four of Two (1-2-3-4 1 2).