Interpretations:Let's Get This Over With
The Under-Appreciated Caterer
Occasionally, a They Might Be Giants song is what it appears to be at face value. An under-appreciated caterer expected more from catering this clam bake. But everybody knows how this goes. It's just your job, and your job knows what it is. The caterer also lives in a cave, has poor spelling, and refers to himself in the second person sometimes.
I doubt that someone this prolific is burned out on recording and waiting to get it over with. And they seem to be having tremendous fun in a live performance. So it's not about that. We know what it sounds like when they write a song about themselves, because they mentioned all the band members by name in "When Will You Die"; they will craft a song around an off-kilter point of view and craft a song around it, but are unlikely to wish someone death. Supposedly "Bastard Wants To Hit Me" may have been semi-autobiographical, but that is a narrative, and this track has no narrative. So if this track (and album) has you worried, do not read too much into it.
While the lyrics never mention President Trump by name, I think it's safe to assume that this song was written with him in mind. Trump's apparent need to be a headline every day means he is always moving from controversy to controversy, hence, "The drumbeat never changes tempo", and because it seems like it's always something painful or embarrassing that he's doing, "it crushes you as it gets louder". The relentless mockery of the presidential Twitter feed is referenced by the "page of strange gibberish" and "spelling mistakes" (i.e., the unforgettable "covfefe"MisterMe (talk) 09:23, 18 January 2018 (EST)). Trump's penchant for sexual misconduct is referenced by "groping in the dark". Even the bizarre Trump handshake gets referenced ("Awkward pause / Hand extended waiting for a shake"). Linnell's narrator is very frustrated at all this, but he knows "you still have a job to do / Even when you don't know what it is"--i.e., don't let it get you down, because "All the while the planet circles 'round the sun". Daily life goes on, and in a few years, we'll have a chance to put "a final punctuation mark" on the whole fiasco. Let's get this over with, indeed. --
- Perfect exposition! It's worth noting that the album was released at the exact year mark of the Trump administration... the planet has made one circle around the sun. --Nehushtan (talk) 02:48, 20 January 2018 (EST)
- Thanks--as I was typing it out, I realized I was most likely shoehorning convenient Trumpian factoids into oblique lyrics of pop music that may or may not have anything to do with him. But I guess that's the point of this page: you can read just about whatever you want into these kinds of lyrics. --MisterMe (talk) 08:45, 19 February 2018 (EST)
- Two years later this reading of the song continues to yield treasures. In the chorus Linnell casts the goof-in-chief as a knuckle dragging Cro-Magnon, a grotesque grunting thing going through its day without awareness. The verse about the clambake is a fun way to say he's overstayed his welcome. If Mr. Trump knew how deftly this song shades him, he'd immediately resign. --Nehushtan (talk) 08:22, 4 January 2020 (EST)
Strangely Comforting View of Life's Banality
To me this lyric is about soldiering on with life after becoming disillusioned, having gained a calmer and more objective view of things. Though it seems dark, I find it comforting because it teaches us to be chill about this whole thing called life.
At the point when we finally stop expecting any great breakthrough or revelation in our life, we can realize that life is simply meant to be lived day by day. There are no more big surprises ("everybody knows how this goes"). A greater meaning of life is beyond our ability to discover; life is "a page of strange gibberish". But we can "get over it" and not let anything bother us too much, and we're content to do our part until our time on the stage of life is through. Even if we don't have any great idea of our life's purpose, somehow we instinctively keep on living and doing what we can ("your job knows what it is").
About kids playing Hangman & the game's hypothetical executioner
I'm coming back to this and further expanding on it soon, but I had to get this out there before any sort of video for this song was made, just in case. But hear me out:
"Let's Get This Over With" is simultaneously about two kids playing Hangman AND about an executioner forced to hang people.
[WORK IN PROGRESS EXPLANATION; CHECK BACK IN A DAY OR FEW FOR THE FULL REASONING; JUST HAD TO GET IT OUT THERE]
I don't know you guys this is obviously about trying to get your dang thesis/diss done, right? Existing in the horrible purgatory of stress... especially when you're watching your cohort (and their baked clams) move on, and you're still trapped. —CatastropheelingGood
Plato's cave allegory
The refrain may be a reference to Plato's cave allegory. A description of a man chained up, facing the back wall of the cave with a flame behind him. The only thing he's able to see are shadows, so he interprets that that is all reality is. Once unchained the man's perspective changes completely.
The lines "And when you wake up you can feel your hair grow Crawl out of your cave and you can watch your shadow Creep across the ground until the day is done"
The only way you could tell the passage of time of feel that you might not be the shadow on the wall is feeling the sensation of your hair growing.
