Interpretations:Never Knew Love

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I don't care what They said, this is meant to be a sad song.[edit]

First part is easy when thinking it's a sad song. Never knew love could be like this. I imagine a guy talking about the dark side of love. He thought it was all fun and schmoopy stuff until their current "love" showed them otherwise. He thought he was all smart and knew everything about anything ("I go around thinking I'm a genius") until love told him he was wrong. And the only way a self-proclaimed "genius" gets cut down is when he's is INCREDIBLY wrong so essentially, it has to be something bad that would tell him otherwise. Naturally, the counter to that would be saying he thought he knew just how good love could be and this is a catchy way off saying that he's feeling a love he's never felt before. I think the rest of the song proves that wrong thus creating a sadder song than Flansburgh suggests.

Is not my métier
And the mountainsides of daydreams
Too steep for me today"

Mapping stuff out isn't a strong suit for this character is essential what the first two lines mean. I see the next two as something like the daydreams he has, or used to, for his lover. Maybe he used to be able to daydream about her until he found out whatever negative thing that changed his image about love. Then it became harder to daydream about her. In order to daydream, you kind of have to come up with a background landscape, something this guy apparently ain't too good at. If you're dreaming about something you really like, what’s going on in the background becomes much less important. Since he's lost interest in her, it's harder to ignore the lack of a background therefore making it harder to create those daydreams (a tougher way of saying the mountainsides of daydreams, too steep for me today. It’s become harder for him to create that image of them on the mountains in his head.). I think the guy has lost interest in the girl at this point because of whatever love revealed to him.

"Lovers lost before us
And most did not return
The few who so hale and hearty
Now broken down and burned"

Seems like a simple one. The past girlfriends never came back to him. He thought he was a big shot since he got such wonderful girls (I'm assuming so since that would make you pretty hale and hearty) but when they left, he might have realized he was nothing. This could be where I'm getting the whole "Something in love made him turn against it" theory.

Is all they understand
No semaphore or secrets
Or just good old pretend
Now they all are sleeping
But this keeps us awake
These words, they need safekeeping
A promise not to break"

My more relatable section. Biography is something written about somebody but not written by that specific person. From what I've experienced, girls don't really care about what you're saying unless it's about them. The fun part is, they won't even send any messages of pretending to care about you or anything not related to them. I swear that's how it works. That's the first four lines here.

I feel like this is a shout out to all the men who stay up thinking about this love crap. The us is the men, the they is the women. There are a few things I see keeping "us awake”. Could be the fact that the girls don't care about us like we do for them and that's driving his mind crazy (I know this one), could be how his lover sleeps so soundly with all of this garbage happening even though it sticks in his mind all the time, or it could be simply the character talking about how his idea for love ruining him has kept him up. I still believe that the character wants to get rid of his lover but doesn't know how to break it to them. What he should do about that keeps him awake. Then he wants to tell people but knows what he's thinking can't get to his lover since it would cause so much damage. He needs someone to tell yet doesn't have anyone but himself to talk to about this, thus keeping him awake longer.

"But I never knew love
Has there ever been love?
Oh, I never knew love could be like this"

So what he thought was love turned out to be false. This causes him to question what love is and if it were ever in any of his relationships. I never knew love could be so confusing, hurtful, time consuming, etc. is what I think the full title would actually be.

That's what I got, it's long but somebody had to get this song started. I feel like I can connect with these lyrics on both spectrums but I really feel like the sadder side of the song is what it was really meant for. Tell me if you have corrections on my interpretation, disagree, have the positive interpretation, or anything about this song, we need to get moving on talking about these early released songs.

Two different songs[edit]

A very odd song. Linnell breaks all the rules of the Giants by singing perhaps his most open and unambigious lyric to date. Flans lyrics in contrast are oblique even by Giants standards and can mean anything you want. For all the poetic posturing it's basically gibberish.

Overall the message is conflicting, if Linnell is certain, Flans is uncertain. The song sounds like two tunes bolted together and are emotionally disconnected. I disliked the effect at first as I felt Linnell's song was being interupted by Flans, but it grows on you. Off the top of my head I can't think of a song that they've recorded like this. If anyone can, I'd be interested to hear it. The guitar or is it synth part is a bit like "See the Constellation" from Apollo 18. Both sing well. (Mr Tuck)

All stages of love in one song[edit]

Love goes through many stages. It starts out with the initial attraction. This provides the euphoric feeling unknown to all except those who are experiencing it firsthand. "I never knew love could be like this."

The second stage is the chase. It's when you find out more about your love interest, spending more time with them, as they consume your every waking thought. This goes along with the euphoric sense.

Then comes the part where the relationship actually begins and the love becomes exclusive. Some refer to this as the honeymoon period. Everything is great and wonderful!

After that stage, every romantic relationship can veer down one of two paths. Their love can continue to grow into a long-lasting endeavor. Or, in the case of this song, it leads to breakdown and a world of hurt. This is when nothing is going right and it seems like the whole world lost its color. These are akin to the more depressing Flans verses.

