Interpretations:Nothing's Gonna Change My Clothes
If people were a snowman with protective rubber skin, they would be able to retain their form even after They melted. However, water takes up less space than snow. therefore, an upright snowman's head would cave in as gravity draws the water down. Dominos bring up the connectivity of all things. The second verse is clearly a descrpition of the human form. Our skin, and other outward physical characteristics are our 'clothes,' just as the snowman wears the garb of the protective rubber skin.
Chorus: We can't change our skin, so nothing's gonna change our clothes. When you never change your clothes, they don't smell very good, (like a rose); thus: 'no one's coming up for air.'
This is my favourite TMBG song. The snowman from the first album represents the snowman in this song, as far as I can tell, since there is no other snowman referenced in the lyrics. I take the snowman to be the emblem of the album, and so this song becomes the centerpiece for what the album is about, ending the first half right in the middle.
Essentially, it is a rumination on skin and what lies beneath. The human body is 70% water: This is an interesting thought - perhaps one which led to amazement that this water could take form, be contained within itself, and move around and do other things. This is analagous to a snowman contained within a rubber skin. The song ends with a defiant determination that the singer refuses to change, can't change, and accepts his 'clothing' (skin) as it is. He's happy for the other people, but he will not sacrifice himself if other people choke to death on his body odor (or personality). Ever Anymore. --Pandastan 17:46, 16 Jan 2006 (EST)
If I had to guess this is about how we cant choose our skin color. We are born the way we are and cant change that. All the people are so happy now, their heads are caving in.(This I'll agree with a previous poster about, is ignorance.) I'm glad they are a snowman with protective rubber skin. (it's saying we're all the same on the inside, and this also covers that we are cold and cruel) But every little thing's a domino that falls on different dots, and crashes into everything, that tries to make it stop. (Our Skin color is random it's like the roll of the dice in a sense. And nothing we do can stop how we're born. I mean look at Michael Jackson;) There's a long obvious part describing the make up of all humans. A skeleton, covered in a coat(skin), a furry hat(our hair), an elastic mask(face), and pair of shiney marble dice. (eyes.) Some people call them snake eyes, but to me they look like mice. (This is talking about how people commit crimes and acts of hate with snake eyes, eyes that carry hatred, but really they're mice eyes, they're just afraid in the end.) Nothing's smelling like a rose, (I dont really know) But I dont care if noone's coming up for air(It's saying noone stops and to breath and think about how stupid their being.) cause I know nothing's gonna change my clothes, ever anymore.(it's not like we can pick or change our skin.) -chapmanbobby
I think this is a mockery of trendy New Age "spirituality", and more specifically, the Beatles song "Across the Universe". The people are so happy because they discovered New Age philosophy. As a consequence their brains are melting away. As the water trickles out, their heads cave in and words come dribbling out their mouths. The singer isn't going to go in for the aromatherapy ("smellin' like a rose") and he doesn't care that he doesn't fit in with the trend. He doesn't care if no one else will step back from the fad and look at it critically ("coming up for air"). Instead of having some kind of warm, fuzzy feeling about himself, with some sort of metaphysical notion about his body being some great thing, he sees it as it is, just flesh.
The people are all one snowman in proper New Age fashion. The part about dominoes refers to the idea that we are all interconnected, and points out that rather than making life one big family, it just causes everyone's failures to compound into one big mess. HearingAid
The part about heads caving in was confusing to me, since when They are talking about heads it is almost always synechdoche for the entire human being. However, the people described are snow-men, so their heads are fair game for some different interpretations. The first thing that came to my mind was shrunken heads or flattening of babies' heads in some Western American Indian tribes. The purposes of the two are different, the latter intended to beautify and the former intended (in most cases) to neaturalize vengeful spirits, but seem to fit into the song equally. "All the people are so happy now, their heads are cavin' in." The similarity between the two is that they are old and no longer in practice - a good way to start the song considering its message. The following lyrics distinguish heads caving in as specifically the beautification ritual of Indian tribes: "But every little thing's a domino that falls on different dots (yo) / And crashes into everything that tries to make it stop (oooo)," and also why they're just snow-men.
