We have sold our souls for material goods and entertainment.
The curtain has been drawn aside, our technicolor cultural myths are imploding and the environment is collapsing, so what do we do? We work hard to distract ourselves from those harsh realities and our meaningless existence. McCaffery's bib is anything we use to numb ourselves: the entertainment glut we carry around in our pockets, selling us individuality while molding us into conformist consumers; the antidepressants that are prescribed like candy; opioids; porn; shopping - whatever curbs the imagination, keeps us compliant, and makes a few people rich and powerful. We're unhappy and don't even know why, but we'll carry our own shrouds and dig our own graves with smiles on our faces if the wifi reception down there is good enough.
The name "McCafferty's Bib" reminds me of the name of a plant like "St. John's Wort" that is used as an herbal supplement, as suggested by the "bottle of pills" in the lyrics. The song is from the perspective of someone who accidentally ingests too much of it and begins to hallucinate. In a state of delirium, the mind can attribute an overblown significance to a simple word or insignificant thing. In the hallucination, McCafferty's Bib grows and becomes a concept that seems to be the key to the whole universe.
It's like when you eat too many hot dogs and then have a dream of everything in the world turning into hot dogs. -- Hockpa2e 13:12, May 17, 2018
It's a song about the futuristic dystopia in which everyone takes a new drug and clock out, the pills being taken are given a nonsense name because they are from the future. Everyone is taking them now, and everyone is happy. However, there are still darker undertones, it is described as one problem which solves all the problems. -- ToTheStone 17:13, May 25, 2018
I get the feeling that this is a song about an invention and ubiquity of smartphones. -- Emmett 11:03, June 9, 2018
One interpretation I heard that was quite convincing was that the phrase "McCafferty's Bib" is synonymous with the word nothing. For example, the speaker gets rid of all their problems but they now feel empty from a lack of problems, and we will never be rid of the concept of nothingness. -- Cye Eco 17:49, May 12, 2019
I think the singer is McCafferty. He is addicted to pills (probably benzos). One day he overdoses and vomits the pills all over his shirt, making the pills "McCafferty's Bib"
"If only there were some way to shut out all this noise in my head. Oh wait there already is, it's called McCafferty's Bib." The "noise in my head" is anxiety. He gets put on benzos for anxiety. Benzo abuse can lead to a bad short term memory. The "noise in my head" is also tinnitus. Benzo withdrawal can cause tinnitus. The tinnitus and anxiety reminds him he needs to take more pills. "Till my head falls off" is another TMBG song that goes over these issues.
"I used to have eleven problems, then they all went away when I added one more called McCafferty's Bib." Here he is realizing he is addicted, calling the pills a problem. The other problems like anxiety are not solved, it's just that now all he can think about is the pills.
"Now the gray, gray clouds have arrived and the gray, gray clouds have decided to stay with us from now on." This refers to how an addiction looms over you at all times and you never really get over it.
"I ate the whole bottle of pills and wondered what I had swallowed and I saw that the label said McCafferty's Bib" Now he has overdosed. There's another reference to bad short term memory, and a clue that these are prescription pills with his name on the label.
"And then all the scenery melted away and in back of it the only thing left was McCafferty's Bib" Maybe this is a dream or hallucination. Maybe it's a moment of clarity. Either way it drives home that this addiction has consumed his entire life.
"In cities all over the world all the people are suddenly struck by the same idea." This seems like a reference to how pharmaceuticals abuse is so widespread. It also sounds like a hallucination.
"They're massing in public squares and they're singing a note that rises from low to high. With one hand they're holding up signs of Bob Hope, in the other hand, everyone's waving McCafferty's Bib." More hallucinations? There's something here I'm not getting.
"The toothpaste won't go back in the bottle since it granted our wish and we will never be rid of McCafferty's Bib" This is mixing the phrases "the toothpaste won't go back in the tube" and "put the genie back in the bottle" both of which mean that some things can't be undone. Also I think it points out that that cartoon genie looks like a dab of toothpaste. -- sirhand 10:21, May 23, 2019
There's really only one solution to all of these problems...
Shutting out the noise in your head - solved
11 problems, they all went away - solved
Gray clouds arrived and decided to stay from now on - permanent solution
Swallowed all of the pills - I mean, come on...
Scenery melted away, all that was left was McCafferty's Bib - you died
Cities all over the world, people hold hope in one hand and despair in the other - that's poignant
The toothpaste won't go back in the bottle - you can't take back suicide. --Blake 00:14, August 7, 2019
- If I was still a gambler I'd put 50 chips on this interpretation, so thank you Blake. Based on that, I will guess that the "bib" is a noose since both grip one's neck tightly. McCafferty? I'd wager 10 that this is a reference to the punk band by that name, who mention despair, death, and suicide quite frequently in their lyrics. --Nehushtan (talk) 12:29, 9 January 2020 (EST)
I wonder if the old joke about an Irish dentist was somewhere in the subconscious workings for this song: What do you call an Irish denist? Phil McCafferty (fill my cavity). Which I guess would make McCafferty's Bib that bib they put on you in the dentist's chair.
Interpreting the video
About the song, Linnell publicly said that the title phrase was unknown to the internet. That he would bother to consider the issue is a reminder: if you want to create intriguing and puzzling art today you have to dodge Siri and Google. A movie or song will hardly be challenging if its mystery depends (for example) on recognizing & translating a bit of obscure Italian poetry. The phrase "McCafferty's Bib" is effectively a blank space (though I believe it is not meaningless), keeping the song's secret.
Which makes me think of the video. The white shapes in it immediately reminded me of the cover art for Led Zeppelin's album Presence, which features numerous photos of some typical 1970's middle-class scenes invaded by a blank black uniquely-shaped mini monument - a mute element of strangeness hinting that there is a pervasive, unacknowledged presence subverting the normalcy of those scenes.
In the video for McCafferty's Bib the blank hyperwhite elements are similarly unsettling... but different in intent. For Jimmy Page the dark presence probably evokes the daemon-haunted underworld of Aleister Crowley's magick paganism. TMBG would have no truck with such squishy woo... the video's unnerving shapes rather point to an absence: something has been erased.
And there are many such somethings: it can be practically any object, regardless of its significance. It could be a sheep, a broom, a smoking hole in the ground, an airplane, an eyeball, or the scream from a throat. All are equally subject to arbitrary elimination.
The other recurring thing in the video is the word "bib" itself, which pops into view, advancing, when it is spoken. On each repetition it gets closer until its center fills the frame and its top & bottom are cut off. It feels menacing, like the word is asserting its inevitability. It is "in your face" and not friendly.
I absolutely agree. I have a very detailed theory about the entire album, the Johns being time-travellers and McCafferty's Bib being the masks we now all need to wear due to Covid-19. Oh and the crowds gathering in squares are the BLM protesters, and the grey clouds being clouds of corona-virus. Dr R.
McCafferty’s bib (I’m making this up) is an imaginary drug. It is given in packages the shape of a lobster bib and the main dealer is known as “McCafferty”, hence McCafferty’s bib. They are actually named “grey cloud drugs” and you can easily get addicted. “Now the grey grey clouds have arrived (first doing them) and the grey grey clouds have decided to stay with us from now on (addiction)”. They are a problem and can kill you (I used to have 11 problems/ then they all went away (death)/ when I added one more/ called McCafferty’s bib.