Linnell is singing about the initial amazing feeling of newfound love, whereas Flansy is singing about the bitter end. All about love, all new emotions, all never experienced before.

I think it's about kids.[edit]

I never knew love could be like this I never knew love could be like this I go around thinking I'm a genius But I never knew love could be like this

(The singer never thought he'd be able to experience love like "this".)

Cartography Is not my métier And the mountainsides of daydreams Too steep for me today

(Two interpretations: One - the narrator doesn't really understand why he has love that is like the one that he has. Two - the narrator is too tired (from all of those noisy kids!) to talk about why he loves the way he does.)

Lovers lost before us And most did not return The few so hale and hearty Now broken down and burned

(A lot of bad stuff has happened to other people's relationships. But not the narrator's!)

I never knew love could be like this Was anyone else but me surprised? How anything happens is mysterious And I never knew love could be like this

(Same thing as before.)

Biography Is all they understand No semaphore or secrets Or just good old pretend

(The narrator's kids are too young to really understand anything. They only see the parents and that's all they see (because they're really small babies)

And now they all are sleeping But this keeps us awake These words, they need safekeeping A promise not to break

(Yeah, the kids are sleeping, but it keeps the parents awake. The parents need to be sure to watch over their kids and not break their marriage vows.)

I never knew love could be like this I never knew love could be like this I go around thinking I'm a genius But I never knew love Has there ever been love? Oh, I never knew love could be like this

(Loving your kids is a weird kind of love, because it's not often sang about or talked about in pop culture. I think this song is pretty cool and mature.)

This might be Ryan

It isn't so sad as you think[edit]

It's just a guy who for the first time in life fell completely head over heels for a woman who doesn't feel the same way. He seems mildly frustrated with his plight, but the verse 'Too steep for me today' shows that he isn't going to relinquish his all consuming love and that he will simply map out a new plan (kekekeke) to try again another day. He recognizes his shortcomings and failures and identifies with those individuals, but he obviously is isolating himself from them in that he isn't broken and burning.

Beginning and end[edit]

As someone else mentioned, I think this song is two stages of a relationship. The dreamy sounds behind Linnell's singing make me think he's in love for the first time, rather than being hurt for the first time. He didn't know what it would be like, no one does until they fall in love. By the end, though, the euphoria isn't present. He's been experiencing the hurt Flansburgh is describing. "Has there ever been love?" He's never felt the bad side of love either.

Mature song[edit]

It's a mature, thoughtful reflection about the very first, initial feelings a person has falling in love. Worthy of Linnell now that he's an old fart.

Definitive "Never Knew Love": A complicated song.[edit]

A magnificent, and lyrically intriguing song. Here's my take:

"Cartography Is not my métier And the mountainsides of daydreams Too steep for me today"

The subject is saying that he's not particularly well-versed in love. Interpersonal relationships each have their own "geography", if you will; our singer has certain difficulties navigating those waters.

He goes on to note that what he dreams of (presumably a successful relationship with a particular person) is currently beyond his reach. However, with the inclusion of the word "today", he makes it clear that he intends 'climb the mountains of his daydreams' (if you will) at some point in the future. He's saying he won't give up.*

  • Alternatively, the line "too steep for me today" could be coming from the POV of someone older, who's been through the ringer, as far as relationships, and no longer has it in him to go chasing his dreams. This would be someone lamenting his past failures, and resigning himself to the idea that he'll never achieve what he wanted to achieve. Clearly, the interpretation of this line changes the whole song dramatically.

"Lovers lost before us And most did not return The few so hale and hearty Now broken down and burned"

Here, our subject talks about the people who jumped headfirst into love, without (as per previous lines) taking due diligence to 'learn their way around' love, and relationships. Consequently, these people 'did not return', in the sense that they lost themselves (in a negative sense) in the vast geography of love. These 'lost lovers' spent so much time and effort trying to find their way around, that they ceased to be true to themselves, and suffered severe psychological/emotional/existential consequences... hence "broken down and burned".

Biography Is all they understand No semaphore or secrets Or just good old pretend

Biography is the story of someone's life as told by another. This is crucially significant, as it implies that the biggest downfall of the 'lost lovers' is that they live the lives they believe others *want* them to live. Our lovers failed in their attempt at close personal relations, largely because their lives were illusions; they were making the choices laid out by external forces, rather than making their own way through life. To be in a relationship is to give your life to someone else... if your life isn't true to what you want it to be, you cannot have a genuine relationship.

Furthermore, there is no communication (semaphore), or exploration of your (or your lover's) mind. You've put two 'biographies' together hoping for a spark, totally failing to understand that love is something that grows, over time, as you learn secrets about each other. Trying to have a relationship with a fully open book right away is like trying to make a plant grow by submerging it in water... it's too much, too soon. Love is a process... something magical; to be nurtured, guarded, and patiently grown. The 'lost lovers' tried to turn love into a convenience... an expedient endeavor. Instead of savoring the complex flavors of love, they wanted to fill themselves as quickly as possible.