In comes Westward expanding young (little) America. An important thing to notice is the time reference. America is crashing into everything that tries to make it stop, and dominos are landing on different dots (they don't match up). Since dominos have two sides, they can represent the two dominant parties at the time, Whig and Democratic, which were alternating during this time frame. You could describe America as the unstoppable force (crashing) and Mexico as the immovable object, as historians do. James K. Polk was president and creating a new trend and newer, bigger, snowless America.
Then a pioneer is looking at himself in the mirror and sees his skeleton ("I'm human"). It's covered with these new clothes and new rougher, better skin. So far nothing is really human about him, it's all articifial, as in his rubber masks, fur hats, and all of that. Eyes typically symbolize the soul, or something that is always truly honest even when the person is lying. He's rugged, dangerous, powerful, and independent, he's a snake. Inside, he's a mouse. In the larger picture the snake-mouse thing also applies. Snake eyes would represent unity on the two sides which was really the case - nearly every American should have been in favor of Westward expansion. They are too different however, and the tie of superficiality on the marble dice and dominos doesn't hold on into the real eyes.
Roses in literature hold identity always (they always smell the same at least). To me, it seems they are devices used in symbolism but I havn't seem them used as symbols themselves, except by Gertrude Stein when she said "A rose is a rose is a rose." Since "nothing's smellin' like a rose," you can say the West is untamed and without identity, waiting for someone to make one for it. The frontiersman lost his and created a new one above the surface, West of the Appalachians. All the others are staying below and holding their breath until they drown, though they're hoping they'll grow gills.
In short, the song is probably about drastic changes. Head-crushing Indians turns into Cowboys, Whigs alternate with Democrats in the presidency, snake changes to mouse, and rose changes into its complete opposite: not-rose. Sheep
To me, this song is about individuality and being proud to be different. The first line "The people are so happy now, their heads are caving in", can be seen as a paraphrase of "ignorance is bliss". things cave in cos they're empty, therefore the people are happy in their stupidity and ignorance.
"I'm glad they are a snowman with protective rubber skin" - The people are cold and hostile and their coldness won't go away (cos it's protected) (I'm not sure why he'd be glad about this though, maybe he likes freaking people out with his individuality).
"But every little thing's a domino..." - Little comments people make build up.
"The mirror it reflects..." - This is describing a person, basicly saying I may be different, but all people are the same when it comes down to it.
"Nothing's smelling like a rose" - nothing's perfect, or even good, in life
"But I don't care if noone's coming up for air" - from abusing/berrating me
"But I know nothing's gonna change my clothes..." - Stating his individuality, he knows who he is and what he likes to wear/be like, and he's not going to change himself just to please other people.
Edit: I just thoguht of something else in this, the line "some people call them snake eyes but some people call them mice". Snakes are seen as suspicious and evil, while mice are sweet and innocent and nice. He's obviously saying that some people think he's someone to be wary of, and even condemned, but in his opinion he'snot at all.
As is the nature of song interpretation, particularly in the case of They Might Be Giants, my understanding of this song is completely different than the ones above. You may have seen my analyses elsewhere on this site, and you know that I'm a big believer in "literal" Linnell - meaning, I find that he isn't one for cryptic lyrics, but rather is very direct. While this is certainly one of his more roundabout lyrical efforts, the plain meaning of the song is still there. I find it to be about mortality and being a corpse. "All the people are so happy now, their heads are caving in" - the people of the world die a little more every day, and it doesn't phase people as you might think when considering that thought. A "snowman with protective rubber skin" seems to reflect how, while we may show few outward signs, our essential inner functions gradually melt away with time. The "domino" reference to me is saying that we can't halt our march to the grave (crashes into everything that tries to make it stop). The second verse's description of the human form tries to illustrate the silliness of its design (dancing skeleton, fleshy overcoat, furry hat, elastic mask, shiny marble dice). And the chorus, to me, couldn't be a more plain, obvious reference to being in a coffin six feet under. Consider: "Nothing's smelling like a rose" - anybody hung around a morgue lately? "No one's coming up for air" - this is the very quintessence of being buried. "Nothing's gonna change my clothes ever anymore" - you better hope your loved ones have good taste, because whatever duds they truss you in for your funeral are with you to the end of time. And all of this keeps with Linnell's mode of lyric writing - deliciously dour. - Charlie
I myself think the song is more literal than people seem to take it by. I think it's about a man who kills off his fellow divers by giving them drugs. "All the people are so happy now, their heads are cavin' in" suggests the people are happy, and heads are caving in. They're happy and not minding the water pressure crushing their skulls for they're on drugs. They are "snowmen with protective rubber skins", which is flesh surrounded by a wet suit. The rest of the lyrics suppose that the man has killed them by the drugs, and thinks of how he is gambling with fate, he might be caught. But, as long as no one is coming up for air, he's okay with it. When they're dead, they won't make him either do a menial task he always does for work, or maybe he never wants to dive and have to change clothes.- Sangokyu
The rejecting of the new and sticking with tradition. The heads caving in, represent the the singer's pooint of view about society, about the lunacy of conforming to new ideals, ie fashion.- jaybob1222]
Its about nuclear war, heads caving in, etc., a very old but possibly true interp . . .
