Interpretations:Man, It's So Loud In Here

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Dawning awareness of love[edit]

(Disclaimer: As always, this is not an attempt to infer the Johns' intentions; it's more like a moiré pattern formed by laying the song across my mind. As such, this interp may be affected by recent events which include sidewalk racing, pistol and gun shots, and glass clinking and stuff. If it sickens the more cynically inclined among you, too bad.)

My first instinct was to interpret the song fairly literally, as describing actual events or possibly a dream. Now I think that all the confusion is in the narrator's head, that he's just seeing things differently, because he's euphoric with love. This feeling is so unfamiliar to him, though, that he doesn't really recognize it for what it is. (Even if it is a dream of the narrator's, and not delusion occurring in a conscious state, the dream's symbols could still be interpreted this way.)

They fixed up the corner store like it was a night club
It's permanently disco
Everyone is dressed so oddly
I can't recognize them
I can't tell the staff from the customers

To me, the corner store symbolizes the mundane, the everyday. You've been there a million times, you know what to expect. Its disco decor comes as a surprise, which disorients the narrator. None of this necessarily suggests that he's imagining it, but at least it doesn't contradict the idea. In fact, his disorientation could lead him to doubt his senses (although he seems to take them at face value throughout the song).

The music contributes to the feeling of uncertainty when it teeters between the major tonic (I) and the minor subdominant (iv). However, the reassuringly predictable dance beat relieves this tension and lends a sense of inevitable, automatic progression. This stabilizing force is supplied, notably, by a drum machine, whose rhythmic steadiness is reminiscent of a heartbeat.

Baby, check this out I've got something to say

By addressing someone as "Baby," he indicates a certain level of affection. His forthcoming statement must be significant, since he feels the need to announce it beforehand.

Man, it's so loud in here
When they stop the drum machine and I can think again
I'll remember what it was

If the drum machine represents a heart, this suggests that he's overcome with emotion to the point that he can't think clearly.

You have to carry all your things
You can't misplace them
There's nowhere to place anything

Beyond being descriptive of a nightclub, this verse emphasizes the disorienting lack of landmarks by which the narrator could hope to get his bearings. I'm not sure about the significance of the carried things. Perhaps they represent the rest of his life, and he'd rather discard them to focus on her.

They're all shouting something at us
Waving and pointing

The pronoun "us" confirms again that the narrator is with someone. Apparently "they" are trying to alert the narrator and his Baby to something, which supports the idea that he is failing to recognize something significant.

They revamped the airport completely
Now it looks just like a nightclub
Everyone's excited and confused

This returns to the theme of the first verses. We learn that it's not just the corner store that's undergone a transformation; the nightclub atmosphere seems omnipresent, or at least increasingly present. The fact that it seems to follow the narrator leads me to believe that it's in his mind. It's a simpler explanation, at least, than a sudden conspiracy of interior decorators.

When they start the love machine and I can love again
I'll remember what it was

This is essentially the foundation of the interp. The substitution of the word "love" in this final chorus associates it with both the drum machine and the narrator's thought, if only by means of parallel structure. He still doesn't recognize it, but it's as though what he's been trying to think of is finally coming to the surface, and it has to do with love. He needs the love machine to start before he can remember. So, I think he's trying to tell her that he loves her. --Bryce 14:04, August 25, 2003

It's about an elderly couple, trying to get to the corner store, but mistakenly wander into a nightclub instead. That is why they are so confused, and everyone else is confused. In the next scene, they're trying to get to the airport, but accidentally end up at that same nightclub.

Dawning awareness of old age[edit]

You see, I used to play in a rock band here in New York. And it's a pretty unpleasant experience, all things considered. The NYC music scene has changed from its days of yore; people are no longer going out to seek new bands or new sounds. No one gives a rat's ass about your music unless they know you or they know the tunes you're playing, no matter how good you are. And I can't even be upset about this, because I did it just the same to other bands as it was done to me. Once my band's 45 minutes were up, I was done. Maybe I'd have a drink, and then I'd split. Chances were pretty strong that the next act up after you would be at worst unlistenable and at best forgettable. But the one thing they all shared in common: loud loud loud fucking loud way too fucking loud. After a gig, the band and I would always want to go chat with the friends that came out to support us. To do this, we were forced to leave the club. Period. It's impossible to hold a conversation in these places. In some, even, shouting an inch away from another person's ear does no good. As time wore on, I was able to tolerate it less and less. The Johns have about a decade on me, so I can only imagine what the scene feels like for them now.