The 'lost lovers' have realized their folly, and --in tacit admission of their failure-- don't even bother pretending that there's anything left between them.

"And now they all are sleeping But this keeps us awake These words, they need safekeeping A promise not to break"

This is the hardest part for me to interpret. The subject may be implying that the 'lost lovers' have lost interest in their illusions of love, and are now more possessed by more down-to-Earth concerns, such as sleep.** In this case, the subject (and presumably his love interest) are drawn to continue exploring their relationship, and have reached a point where they take it seriously enough to consider commitment. The final two lines almost suggest wedding vows, or some other commitment held in near-sacred regard.

    • Alternatively, by "now they all re sleeping", the subject could be implying that the lovers spent so much time "lost" in the terrain of love (without a map), that they've 'died; in some sense. Like a lone explorer who's lost and without food or water, these people may have become so lost trying to find their way through a relationship, that they no longer were getting the reciprocation necessary to keep going. In this sense, there may have been a sort of existential "death", whereby the 'lost lovers' have lost a portion of their identity, or humanity, or empathy, or some such.

The problem with this line of thought, is that I don't quite know how the "safekeeping"/"promise" line follows in a sensible manner. Perhaps the subject and his love interest have some stake in the continued failure of others to succeed in their search for love? They promise not to give any insight into the challenges of love to anyone else? They guard the secrets to their success, for fear that someone else may also succeed? They want to be the lone bright spot in a daydream landscape littered with the bodies of those who went before (and perhaps after) them, and failed? Seems dark, and perhaps pathologically selfish that way...

When you discover love, you're blown away by all the imperception.[edit]

Ultimately, out of all the songs on the album, I call this one a hallmark of the theme of Join Us. Pay attention, kids.

Linnell's verses are about how love's truly not understandable, and that itself is worthy of awe.

You can't know or be able to rationalize love. It's such a shocking understanding that it's unfathomable. Moreover, it points out how acts of love are superficially unfathomable as love. Ultimately, Linnell is stumped by the fact he believed a lie that he knew what love was--maybe he thought that you would tell if someone loved you simply from someone' actions. ("How anything happens is mysterious.") Now that he feels love, he's dumbfounded. In fact, "Has there EVER been love?" Has anyone EVER grasped it? And has everything or anything--that people have done--been motivated by love?

That fundamental question leads into Flansy's verses.

Flansy's first verse is how he was never good at defining a landscape. Especially to those who ask him to help confine love to a definition. People who seek love are looking for a defined landscape, and so tumble down the mountainsides of their this is what love will be like daydreams. Ultimately, even the few who are brave enough to journey to find and explore 'love' destroy themselves by their illusions of what signals it.

Flansy's second verse points out how people are paying attention to the knowable about people--biography. Somebody did this at that. That the pure output is "all they understand". To those imperceptive to love, they think there's no unspoken communication by these people ("semaphore"), there's no secrets a person withholds from the biographer, and the biographer may not even consider your pretense/act a facade. Flansy ties this together by implying that knowing what Love truly is will shock you awake, unknown to those yet sleeping.

If you want a summary from me, here it is: decide that you are loved by everyone, that it exists in everything that people do, and that you love by revering the necessary mystery of the murky but loving motivations of each person.

Part of my series on the thematic interpretation of Join Us.

Those that don't love think that you are another "human". So, when they repeat themselves and you don't conclude the way they are concluding, they think you're a jerk or an idiot. But each human is different and diverse, and acts the way they expect humans to act in the same circumstance, individually.

Please forgive me if you think I tried to pin down love at all. :) These words need safekeeping, there's love hidden inside. Don't rip apart the words to find the love inside, or else you kill it. It's a living thing of magic and mystery. It's hard to say more. At least to me, Love is something I believe about you, in my heart.

I propose this song is the same. This song was made because TMBG cares. And because it sounds awesome. B)

--SoreThumb (talk) 17:39, 16 May 2013 (EDT)

Finding love too late[edit]

I read it like this: Narrator has been in "love" before. Loves his wife. Loves his kid(s). Likes his life.

Then he falls in LOVE.


Never realized that THIS was what it feels like. Does everyone else feel like this and I was missing out? Does ANYONE else feel like this? I can't stop thinking about you (the girl he's singing to).

Apparently he didn't map out his life as well as he thought. Didn't see this coming. Can't stop daydreaming about the girl, but daydreams are painful because he keeps falling off when he realizes he probably can't/shouldn't pursue the relationship.

Lovers lost before us (narrator and girl) are out of their lives now. Knows that he has to burn one relationship (at least) to start another.

Biography is all THEY (society) understand. He feels he can't ask this girl to be his because it will break up a family and society will see it as a bad thing. Doesn't want to subject himself or the (probably younger) girl to ridecule. Narrator can't tell anyone else he's even in love - even if it's just pretending since he isn't actually with her.

Narrator and girl both awake at night thinking about eachother while their partners sleep next to them. They can't talk about the way they feel (to others, or possibly even each other) and they know they need to keep the secret safe.

And it sucks. Really bad. Trust me on this.