Interpretations:Metal Detector

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That "folderol" etymology is interesting, thank you! And the use of it in the song is pleasingly self-referential; very tmbg.

Mr. Linnell has said he was inspired by a book written by a man who claims there is buried treasure on certain northern beaches where there is little chance of there being any actual buried treasure, that the author was a bit of a crank. I got the impression that he liked the idea, though, of the slightly crazy fellow with his metal detector, of someone obessesed enough to write a book about his odd hobby of seeking treasure where there isn't any.

What if the meaning of the song is simply to share his delight at the attitude and seriousness of the crank? That he was delighted at the oddness, and wanted to share that sense of enjoyment?

In other words, he found a small treasure in this man's quest for an imaginary one, and we find imaginary treasures in digging through this lyric? Christina Miller, October 2007

I think the key to understanding this song is the line "Ignore the mountain of discarded folderol"

Folderol (sometimes Falderal) is any useless ornamentation, but it's etymology is described as "a nonsense refrain in songs."

I got one. I usually think scrutinizing songs like this is stupid, but I'll give it a shot. The beach is a metaphor for some place. And the lyrics tell you to look past its stereotypes and such to really understand what that place is all about. Use your metal detector to look beyond the sand.

It's about tresure hunting unless you want to read ALL that- Dr Worm 181

I think this song is about materialism and capitalism. It keeps describing a cheerful, enjoyable beach scene, but tells the listener to look past the happiness of the seagulls and volleyball games, stop enjoying the scene, and see it as pure profit: there are precious metals underneath the beach, and the narrator is telling the listener that that is what's really important. The chorus reassures this: "My metal detector is with me all of the time" informs the listener that the narrator is constantly seeking money, or metal, as the song would have it. Then, the narrator refers to this wonderful beach scene as a mine: it's not an enjoyable beach to him, but an oppurtunity for making money. -- Chuckie

This is one of my favorite TMBG songs. I see it as part of the series of Linnell (?) songs concerning people with intense obsessions/compulsions, escapist fantasies, or delusions, possibly elderly people (in this case, the song brings up for me the image of an old man in baggy shorts walking along the beach with his metal detector), and often these obsessions come in the form of technological devices. Some other songs I see in this group are Destination Moon, Dirt Bike, The Bells Are Ringing, Spiraling Shape, I Should Be Allowed To Think, and of course the excellent No One Knows My Plan. Hopeless Bleak Despair gives me the same kind of feeling.

I love the people in these songs. They're confined in a very small corner of human experience, but they've developed a whole rat's nest of associations and emotions around something most people wouldn't see anything special about, and ways to make their experience rich and deep and for it to make sense and have perspective, despite what we might consider a very distorted view of things. --Crankysysadmin

I agree that this song is like Destination Moon, Dirt Bike, etc. but I see this as a genuinely happy song. Whereas the other songs are more ominous, if not in sound than at least in lyrics, Metal Detector isn't necessarily sinister. "Everything on the top will just stop seeming interesting" - well, it's true! --Mark

I also see Till My Head Falls Off and the recent Renew My Subscription in this category. Hey! Maybe this is a good "song theme"... --anonymous man


i beleive this to be a song about male and female relations and how easy it is to dismiss something or someone because of its appearence, for instance the line "ive got something to help you understand, something waiting there, beneath the sand" where the sand means skin or appearance or "look past the volley balls, look past the squaking gulls," might mean to look past what everyone else see's


I found a Real Audio version of this, located here, and they say "it's actually about... it's based on a book uh... about finding buried treasure in Casco Bay in Maine, uh... written by a complete crackpot and he uses a metal detector, so this song is based on that."


Even though I accept that the song is meant to be interpreted literally, I do love the interpretation you get of this song when you change the lyric to "I'm the inspector over the mind."

What that interpretation is shall be left as an exercise for the reader.