Another bizarre trend about the NY rock clubs - also referenced in the song - is how there are, in front of the band stage, these wide-open, generally table-less areas (even though NY's old-timey cabaret law forbids dancing in these places without a special, expensive license which none of them have). When I first heard Man, It's So Loud in Here, and it got to that bit about having to carry all your things, I fell out of my chair with laughter. It's funny because it's true.

A note about the "corner store" bit: I think this is a reference to a specific location in Manhattan. There is a club downtown which was and is still pretty hot on the live rock scene. It's called Arlene Grocery. Nothing inside the place suggests any sort of grocery store theme; the name of the place is as far as the idea goes. The whole reason, however, that it's called that is because the club started by leasing a space that was formerly used by one of the many deli/grocery places in Manhattan, converting the interior to a nightclub, but leaving the exterior exactly the same. The metal awning above the store front says Arlene Grocery just as it did back when the place was really a grocery store, and the usual other awning blurbs, like "Cold Beer & Cigarettes" and such, are still on there too. Only the darkened windows tell the uninformed observer that it may not be a grocery store any longer. The city is rife with this sort of thing. There's a bar on 14th St. called the Beauty Shop, or something like that. Same deal, it's just a former beauty salon converted into a bar (though this place kept a lot of the interior as well as the exterior). These places crop up a lot because a) it allows the enterprising nightclub owner to set things up on the cheap, and b) it adds a unique flavor to the place so it's not yet another tragically hip watering hole like all the rest of them.

So, yeah, I can totally relate to the fact that - now that I'm older and no longer single - places like that with all the clubby people and the trendy hipness and particularly the deafening sound system have pretty much lost all appeal. And that's what I think this song is about. Linnell is illustrating that, when you take away the excitement to be in such places, the whole arrangement and premise of them are pretty ridiculous. --Charlie 16:22, July 2, 2004

Awesome interpretation Charlie - we need more people who know New York interpreting Their songs, because I think a lot of the strange ideas people come up with can be explained better by observing the sort of places John & John frequent (e.g. the Arlene Grocery club) 09:56, August 1, 2004

Interpretation 3[edit]

i believe this a song about how the reinvention of things often ruins them. "everyone is dressed so oddly, i cant recognize them, i cant tell the staff from the customers" and "You have to carry all your things, you cant misplace them, there's no where to place anything" are good examples of how things like hypermodernism when applied to certain things just causes confusion and inconvenience —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:25, September 18, 2004

Interpretation 4[edit]

Its definitely about the increasing prevalence of soundbite "QUICK LOOK AT ME" advertising. Everything is full of loud colors and flashy advertisements, loud radio music, and the singer is becoming increasingly discombobulated

They fixed up the corner store
Like it was a nightclub
It's permanently disco
Everyone is dressed so oddly
I can't recognize them
I can't tell the staff from the customers

the singer walks into the corner store and is surprised by their new advertisements all over the walls, the loud advertisements and music playing over loudspeakers and is confused by it

Baby, check this out I've got something to say,
Man, it's so loud in here
When they stop the drum machine And I can think again
I'll remember what it was

Later, the singer outside on a date with their "baby" and finds that all the flashy ads and fast paced music makes it so that they cant concentrate. He is hoping to find a secluded spot away from the fast paced bustle of society to collect his thoughts

You have to carry all your things
You can't misplace them
There's nowhere to place anything

Becoming increasingly vexed, the singer notices how everything in society is becoming priced, perhaps they are in the airport looking at those pay locker thingys, but he is noticing how modernized society discourages anything but carrying everything with you outside the home, no leaving your bag on the park bench, no leaving your bike on the curb while you go for a muffin.

They're all shouting
Something at us
Waving and pointing

they are not following the new rules of modernized society and are being ostracized and cursed, but they cant hear over the din what their accused sins are.

They've revamped the airport
Now it looks just like a night club
Everyone's excited and confused

a restatement of the sentiments about the corner store.

The bit about the love machine is not only a restatement of the bit about the drum machine, but also it is a statement about the increasing dependence on modern society

I really like the description about the rock clubs too. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:12, November 14, 2004


It's about moving. I know it! --Walrus 20:56, November 20, 2004

Interpretation 6[edit]

I make no grand claims about having the answer, but the first time I visited O'Hare in Chicago, I had to travel down a dark tunnel passing beneath the airport which was lit with many a oddly colored neon light and it automatically brought me to this song. --KraDakar 17:25, January 26, 2005

Interpretation 7[edit]

Ok, so my two bits on the song (after reading all the foregoing interpretations) is still the same as it was the first time I heard the song. All the comments about the environment being described (clubs) is not exactly positive. It's not like the singer is trashing on them, he's just pointing out that things are odd, disorienting, loud, making him forget, etc. I think that to describe clubs using dance music is a very clever and very tongue-in-cheek way of doing it - and I love it. The first time I heard the song I though, "great - a dance/club tune." (I don't particularly care for dub.) But when I listened to the lyrics I thought it was both funny and appropriate. It's almost like it's a person who happens to be singing along to some other song, instead of a tmbg song. If that makes any sense.