It's About Death, Kids
Like so many of the songs on the very uplifting release, I Like Fun, this song pertains to the inevitability of death, that "final punctuation mark" on this "page of strange gibberish" we call life. You gotta do the dumb things you gotta do, like having a job you gotta do even when you don't have a job, and the "you" is me, also you, also everybody knows how this goes. It's life. We're all gonna live, and we're all gonna die, so let's get over it and let's get this over with. Pretty straightforward. —Zeppyfish
Or is it About Birth?
I originally thought it was about death too, but listening closer, I think it's actually about waiting for a child to be born. This first struck me when I thought about the thrown in "You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here." The line features prominently in Semisonic's "Closing Time," which is itself a song about birth. There's also the references to DNA and evolution (After all the spelling mistakes/After all the groping in the dark/Can this page of strange gibberish/Get a final punctuation mark?). Finally, the song starts with crawling out of a cave and seeing your shadow, seeing it creep across the ground as the planet circles the sun. All of this is about starting and going forward -- which is why "Let's Get This Over With" is auch a very TMBG title. On an album that's mostly about death and devastation, the song titled "Let's Get This Over With" is the one about starting things off. --Mrfeek (talk) 12:23, 31 January 2019 (EST)
Apologies if this sounds too dark (or if this is too long), but to me this song feels a bit like the Johns dealing with what it must feel like to perform the same old song multiple times over many years.
From the very first line "The drumbeat never changes tempo" I think about how the beat, the music, never changes. It's the same. And like a rock "it crushes you as it gets louder" the feeling of being crushed under the weight of a song you've been performing for years. Or perhaps the crushing feeling of having to perform this song once again. And yet, as they look out from the stage, they see a crowd experiencing it as if for the first time. "There is no parking on the dance floor." No one is parked. They are lively and dancing. This line is brilliant because it could also hearken back to gigs which the dance floor was a parking lot and a meditation on how far they have come.
Considering the stage for a moment, I believe that's what the line about the shadow "Creep across the ground until the day is done" is referring to. This is a double (or possibly triple) meaning to link both the passage of time, the shadow the song casts, and the literal shadow from the stage lights creeping across the stage until the gig is done. And finally the final line of the chorus:
Everybody knows how this goes so let's get over it
And let's get this over with
As many of you already might know, the Audience will join in to sing with the Johns during their performances. Especially their more memorable classic songs. Everybody already knows how the song goes. So the Johns should just get over how they feel about performing this song.
But they also want to just get it over with.
The verses continue from there. I think they are talking about what it must feel like to write songs. For creative people (especially people with such a large body of work like the Johns have) even when you're not thinking about songs, inspiration comes to you. Your life gives you ideas. Even when you're out of work (not working on songs), you STILL have a job to do. And even if you don't know what the song will be, your job knows what it will be. It's a curious concept, that creating music has become a job. Inspiration is part of that job. And such a concept is rather dark, which is why these lines are followed with that eerie line "it's coming to get you" That crushing feeling from before. And the line "I'm talking to myself even when I'm saying "you"" makes this song feel even more autobiographical. They aren't saying this feeling is yours, it's theirs. This song is the Johns talking to and about themselves.
As the chorus passes we get another verse about what it feels like to write songs. Perhaps it's from the perspective of when they wrote that song which they are now tired of performing. After all the spelling mistakes and groping in the dark for the right lyrics or melody, can this page of strange gibberish (either the lyrics or sheet music) finally be finished?? Perhaps this verse is talking about the song we are currently hearing?
The last verse is one I'm not completely sure of. But if we are to take the song at its word from before, whenever we see the word "you" we know that they are talking about themselves. They are still hanging around the clambake. They have overstayed their welcome. Every clam has been baked. And now they must awkwardly leave, hoping at least for a handshake in return. Could this be the Johns' prediction of what's to come in the future? I'm not sure but I hope this is not the case.
But we don't dwell on it. Because another gig has come. Another day out of the cave. Another circle around the sun. And everyone already knows how this goes. So let's get this over with.
Even though this song has little to do with death, I still see it as one of the Johns' most dark and depressing songs. Wrestling with very complex emotions about performing and their responsibility to the audience who loves songs that perhaps they would prefer to take a break from. Or, perhaps, this is all just strange gibberish and we have reached the final punctuation mark?
Although I don’t know if it’s what the band had in mind while writing it, I think of this song as being sung from the perspective of the Grim Reaper. I hear it as a one sided conversation between it and someone unwilling to confront their death. Some of its jokes to lighten the mood aren’t very well-recieved (no applause, awkward pause).