Interpretations:I Can Hear You

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MTV Unplugged[edit | edit source]

I have no interpretation to offer for the lyrics directly, but given the method of production, is this not the ultimate 'unplugged' (re: the MTV craze of the early 90's) song.

Interpretation 2[edit | edit source]

It seems to me like this is just Flansburgh spouting off phrases that might be heard in the faint, tinny, just barely audible tones that characterize this recording. Someone talking over a bad connection, an apartment intercom, a drive-thru restaurant box, the muffled voice of a car alarm -- we have all struggled to make out another human voice in these and other situations. Yet we do -- we can just barely hear that other person -- and so the song becomes a song about connections made against incredible odds, people reaching out to each other in an increasingly technologized world. It's beautiful, really. Radiohead would be proud. Plus it's got the ill tuba.

Interpretation 3[edit | edit source]

For Octofish, because he heard me. Lines 596-606 from Robert Browning's poem, "Paracelsus":

At times I almost dream
I too have spent a life the sage's way,
And tread once more familiar paths. Perchance
I perished in an arrogant self-reliance
Ages ago; and in that act, a prayer
For one more chance went up so earnest, so
Instinct with better light let in by death,
That life was blotted out - not so completely
But scattered wrecks enough of it remain,
Dim memories, as now, when once more seems
The goal in sight again.

When I read these lines of Browning's, I had the rare feeling I'd been heard, which was odd (and the picture abruptly changed), because the author died over a hundred years ago. Later, when you wrote, "Hope springs eternal" and "I can hear you" on my vanity page, the connection in my mind between you and Browning was immediate.

The irony here is that despair also springs eternal, which is to say irony itself springs eternal, and that it's beautiful we all die frustrated and sad.

So it goes.

Still: I just worked a double shift which ended at 7 a.m., and although I wished for a graceful end to my life more than once before sunrise, I was glad when I read your comments I had survived the night.

That is my interpretation of the TMBG song, "I Can Hear You." --Flux 12:50, May 30, 2004

Interpretation 4[edit | edit source]

More than a song about connections, I think it's a comment on the state of technology and its failures to deliver on promises. We've all strained to hear a message, poorly-reproduced by some technological gizmo, that sounds like "I Can Hear You." I think They are pointing out the irony that, despite 119 years of progress, most recordings today still sound no better than Edison's original wax cylinder recordings. (Is it doubly ironic that they then recorded this on a CD?) --Saxifrage 04:08, September 3, 2004

I disagree with the above interpretation. My feeling is that it's all phrases we are able to say or hear thanks to Edison. Because of his inventions, our cars can talk, we can call home from a plane, we can buzz our buddies into our apartments. If it weren't for him, the best we'd have is recordings like, well, this song. --Brian Q 00:32, February 27, 2005

Interpretation 5[edit | edit source]

This is TMBG, remember, so it's irony. Yes, we still endure barely audible voices, but I think they also want to convey the idea that despite the great efforts man has made to apply technology to the transmission of the human voice in a variety of circumstances, what we have to say is often more banal than what the inventors might have imagined?

This song is one of their best, marrying theme and style with a great tune, like "Mink Car" or "Reprehensible". --Balb Kubrox 17:28, January 31, 2006

Overthinking it[edit | edit source]

I seriously think that you guys are just looking WAY too into this. I believe that it is about all those places where you can hardly hear or understand someone, such as at a drivethrough. That's it, plain and simple. --ArAn 13:56, 1 Feb 2006 (EST)

Interpretation 7[edit | edit source]

Well, think about where the song was recorded. I for one think that it's a person using an old telephone back when they were first invented. He's calling proudly, telling the person on the other end that he can hear him/her. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:45, May 1, 2006

Depressing[edit | edit source]

this song always depresses me. just the way it sounds. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Thestatuegotmehigh (talkcontribs) 15:24, December 27, 2006

Interpretation 9[edit | edit source]

This song seems like an homage to recordings and audio systems everywhere, appropriately set in a far off tunnel with plenty of feedback and hiss. But maybe it's just me —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:12, October 2, 2008

Interpretation 10[edit | edit source]

C'mon, all. This is TMBG. In a very, very early audio recording studio (sans electricity, even); indeed, in such a monumental and historic venue, the Johns record a song about crappy audio reproduction.

It's epic. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:44, October 12, 2010

Communicating?[edit | edit source]

All of the above comments plus, in spite of advances in technical devices are we really communicating any better? I can just barely hear you -- especially when I'm doing all the talking. Such a beautiful, wistful little song! —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:12, October 30, 2010

Tobin Sprout[edit | edit source]

I love this song. The production quality and lead vocal remind me of a Tobin Sprout GBV song. That is a good thing.  :) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:49, March 18, 2015