To above - I thought it WAS "mind"! -Vixus

Wow a song of the tenacity of hermits

Seems to me to be another jaunty "memento mori!", like Turn Around. --Nehushtan 01:17, 16 Feb 2006 (CST)

I have this thing for World War II and this is what I like to think it means:

Down at the shore there's a place where there's no one vacationing

 because it's a war

There's just the sound of the call of the wild overcoming the fear of the unknown

  The soldiers are getting off the boats and not knowing what is waiting for them

I'm the inspector over the mine

  He looks for landmines

Look past the volleyball (look past the ball) Look past the squawking gull (look past the gull) Ignore the mountain of discarded folderol

   The singer is an veteran who came back to the beach now since it is now a vacation site and he is telling how it was when he invaded.

'Cause I've got something to make you understand Something hidden there underneath the land

  You shouldn't walk there because of the landmines.

My metal detector Is with me all of the time

  It will show the right path to walk

Every seashell has a story to tell if you're listening But underneath every shell there's a story as well if you've heard enough of the sea

 There might be landmines under the shells

Then everything on the top will just suddenly stop seeming interesting So listen now to the sound of the things that are found underground

 He can't pay attention to the fighting because he is listening to the metal detector.

Also, around; "I'm the inspector over the mine", the keyboard could sound like explosions

Alright, this is my initial interp and I know TMBG sort of said otherwise but I might post it anyway. Where I live there is A LOT of drama. My friend from a variety of sources seems to know A TON of stuff about everybody. This person seems to know that too. It uses the beach as a metaphor for the world I think, but this is about a guy who finds stuff out about people. The line "I'm the inspector, open the mind" seems to suggest that he is kinda going around and finding people's secrets. The line "My metal detector is with me all of the time" seems to be about the guy when he's talking to people he's reading between the lines and finding out info. Then he finds that the hidden stories are much more interesting than their expression above. So that's my interp, I hope I'm close. ~AgentChronon

EDIT: It was "Over the mine?" I thought it was "Open the mind!" Wow...

Various people hear "Over the mine", "Over the mind, and "Open the mind." This is what happens when you don't include lyrics in your liner notes.

Metal Detector fits in with the overall theme of Factory Showroom, which is non-comformity. This theme is also present in Tracks 3, 4, 9, & 13. The protagonist of this song refuses to conform to society's definition of what is 'fun' at the beach, like playing volleyball and throwing stuff at the seagulls. He's doing his own thing, and makes no apologies for it. Perspixx 07:42, 16 October 2007 (UTC)

I think Metal Detector is about an experience of a girl trying to rub a guy's parts through his pants but his junk is too small for her to feel so he gets a piercing and gives her a metal detector to help her out.

Creative Process[edit]

I think it's about the creative process, the primacy of the artistic process, which brings its own treasure. Very similar topic to "The Communists Have the Music": "The fascists have the outfits, but I don't care for the outfits, what I care about is music...."


I don't believe it's what John intended when writing, but this song really reminds me of how I personally hyperfixate on things. The narrator of the song pleads the listener to "Look past the volleyball/Look past the squawking gull/Ignore the mountain of discarded folderol," which are things that most regular people would usually gravitate towards at the beach. Instead, they try to convince the listener to look towards something else - their metal detector - stating that "I've got something/To help you understand/Something waiting there/Beneath the sand," even though the listener most likely doesn't care about the metal detector all that much. The narrator also mentions that "[their] metal detector is with [them] all of the time," which you can interpret either literally (as a comfort object or something that they just treasure a lot in general) or figuratively (they're always thinking about it or it's an important part of their personality). The narrator continues, mentioning that "everything on the top will just suddenly stop seeming interesting" if you pay attention to the things they're interested in. By the end of the song, the narrator states that they "Don't need no volleyball/Don't need no squawking gull/Metal detector, all the time," showing that they've fully lost interest in other parts of the beach and instead decided to focus all their attention to the metal detector, something that I relate to a lot when it comes to my own hyperfixations. Of course, this angle works for any enthusiasts and not just neurodivergent ones, but this spin on it is something that I really relate to personally.