how about this:
All the people are so happy now: their heads are cavin' in
people are unhappy
I'm glad they are a snowman with protective rubber skin
fortunatley while they are fragile they've developed a protective coating
But every little thing's a domino that falls on different dots
however all the evidence accumulates
And crashes into everything that tries to make it stop
and destroy anything that gets in the way
And the mirror, it reflects a tiny dancin' skeleton
and the evidence shows at the core people are fragile
Surrounded by a fleshy overcoat and swaddled in
but around the core they have substance to protect the frailties
A furry hat, elastic mask, a pair of shiny marble dice
and the substance is hidden by being wierd ideas
Some people call them snake eyes but to me they look like mice
some of the ideas look threatening, but they are really made from fear
And nothing's smellin' like a rose
nothing good is going to come from this
But I don't care if no one's coming up for air
and i don't care that we are all suffering/dieing
'Cause I know nothing's gonna change my clothes ever anymore
Because i'm not changeing my mind, and looking at the truth
Breif summary: Before I start, Snowman w/ protective rubber skin (or however they put it) means that most people are cold. Cold as in mean. I dunno. The narrator doesn't want to change according to the fads and stuff. Basic. It's stating fads are weird, bizarre, and sometimes stupid, and to be who you are. =) --Lemita 15:15, 15 May 2006 (CDT)
I think this song is about drowning, perhaps in the Bearing Sea. The rubber skin would be waterproof parkas that crab fishermen wear, they are snowmen because the water in the bearing sea is so cold that it freezes your body. Heads caving in would be a better death than hypothermia, because it would be instant. Nobody is coming up for air, because they drowned. Nothing is going to change the narrator's clothes again because nobody will ever find his body again. The dominoes reference is probably about the waves, crashing into each other.--tehbagel ( o ) 13:37, 3 Jun 2006 (CDT)
Much of the song is a description of human anatomy or appearance, as seen by someone for whom it's quite strange: "a furry hat, elastic mask, a pair of shiny marble dice" is a description of human hair, face, and eyes. "A dancing skeleton surrounded by a fleshy overcoat" is simply the human body.
What we have here is a description of human beings as soft, mutable, and amorphous beigs dressed up in an absurdly fixed appearance. Why do people look the way they do? The human appearance is seen as quite arbitrary.
Actually, it's just a song about Hell; hence the screaming at the end.
You guys want an interpretation? When I was a teenager, my dad made me turn this song off the stereo because he didn't want to listen to "some song about rubbers." Yep. That's one interpretation, I guess! --Kris Wright 06:05, 7 June 2007 (UTC)
To me, this song sounds like it's being sung about the results of a nuclear war.
All the people are so happy now, their heads are cavin' in / I'm glad they are a snowman with protective rubber skin
Here, I picture people's heads caving in (obviously), along with skin melting off to expose their skulls--they're not really "happy", they just look like they're smiling because that's what skulls look like. As for the snowman/rubber skin thing--Here I picture people wearing white hazmat suits. The irony is that despite their protective rubber skin, they are still going to melt (like a snowman). It's also suggesting that the "problem" has been solved--At last the people are happy, now that we have bombed them!