At any rate, as for the thing he's trying to tell his Baby, I definitely agree that he's trying to tell her he loves her. But it's just SO LOUD he can't hear himself think. Which is funny because in the last chorus, he halfway remembers what it was, as he mentions the love machine. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:52, February 5, 2005

Interpretation 8[edit]

Digga-digga-digga system...the system-is down! The system-is down! —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:29, August 23, 2005

Interpretation 9[edit]

I think my interpretation of this song is a tad more literal than some of the other ones. The singer of the song is going out with someone who frequently attends places like the corner store club, though he doesn't really go for that sort of thing very much. Thinking that this is big enough of an issue to break up with her, he does so, though he has a hard time remembering what he was going to say, due to the thunderous music. Eventually, for one reason or another, he gets out what needs to be said. They get into a big fight, which leads to the bouncers demanding them to take it outside, hence the waving and pointing. As she storms off angrily from him, he considers if he hasn't maybe made a mistake.

Some time passes, and he hears about how the airport got revamped into a night club, and decides to head over there to try and find Baby and apoligize. When he finds her, however, he realizes that he doesn't actually love her, and decides that the apology isn't really worth it. He tells her thaat in case the "love machine" ever starts up, he'll "remember" what he was going to tell her, and apologize.

You know what? This sounded much better in my head.

Just a quick side idea: What if by "love machine," he litterally means his heart? What if the guy had a heart attack? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:23, September 11, 2005

Interpretation 10[edit]

Just a few things to add:
First, Doesn't it say on Linnell's page that he doesn't like loud, loud music, and always wears earplugs? Could be this song relates to that. Second, I think the chorus might refer to the joke you sometimes see on old TV shows of two guys saying to each other, "Man, it's so loud in here!" "What? I can't here you. It's too loud in here!" Also, I think the line "I can't tell the staff from the customers" refers to the practice of having proffesional club-goers at a club. You can't tell who's there actually having a good time from the people who are just there getting paid to have a good time. Lastly, I think it's really great how this song parodies club culture with its lyrics while, at the same time, parodying club music with its music. There's something similar at work, I think, with country music as its target, in Lucky Ball & Chain and Alienation's For The Rich. Tutt 14:46, 24 Oct 2005 (EDT)MasterChivo

Interpretation 11[edit]

A song about getting old and feeling old. Linnell has a hard time with loud music these days and also is not exactly a nightclub person. One really gets the impression the narrator of the song is totally out of step with the modern world so that everything looks like a disco. Perhaps also a critique of modern life. A brilliant riff, and really a Linnell solo song as Flans may not even play on the track. With a major label backing this would have been a smash hit if it had gotten the airplay that it deserved. (Mr Tuck) 13:54, January 31, 2006

I can definitely hear a guitar, Tuck. Listen closer. Also, Flans wrote it. Just a note. -Ecks 17:11, January 31, 2006
I stand totally corrected. I assumed a la Beatles that the one that sung it, wrote it. In the Two Johns DVD it appears Linnell is the total author of the song. (Mr Tuck) 05:12, February 1, 2006
Umm, on the Gigantic DVD this is the song that Flans is playing for John to get feedback. Just another note. --Rilom 14:15, July 28, 2006
No your wrong. Linnell is the one playing it to the rest of them. He's embarrassed. Watch it again and you will see I am, as usual right. (Mr Tuck) 13:40, November 6, 2006

Interpretation 12[edit]

Well, chaps, from my point of view, this is a club-style song (if outdated) which subverts the whole club ethos by asking us to imagine whether we'd tolerate a nightclub environment anywhere in the "real world". Trouble is, though I hate clubs, and I hate songs in the cheesy Stock-Aitken-Waterman style here, when you run the New Order-style (80s Link Wray?) guitar motifs over the sequencers, it actually doesn't sound half bad. In fact, I love it. See, they did it again... take a crazy idea, marry it with a strong musical style, knock out a great tune and the sum is greater than its constituent parts. --Balb Kubrox 18:05, January 31, 2006

