Interpretations:The Communists Have The Music

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While I can see how this song could be interpreted as another 1st person narrative from a fictional point of view, I'm going to argue that, when Linnell sings "what I care about is music," he's singing from the heart. The lyrics are not a political argument or diatribe; they are an acknowledgement that the music of communism really is great, especially compared to fascism or egoism (the philosophy of Ayn Rand). Admittedly, I'd love to hear John and John openly support communist ideas like worker co-ops, free access to health care and education, etc., but I don't think that's what they're doing here. They're celebrating the music of communism and having a great time doing it.

I also REALLY don't think it's some kind of satire poking fun at communists or at people who choose their political ideology based on music. There's just way too much positivity and enthusiasm in this recording to imagine it as a mean-spirited joke. (Zeppyfish, 9/15/18, 9:57 pm PDT)

Given the history of the Johns, it's entirely possible that it's at least somewhat-serious; Their first gig was a Sandinista rally, they've always been pretty far-left. That said, I think there's a little bit of tongue-in-cheek here; after all, while one can find rational reasons to support most political positions, the narrator of the song isn't; he's a communist because of the music. It's notable that there's an allowance that if he did "care for the outfits," he could just as well be fascist. I think this is ultimately a song about someone choosing their political positions for facile reasons -- the aesthetic of the position rather than the substance. If you're just a communist because you like the music, you aren't really a communist, just as you aren't really a fascist if you like the outfits. To actually believe something requires something more than just posing.

And for what it's worth, if you are socialist (or even a social democrat), it's not hard to find music by Them that's dead on. I still say "Someone Keeps Moving My Chair" is one of the best songs ever written about False Consciousness. --Mrfeek (talk) 15:32, 19 September 2018 (EDT)

A quote by Linnell in the Brooklyn Vegan sheds a bit of light on the song's meaning: " “On the one hand, Fran Lebowitz memorably said of Communism vs. Fascism that one was too dull and the other too exciting,” says TMBG’s John Linnell. “However, our song takes its cue from somebody (I can’t remember who) in our high school, who once compared two bands (I wish I could remember which bands) by declaring that one had the power but the other had the tunes. This enduring metaphor seems to apply to any pair of things we can think of.” Or, as he sings here, “I hear a melody and just as suddenly I know who I’m supposed to be.” --Kaylum (talk) 18:00, 10 October 2018 (EDT)

As to whether there is a tongue in cheek or satirical element to it, I say not for the simple reason that if it's satire it isn't GOOD satire. The narrator never espouses any political beliefs really; you could, if you really wanted, view this song as apolitical. The narrator isn't stating that he is a communist, merely that communists tend to make great music and that he thinks they are more musically endowed than the fascists martials plutocrats etc. This is not a song about someone who's political beliefs are dictated by fashion and art, as the narrator doesn't imply that he is a communist because of their music or that he is a communist at all; the song isn't about communism or politics at all, it's about music. Because that's the case, I believe this song to be as sincere and straightforward as Applause Applause Applause. -ASelfCalledL, 10/11/2018.


I'd hate to oversimplify, but I believe this song is relatively straightforward. Fascism is more concerned with top-down control and therefore uses stifling techniques on its subjects. Communism is about bottom-up control wherein people are allowed to be expressive. The song focuses on music because it's a song by musical artists, but really is concerned with art, human spirit, humanity in general. Fascism traditionally suppresses these things whereas communism (not authoritarianism, which many people incorrectly conflate with communism) encourages it. As fascism re-emerges over time, songs like this are a (surprisingly necessary) reminder that it totally sucks - 3toe