But every little thing's a domino that falls on different dots / And crashes into everything that tries to make it stop
What jumps out here for me is the mention of a domino; the "domino effect" or "domino theory" is (was) a term used to describe the spread of Communism, a major issue during the Cold War--the domino theory was used as a justification for American "intervention" around the world. Anyway, the song is saying that "every little thing" is a domino, and it "crashes into everything that tries to make it stop"--perhaps meaning that any little thing can lead to war and opposition, which ultimately leads to destruction. The "different dots" perhaps refers to cities on a map, or a view of people from above.
And the mirror, it reflects a tiny dancin' skeleton / Surrounded by a fleshy overcoat and swaddled in / A furry hat, elastic mask, a pair of shiny marble dice / Some people call them snake eyes but to me they look like mice
Now, this part I haven't completely managed to apply to my image of the song. I'm not sure why a mirror is mentioned. In my head, it makes me think of a reflective mirage on the ground, from the light of an explosion. The tiny dancin' ("Tiny Dancer"!) skeleton is just that; somebody "dancing" around in pain as they are reduced to a skeleton--the rest seems like a description of a person wearing an old-fashioned gas mask. The furry hat could be their hair, or just an actual furry hat (Russian stereotype). I also like the interpretion the guy/gal above me made, saying "a' furry hat, elastic mask, a pair of shiny marble dice' is a description of human hair, face, and eyes."
Some people call them snake eyes--Snake eyes (as you probably know) is when you get two 1's on a pair of dice. So, this makes me think of a person with their eyes wide, in shock, with tiny pupils.
but to me they look like mice--Here is, along with the word mask, what makes me think of a gas mask; some gas masks have a somewhat rodent-like appearance, with big round eyes almost on the sides, and a snout. The bear even more resemblance to a rodent's actual skull.
And nothing's smellin' like a rose / But I don't care if no one's coming up for air
Here we go back a little ways in history, from nuclear weapons to chemical warfare, just because the mention of smell makes me think of Hydrogen cyanide (used as a chemical warfare agent, particularly by the Nazis), which is noted for it's scent--vaguely almond-like. That interpretation is probably quite a stretch, but it's what came to mind for me the first time around. It could also just refer to the smells of burnt things and death. In any case, I don't care, because in the next line "no one's coming up for air"--this might refer to people in bomb shelters who aren't planning on coming out, or just refer to people who have died and will no longer be breathing.
Cause I know nothing's gonna change my clothes ever anymore
One of the first things that came to mind for me on this line, after I had considered my interpretations of the preceding lines, was the famous photograph of the Hiroshima victim with the pattern of her clothing seared into her skin by the heat of the atomic bombing .
Someone screaming as they die...
That's my interpretation of it!
You go to the local graveyard with a shovel. You dig up some caskets and open the facial doors. Though their skulls are "caving in", the people are grinning - they seem to be "so happy now". Perhaps their bodies still have some "protective" skin stretched over them... but they're decaying like melting snowmen and nothing's smelling very good.
Then you go home and look at your reflection in the mirror with a new insight: you're just a skeleton yourself - "clothed" with flesh, hair, eyeballs. A Christian expects to receive a fresh change of such clothes at the Resurrection. If you disbelieve in Christ, then you will agree with the assertion of the song's title.
The line about the domino is a poetic description of the inexorableness of the laws of nature driving the unstoppable march to the grave -- a rejection of miracles, resurrections ("no one's coming up for air"), and the hope of divine intervention. --Nehushtan 23:18, 18 June 2008 (UTC) updated --Nehushtan (talk) 09:06, 3 July 2020 (EDT)
I believe that this is one of their songs that doesn't have much of a deep meaning but just plays with the surreal and often eerie images the Johns are so willing to dish out. It's a fairly literal horror movie playing out in front of the narrator. But maybe it's just me.