Failure of Nerve[edit]

I think it's about a guy who doesn't have the guts to tell the girl that he loves her. He meets her at a local "stop-n-go" mini-mart where he uses the excuse that the muzak coming over the speakers is distracting him, making him 'forget' what he wanted to say. They begin a relationship, but she eventually leaves him. As they say goodbye at the airport, he again finds in the piped-in music a sufficient distraction to avoid saying how he feels. (He's excited and confused, but avoids confessing these emotions by attributing them to 'everyone'.) The word 'love' sneaks out in this song in the same way that the word 'nightmare' sneaks out in the song They'll Need A Crane, an accidental revelation of a secret thought. --Nehushtan 17:54, 15 Feb 2006 (CST)

Freudian slip. Doug the Aquacell Guy 22:21, 20 May 2006 (CDT)

Snow Crash[edit]

I always think of Neal Stephenson's novel Snow Crash when I hear this song. -YT—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:52, September 9, 2006

Interpretation 15[edit]

A nightclub song that is critical of nightclub songs, hilarity ensues. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Fasterthanyou (talkcontribs) 00:37, December 14, 2006

Interpretation 16[edit]

This to me is a song about the clash of the older. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:30, May 31, 2007

Interpretation 17[edit]

You know, when Muzak first came on the scene, the idea was that a public place might play music quietly - almost subliminally - as a way to put shoppers in a happy mood so they would buy more stuff. Over the years, Muzak has gotten louder and louder and switched from instrumental elevator tunes to modern pop and club hit music. It's not rare to hear a semi-obscene dance song played at 90 decibels in a Taco Bell these days. I'm pretty sure the Johns are addressing that change in this song.

This has very little to do with actual nightclubs. It is about unrelated industries - convenience stores and airports - that have embraced club culture as a way to relate to a young, club-going demographic. Of course, this annoys the heck out of people who just want to get on a plane or get some coffee and don't want to have to step through a nightclub to do it. It's a cranky old man song, sort of like "I Hope That I Get Old Before I Die." They're saying "I'm not trying to relate to this club culture right now. I just want to get on my plane!" Kris Wright 01:55, 31 August 2007 (UTC)

Information Overload[edit]

I think I sort of agree with lots of these interpretations. Mine: This is a song which seems at first to be a sort of satire of nightclub culture but eventually makes clear that it's about everything - the whole world has gotten so loud and user unfriendly that the narrator is unable to complete a simple thought (the thought in this case being, pretty obviously, "I love you"). The substitution of "love" for "drum" in the last verse also suggests that all the noise not only prevents him from thinking clearly but also, possibly, from feeling clearly. I really love this song. --Northside Jonny 21:56, September 28, 2007

Interpretation 19[edit]

I always get the impression that this is pretty much a pastiche of the whole dance scene, where people really only care about cranking the music up. It always kinda reminds me of the Freezepop song "Less Talk More Rokk", which basically is a sarcastic song about a loud dance party at someone's house. 0dd1 04:13, 28 March 2009 (UTC)

I've got something to say[edit]

It's nice to read interpretations that are similar to my own for once. This song is a LOT deeper than most give it credit for. I think it's my favorite TMBG song (although I've got serious love for the 1 Million Degrees Dunkin Donuts commercial.)

I think the key points to keep in mind are the phrases: "When they stop the drum machine" contrasted with the Freudian slip at the end "When they start the love machine". These are the same thought. What happens when the drum/love machine stops/starts? "[he] can love again." Note that he repeatedly says "again." This is the key to understanding the passage.

"You have to carry all your things,
you can't misplace them
there's nowhere to place anything."

Once you're armed with the knowledge that he is looking to love again, you can interpret this phrase to mean that one has to carry all of your things/feelings with you... not put them down (or give them to someone) to hold, because your love could be misplaced (ie given to the wrong person.) This is about the bottling up of his emotions due to his reluctance to make another mistake.

He desperately wants to tell the girl that he loves her, but he's been stung in the past and can't bring himself to do it. He chalks up the inability to external factors (the drum machine, disco, the stopped love machine) that he has no control over instead of facing it head on. It's basically a projection of his own internal confusion and mental blocks.

"They're all shouting something at us, waving and pointing"

It's not abundantly clear, but I'd suggest that "they" are his friends and family who are trying to get him out of his fog to tell her that he loves her, but he isn't listening... external problems with volume again. *cough*

In the end, she's going away... moving on with her life. He (not all the people in the airport) is excited and confused... this is his last chance to come clean and say it! He gets closer... this time he can admit that it's a Love Machine that's the problem, not the noise from the Drum Machine, but he still can't do it. "When they start the Love machine, I'll remember what it was"

Unfortunately, "was" is the operative word... eventually he'll look back at the moment with regret, but he's just not ready.

