Interpretations:Judy Is Your Viet Nam
After the countless times I've heard this song, I've noticed a few things.
"You met Judy in the 90's / She threw parties for magazines" An explanation of Judy; she's a minor celebrity. The person that the song is talking to was dating her. "For a while she had a roommate / But that roommate was never seen" He didn't know her roommate. He'll come in later. "10 years on and something's shifted / Same apartment, roommate's gone" This is where the explanation ends, and where the song starts to talk about the setting of the present. Judy has changed in 10 years, after the person the song is talking to broke up with her. "Putting down that torch you lifted / Back to portraits, poorly drawn" This is where the person the song is talking to gets back together with Judy, the imaginary torch was used to 'burn their relationship down'. The portraits poorly drawn is also not very literal, Judy does things he doesn't like but he doesn't want to admit it. "Judy lies but you believe her / She's the storm before the calm" Judy is cheating on him with her former roommate, but he doesn't know because, as the song states, Judy lied but he believed her. 'The Storm Before the Calm' is a book about the end of the world, and this verse is saying (with a lot of hyperbole) that Judy is the end of the world. "Judy is the Great Deceiver" The Great Deceiver is a 'nickname' for Satan. Clearly the narrator doesn't like Judy. "Judy is your Viet Nam" x2 Just the chorus, but it could be referring to the Viet Nam War.
That's what I've got. Doesn't seem like Judy is a very good person, at least according to the song.
...is obvious. I think we've all known or dated someone like this. Short and to the point.
Flans being politically incorrect - impossible? But true.
A fascinating song for anyone who has followed They Might Be Giants. Flans politically correct songs have long been an amusing bugbear. Hypnotist of the Ladies and Take out the Trash are two great examples of Flans OTT defence of the fairer sex. It's nearest relative is She Think's She's Edith Head, but "Judy" is far crueler. Poor Judy, whose main crime appears having not moved on much for twenty years (her infidelity is rather implicit, and unlikely when one thinks of her overall inertia) is equated to Vietnam. Such a crass over statement, makes our narrator sound both unhinged and teenage, although one suspects that Flans couldn't resist such a OTT title. If Join Us has a theme it is that many of the narrators of the songs are deeply unsympathetic and delusional. It it is an album where both Johns hide behind masks rather than write from personal experience. This has always been part of their songs, but on Join Us it really is extreme. Even genuine songs like Never Knew Love are quickly compromised by deliberate ambiguity. Interesting though the subject matter is, the negativity of the song seems to hinder the melody. Lacking a middle eight, the brilliant production and pleasant solo can't diguise a garagey song that stutters to under one and a half minutes. One that won't be part of the live set for long. (Mr Tuck)
I don't really see anything politically incorrect about the song at all. I'll agree that it is very critical of the titular "Judy," but none of that criticism is drawn from anything to do with the fact that she is a woman. Your comparison to "Edith Head" is interesting, and I hadn't thought about that before, but while that song is a bit more silly in its criticism, I think this one is much more scathing, as you also said. But no, not politically incorrect. -Mr. Chuckles
Brilliant 80 second song
This ranks up there with Asbury Park, clocking in a little longer (80 seconds) but still brilliantly intense and brief.
Obviously takes many musical cues from The Who, the drums at the start are most obviously reminiscent of "I can see for miles" but maybe lyrically most directly this is a contrapositive to "Pictures of Lily" (which also ends with a shout-out of the name of the song.)
In the 90s
Every time I hear this song, I'm struck by how similar it is to TMBG's earlier stuff. It really sounds like it could have been on Flood or Apollo 18, and in interviews, Flans has said they were trying to incorporate elements of their early style and approach on Join Us. I wonder if "You met Judy in the 90s" is a sly joke on using their 90s style.
90's/parties for magazines
Think how somebody 20 years from now would be lost with a phrase like "she threw parties for magazines", if it didn't have the "in the 90's" reference preceding it.
I mean, I'm clearly not in the NY publishing industry, but even I know what throwing a party for a magazine would've been back then. 20 years from now, who will even remember what a magazine was?
It's a little lengthier than, say, Heinlein's "The door dilated" but it sets the stage perfectly and succinctly. (Very important for an 80 second song!)
This is about You
To me, the song is pointing the finger at "You", not Judy. So-called Generation X-ers like myself have no amazing war stories to tell, we didn't put man on the moon. Instead we twiddled the buttons on our iPods and submitted interpretations of song lyrics on the internet. The big tradegy that haunts "You" is the relationship you had with that girl who was really out of your league all along.
Vietnam was an unfortunate time in world history that most people would rather forget about. Judy's that one awful girlfriend you had that you'd rather forget about.
- Exactly. For new generations or non-Americans to whom the reference is vague, the specific meaning of Vietnam in this song is "a terrible situation that you can't seem to extract yourself from". For the cohort that lived through the years of American involvement in Vietnam, the overwhelming mood was that we were stuck there, always having to commit more troops, money, and years to a losing cause. --Nehushtan (talk) 21:09, 2 October 2019 (EDT)