I think that this song is about an alien race that's observing humans. To them, a highly advanced civilization, humans are as easy to make as it is for us to make snowmen. We look like little toys that end up looking cute because we know nothing about the "real" outside world. The chorus is the view of the people being observed who begin to feel paranoid and unhappy. The aliens still don't think the humans matter and are still placid even as they die (the screaming). Gnome
I think this song is about a baby who doesn't want to be born. The line "All the people are so happy now their heads are caving in" refers to it's parents who are very happy that they're having a child. Then, the baby says "I'm glad they are a snowman with protective rubber skin", which could be talking about humans as sacks of water inside of rubbery skin, and even though the baby is happy for them, he has no desire to be a living human. Then comes the line "And the mirror it reflects a tiny dancing skeleton/ Surrounded by a fleshy overcoat and swallowed in". The "mirror" simply tells the listener that the baby is referring to itself. "Surrounded by a fleshy overcoat and swallowed in" might refer to the womb the baby resides in. Then next few lines :"A furry hat", hair, "Elastic mask", face, "A pair of shiny marble dice", eyes, the baby is describing all the things it will get if it is born. "And nothing's smelling like a rose/ But I don't care if no one's coming up for air/ 'Cause I know nothing's gonna' change my clothes every anymore" There aren't that many things to experience in the womb, but the baby doesn't care, he just wants to stay inside and not be pampered by his parents (the "Nothing's gonna' change my clothes" may be the baby not wanting to have its diapers changed by its parents). Despite its refusal, nature takes control "Every little things a domino that falls on different dots/ And crashes into everything that tries to make it stop", you can't stop nature, and the baby starts to exit the womb. The chorus is repeated with more intense singing as the baby's final yell of defiance. Then, as the song ends, we hear screaming which has always sounded to me like a mother giving birth. The baby is born.
If you think about it really hard, you'll realize the song is about someone that took mass drugs, and he thinks everyone is really happy, and the world is a better place. He says nothings going to change his clothes because he feels he made the world a better place since everyone's happy. But he's seeing lots of wacky wacky visions because of his crack addiction. What a wacky man. -- Jason DeLima - ♥! - 03:57, 28 August 2009 (UTC)
Dominoes & DNA
"Every little thing's a domino that falls on different dots"
This seems to me to be a very precise metaphor for DNA. A domino has two numbers on it; every cell in every complex organism has two sets of chromosomes, one from each parent. Every little thing about us, physical or mental, is determined (or at least influenced) by our DNA. Choosing random dominoes at the start of a game gives you different dots; each new generation of life brings new combinations of traits.
"And crashes into everything that tries to make it stop"
Every disaster for over 3 billion years has failed to destroy life. DNA mutates, life changes. Every apocalypse, every hostile environment has just brought forth new forms of life.
I think this interpretation is supported by
1) most of the rest of the song is clearly a description of the human body
2) lots of their other songs contain subtle (and not-so-subtle) science references
In fact, if it weren't for the first line, I'd think this were just a straight song about our biological nature, like "Mammal".
17th Sept 2009
about doom you guys!
a furry hat elastic mask like shiny marble dice, some people call them snake eyes but to me they look like mice. they're referring to a gas mask thus the whole "notings smelling like a rose but i dont care cause noones coming up for air bit. same with the screamy bit at the end. humanity's chain of self destructing events
The narrator of this song is recently deceased. When you are buried, the clothes you are wearing in the casket are the only clothes you'll ever be wearing. Nothing's going to change your clothes.
"All the people are so happy now Their heads are cavin' in I'm glad they are a snowman with Protective rubber skin"
This refers to the wake being held in celebration of the deceased. People are drinking and having a good time. They're called snowmen because they're wearing white dress shirts (snow) with black suit jackets * pants (misinterpreted by the deceased as black rubber skins)
"And nothing's smellin' like a rose" is obvious: dead bodies smell bad when they start to decay.
"But I don't care if no one's coming up for air": buried six feet in the ground and never going back to the surface.
The furry hat and marble dice are the treasured possessions that the deceased is being buried with. The mention of mice reference his concern that his corpse will be devoured. 23:38, 18 August 2011 (EDT)
This song has no meaning. It is totally random.
I think this is about a criminal who is killing people, and the evidence is mounting for his case, hence the domino line. Also he is driven mad by guilt, but continues to kill because he knows he will soon go to jail, and wear the same clothes until he is executed.