The song reinforces this by repeating his problem over and over...

"Man, it's so loud in here..."
"Man, it's so loud in here..."

—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:33, July 22, 2009

Interpretation 20[edit]

Quite simply, I believe "Man, It's So Loud In Here" is about the loss of connection, contact, and identity in a commercialized, technological society. Notice how the narrator begins to confess something in the chorus: "Baby, check this out, I've got something to say." But he interjects his sentence with, "Man, it's so loud in here!" Subsequently, he forgets what he wanted to tell her. It seems as though the narrator is disillusioned by this technological society. He feels he can't fit in while "everyone is dressed so oddly" and is part of the confused crowd when "everyone's excited and confused." He calls the corner store "disco," while it's probably just techno; he's a bit out of the loop. The narrator obviously realizes this loss of connection in the world and is left repeating "Man, it's so loud in here:" the call of someone who can't think or express feelings in a world that is disconnected by its obsession with technology. --Lemita 22:54, 9 August 2010 (UTC)

Interpretation 21[edit]

This song is also great because the lyrics don't rhyme. Also, a great song about volume. Think of Joe Jackson's "Slow Song" or Ray Davies' "Noise." Thank you, Neal in SF. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:46, February 6, 2014

Club life[edit]

You have to carry all your things
You can't misplace them
There's nowhere to place anything

I've been reading Peter Hook's book "The Haçienda: How Not to Run a Club", which is about the history of the landmark Manchester nightclub the Haçienda (yes, that's how it's spelled). The interior of the club was purpose-built, and had a lot of stupid design problems, including lack of a cloak room (essential in cities with colder climates). They eventually converted a storeroom for the purpose, but it was pitifully small and inadequate for the job.

I can't tell the staff from the customers

Venues that host different clubs on different nights will have a regular bar staff who will dress in standard bar staff uniform, rather than in costume appropriate to the musical subculture, but if the venues manage the individual nights themselves, and so have a more uniform musical identity, it is more likely that the barstaff will be permitted to wear nightclub attire.

The music of the song is in the style of Pet Shop Boys, a major dance music act of the 1980s and 90s (and still active now). Singer/lyricist Neil Tennant is noted for his literate wit, so would probably appreciate TMBG's ironic appropriation of his style.
The melodic bass-lines are in the style of New Order, whose bassist Peter "Hooky" Hook wrote the above-mentioned book.
-- Thread Bomb (talk) 02:03, 9 March 2020 (EDT)

sensory overload[edit]

i imagine the narrator at a party they don't want to be at with loud music blaring, curled up under a table with their hands on their ears, thinking "man, it's so loud in here!" and waiting until they turn off the drum machine so the narrator can think again. like most interpretations, this one is wrong. --Ncrecc (talk) 23:18, 4 August 2022 (EDT)

|_I completely agree with this interpretation. As a person with sensory issues, I relate to this song on so many levels. The overwhelming nature of loud noise leading to an inability to think, discern staff from customers, or anything else really, until the noise is eliminated. And when you're in a situation with friends, where you really want to be hanging out with them, but the environment is so overstimulating, it can be both exciting and confusing. This song makes me so happy because it feels like someone is just talking about how crazy it is to be overstimulated, and I appreciate the Johns making me feel seen. RabbiVole (talk)

Emergency Confusion[edit]

Definitely less of a deep interpretation here, but I always enjoyed the thought of it being a man and his companion who aren't too bright who have mistakenly stumbled onto the scene of an active crime or emergency situation and have somehow understood it as being some sort of disco event. To be fair, if this was the case then this happening to them both at a corner store and at an airport would be rather silly, but if this hypothetically was the theme then it's already a bit absurd.

Mostly, I find the connection in the lines where it mentions the loud nightclub environment (could be a sirens or alarms and flashing lights) and the "drum machine" could even be a loud, rhythmic banging or even gunshots. And the mention of everyone being "dressed so oddly" could be emergency responders in uniform or even the outfits of the people causing the emergency with masks or something. But to be honest with you my favorite connection to this is the line "They're all shouting something at us, waving and pointing" which would definitely be the people around them who understand the situation trying to warn them about what as happening around them. I will concede also that I don't really have an explanation for the "love machine" with this interpretation either, and the concept is a bit of a reach. But I thought it would be worth sharing if nothing else to share some entertaining connections.