Interpretations:End Of The Rope

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Thinking about thinking about absentmindedness[edit]

This song is pretty open-ended. There are plenty of things you could claim it's about (love, death, anything), and plenty of dimensions to the song to explore (the melodrama, the mood of despair, the self-flagellation), but I'm going to try to ignore everything else and just talk about what the song made me think of. First of all, the main lyric, "Where did the end of the rope go?", suggests a sort of classic TMBG-y strategy: take an innocent phrase and meditate on it and pervert it. It's an expansion of the idea of 'being at the end of one's rope', but taken more literally, and then gone beyond the end of the rope like a Wile E Coyote who's been taken to the edge of the cliff and then a few key paces further. And what caused post-rope state is when "you left me hanging on your words", which by the way I just have to say is very clever, it's like two idioms in one (to leave someone hanging, to hang on someone's words) and it even ties into the titular phrase.

So one way I like to think about this song is as a simple faux pas in a fragment of conversation, overblown dramatically. You say something to me, and I listen, letting you express your train of thought while I receive your transmitted words and internalize them. Everything's hunky dory until--the horror!--you lose track and miss or zone out on their words (maybe the clock even stopped breathing?), or maybe you just forget something the person said when they were talking to you. "How thoughtless" indeed. In this interpretation, asking "where did the end of the rope go" takes on a meaning more like, "where did the thread of conversation go", with the singer trying desperately to recall it, swimming against the current of his short-term memory, grasping at straws, "clawing at the air" to recover this conversation strand that's just out of his mental periphery. My parents call it a senior moment, bless their hearts (at which they're young); it's walking into a room to retrieve something and forgetting what you needed, or a dream whose details slip through your fingers upon waking; it's a good melody you come up with or a mystery song on the radio you try to remember but gets harder and harder to reach.

Most people would eventually stop chasing this lost thought, but not our singer. As time goes on, "after you left me hanging" turns to "long ago you..." to "once upon a time", and poof, the dangling conversation is long out of sight, and dwelling on it is like the void, the blank ether, whatever, like dropping something down a bottomless pit and thinking you can catch up to it by diving after it. And then the song is capped with the line, sung intrigue-ingly, "No one can ever know." It too is an open-ended line, but I think Linnell plays it like he's saying he has to desperately hide from others the fact that he's committed this un-thought crime. I don't know if every line of this song can or ought to be adapted to this interpretation, but anyway I like it. ~ magbatz 20:32, 24 April 2015 (EDT)

Oh, good call on the increasing length of time since the precipitating incident--which implies increasing irrationality on the part of this guy who's still hanging on to it (another sort of hanging!). -- Rosefox

Classic JL relationship bitterness[edit]

Anyone who thinks "Snail Shell" is about a literal snail should come listen to "End of the Rope"--they contain the same deep loathing for both the hapless (hopeless) self and the mysterious but clearly unkind "you". I especially love the opening of the second verse, which I always want to be a chin-lifting spine-stiffening declaration of "You're gone but I'm still here" and instead flips around into pure self-effacing despair. Even now that the other person has left, the narrator only sees himself in relation to "there", the empty space they left behind.

The rope might as well be a noose, which adds extra weight to the narrator "hanging", "clawing at the air", and cartwheeling in the void. Where did the end of it go? Around his neck, hidden in the slipknot. Now it's curtains for him (curtains drawn with a rope, incidentally--no rope-related image is spared here). Metaphorically, anyway.

It's a little tempting to interpret this as the unjustified whining of a guy who feels he's been "friendzoned" or "led on" by a woman--she called him "hopeless" and then left him hanging (maybe waiting for her to call) without any hope of getting into her pants--but we know what it sounds like when TMBG wants to make fun of obnoxious guys who don't understand why women don't want them: it sounds like "Twisting" and "You Probably Get That A Lot" and "You're On Fire", just off the top of my head. The visuals in "Twisting" and "End of the Rope" have obvious similarities, but the tone is totally different. So I'm pretty comfortable putting "End of the Rope" in the company of "Snail Shell", where the narrator is justifiably upset and angry at someone who treated him badly and is also discomfitingly obsessed with having been wronged and feeling like an utter loser. -- Rosefox

Driven to suicide[edit]

To me, this song is pretty transparently from the POV of a man about to kill himself, possibly in the form of a suicide note blaming someone else for his despair.

Being "at the end of one's rope" is common slang for being unable to cope with something anymore, so there's a clear pun there. There's a lot of wordplay here, actually--"hopeless" as both an insult thrown at the narrator and a description of how he actually feels ("it was even more true than you knew"), for instance.

There's also clear noose/hanging imagery. "Joyless cartwheels in the void" and "clawing at the air" could allude to a hanging man's dying spasms. "Hanging on your words, which hung down like a rope?" More wordplay--the rope here is both metaphorical (what the man has been told by others) and literal (a noose).

There's plenty more. "How thoughtless of me" = the narrator being admonished for the selfishness of his suicide. "Now it's curtains for me" = death, of course.

It's a rare Linnell song that sounds just as hopeless as I think the lyrics are. Hoping it doesn't get disowned a la a certain other Linnellian tragedy. -Warhammer Of Zillyhoo! (talk) 19:44, 23 May 2015 (EDT)

Losing The Battle (Of Mental Illness)[edit]

In the song before (Madam, I Challenge You to a Duel), the narrator challenged the her (his mental illness) to a battle. He lost the duel and wants to commit suicide (like in the third interpretation). He blames himself for the his lose. At the end he is unable to do it. I believe in "All The Lazy Boyfriends", he is glad he did not kill himself.--Nanobot18 (talk) 15:54, 3 January 2019 (EST)

Deep Sea Diving Imagery[edit]

I should preface this by saying I'm just talking about imagery interpretation, not song meaning. A good comparison here might be how "Now I Know" is ostensibly about someone who failed to defuse a bomb.

That said! I was a bit surprised to see myself alone in this, but I always pictured this as a deep sea diver seeing the other end of his line float downward in front of him. By this point in Glean, we've already seen two instances of deep sea imagery (Erase and Underwater Woman), so it seems to be a theme of sorts?

At any rate, the metaphor seems most explicit here:

You're gone, but I'm still there
Clawing at the air
Now it's curtains for me
And I'll spend eternity
Doing joyless cartwheels in the void

Joyless cartwheels, of course, implying his own corpse drifting aimlessly at the bottom of the sea. Revisiting the rest of the song's metaphor with this lens definitely comes off as rather straightforward:

How thoughtless of me
How dumb can you be?
Hopeless, wasn't that
What you called me and in fact
It was even more true than you knew

-- 20:21, 14 October 2020 (EDT) edit: Oh! sorry, I may as well add a small comment about song's meaning. I disagree about all the suicide, actually! TMBG, I feel, have a particular talent at depicting folks (though the focus seems to be on a "boyfriend" sorta dynamic) who really need to get their shit together, and this seems like a good example. I hear this song as someone who just got dumped for being overly dependent, and being mournful about it. It's a more sympathetic depiction of the brand of immaturity that later gets wonderfully, viciously torn apart in All The Lazy Boyfriends.-- 20:41, 14 October 2020 (EDT)