To me, this song seems to be about a crippling gambling addiction. Let's go stanza-by-stanza to investigate.
All the people are so happy now / Their heads are cavin' in / I'm glad they are a snowman with / Protective rubber skin
This is a description of the poker faces our protagonist sees as they look across the table at a card game. They have to feign their emotions, even though they are melting/suffering inside ("cavin' in").
But every little thing's a domino / That falls on different dots / And crashes into everything / That tries to make it stop
This line is a description of dominoes falling in a hectic, exponential, and unstoppable manner. Addiction can feel hectic, exponential, and unstoppable. Playing dominoes may also present a method of gambling.
And the mirror, it reflects / A tiny dancin' skeleton / Surrounded by a fleshy overcoat / And swaddled in
The protagonist is looking at themselves in the mirror. They see themselves a "skeleton" (something not whole), and describe their flesh as an "overcoat" (protective clothing for cold weather).
A furry hat, elastic mask / A pair of shiny marble dice / Some people call them snake eyes / But to me they look like mice
This is my favorite stanza of the song. It starts off by continuing with the cold weather clothing theme ("furry hat, elastic mask"). "A pair of shiny marble dice" is introduced. By its description, this pair of dice is valued and valuable. The dice are not generic, and might even be the protagonist's "lucky pair." The stanza concludes with a description of the ones of the dice (snake eyes being the worst roll you could get in a game of dice). Keep in mind that if a gambling addict rolls snake eyes, they might just have to sleep out on the street (with "mice"). Hence, "snake eyes... look like mice" because if our protagonist rolls snake eyes, their standard of life would be drastically affected.
And nothing's smellin' like a rose / But I don't care if no one's coming up for air / 'Cause I know nothing's gonna change my clothes / Ever anymore.
On the street, nothing smells good. However, the protagonist feels that they and their gambling pals are trapped in gambling addiction. Addiction is a part of their identities ("clothes"), and they can't change their identities. There is no force that could change what the protagonist sees in the mirror.
The protagonist eventually grows frustrated with their lifestyle, and the song ends in a fit of rage (with screaming).
I hoped I help you gain some extra meaning from this phenomenal song.
by KubeKing 17:01, 22 May 2017 (EDT)
Cold War Paranoia
We've had post-nuclear war, so what about pre-nuclear war?
Near the beginning of the song, we hear that the people, as a collective, are a "snowman with protective rubber skin". The "snowman" and its "rubber skin" could refer to plump, ungainly radiation suits designed to, ahem, protect the wearer from a nuclear doom. As a collective, the people are delighted that these exist, so much so that their heads are metaphorically "cavin' in". On the other hand, the narrator is glad that they are wearing these because their muffled voices prevent him from hearing the constant spouting of nuclear paranoia.
"But every little thing's a domino"
This could be a reference to the "domino effect" theory about the spread of communism. This is something I agree with and will perpetuate here. On top of that, "every little thing" makes me think of how the paranoia surrounding said theory is creeping profoundly into the lives of the people around the narrator and irking him significantly.
"That falls on different dots"
Places where the metaphorical "domino" lands its ideology. Or North American cities, on a war-room map with foreign bombers at the ready...
"And crashes into everything that tries to make it stop"
This made me think of the fission reaction in a nuclear bomb. It could, more simply, be the belief that once communism reaches the good old US of A, the people will be powerless against it and therefore must prepare themselves; this is the root of their obsession.
"And the mirror, it reflects a tiny dancin' skeleton"
A rather grim one... the narrator is watching television, perhaps a news report or a PSA, and sees the image of an impoverished child from a previously-bombed location (Hiroshima or Nagasaki) in place of his own reflection (and that of millions of other people watching). His casual recollection of the image suggests an element of disillusionment with the hysteria and possibly, in his perception of the "skeleton", a fantastical rationalisation of the fact that their beloved country has caused such a horror.
"Surrounded by a fleshy overcoat"
Humanisation of the skeletal image, or, conversely, the damage caused by the blast creating an image of something less-than-human.
"A furry hat, elastic mask"
The face is obscured by a gas mask. The idea of the face being obscured with only the hair visible reminded me of certain dictatorships in which haircuts have been used for the purposes of conformity. The song was pre-Kim, but I'm sure he wasn't the first person in history to try this. With this in mind, it shows the collective paranoia sweeping the country.
"A pair of shiny marble dice"
Referring to the eyes beneath the mask, wide-open in fear and "square" beneath the round glass of the mask as they grow addicted to the television propaganda. It creates a confusing image; which of the features are those of the child on TV and which belong to the reflected viewers? The narrator may even be seeing himself; a hypocritical realisation that even he is not safe from such rhetoric. Alternatively, he could be seeing a friend or loved one.
"Some people call them snake-eyes but to me they look like mice"
The eyes have the appearance of "snake-eyes" (having rolled two ones on a pair of dice) but look like mice to the narrator. This could be related to the appearance of a gas mask with a pipe attached; wide-eyed and with a tail. It's also worth noting that there was a famous gas mask of the WWII era designed for children and made to resemble none-other than Walt Disney's most famous character, Mickey Mouse. The cynicism of the narrator likens the masses to mice, and possibly children - both of which were famously "led" away in the Pied Piper legend. In other words, he believes that propaganda is making everyone a square-eyed crowd follower. The earlier use of "swaddled" takes this imagery to a baby-like extent. There's also the references to dominoes and dice, which would've been played by kids in days gone by.
"And nothing's smellin' like a rose"
The political climate is pretty damn strained. Could also be the tangy aroma of a new asbestos suit.
"But I don't care if no one's comin' up for air"
The image of a fallout shelter. Nobody wants to leave it once they're in it, but that's fine by the narrator because he's fed up of hearing what they have to say.
"'Cause I know nothing's gonna change my clothes"
He won't let anything make him give in and "change" into a snowman-esque radiation suit or a gas mask, regardless of what the media says or the political situation.
He's pretty adamant. However "anymore" suggests that he was once part of the collective spirit too but has since become disillusioned.
Ah, now I see why there wasn't a rosy smell in the air: it's a chemical attack. Perhaps refusing to follow official advice wasn't such a good idea after all...
Absurdism and Existential Anxiety
The verses contain descriptions of the human body that use unusual metaphors for different body parts. The framing of our bodies in this strange light is to show that even something universally "understood" and rarely extensively thought about can seem absurd when seen from a different point of view.
But every little thing's a domino that falls on different dots / And crashes into everything that tries to make it stop
The dominoes are the chaotic chain of events that makes up every little part of history, society, and the universe as a whole. The chaos and absurdity of the world cannot be stopped or even really understood.
And nothing's smellin' like a rose / But I don't care if no one's coming up for air.
The chorus is saying that, when observed (or smelled) closely, the world isn't recognizable as a good place, but he is able to live with it because no one else seems to mind or notice. "Nothing's gonna change my clothes" means that these kinds of existential questions will ultimately never change his disposition and that of human nature. It is ultimately accepting of the absurdity of life and the universe because of our inability (or unwillingness) to change it.
David Thomas, 2/9/2018
We’re all dead
I agree with Charlie. The chorus is the key. He’s dead and buried in a coffin. Not smelling the roses anymore, like you do in life, in fact things are smelling a bit putrid. No more breathing air, no more going to the surface. And he’s stuck with what he’s wearing in the coffin and maybe feeling melancholy about that. This last line also seems like an association with childhood, when your parents changed you clothes. So you know, loss of innocence and more hopeful times. (There’s a lot of childhood stuff on this record.)
But you see, he’s not really dead. It’s a metaphor. He just feels dead in this life and he doesn’t fit in with all the stupid happy people who don’t realize that they are all dying. There first verse is about them. Second half of that first verse is about humans and all physical matter just being quantum particles smashing into each other and probability, which makes all the stupid ego driven human endeavors pointless (and why he feels dead and like he can’t engage with stupid human bullshit). The second verse is about him, he’s looking in the mirror or “self reflecting”. He’s just a skeleton pretending to be alive.
But in the chorus he embraces that and feels better.