Interpretations:The Cap'm

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Bush interpretation[edit]

"The Cap'm" is George W. Bush.

Cap'n Crunch[edit]

This song is obviously about Cap'm Crunch's quest for respect in a world that doesn't understand him.


crazy homeless theory[edit]

I'm fairly certain the song is regarding a "crazy" (possibly homeless) person. A person who, in his own mind, is "the cap'm," but in reality is probably "high on pot." He doesn't have a boat, but he IS The Cap'm, and anyone who disputes that will "find out what'll hap'm." Sadly, though, the cap'm is delusional, as is evidenced by his seeming excitement by a simple remote control.

It's just a song about a crazy guy, the likes of which litter the streets of NYC.

the gang slang hypothesis[edit]

I'm personally wondering if "Cap'm", with its wee undertone of intimidation ("Go ahead and mess with me / You'll find out what'll happ'm") is a reference to gang slang, aka to "put a cap in someone". You know, to cap'm is to shoot'm. Wouldn't surprise me with Linnell's penchant for sugar-coated creepiness. :) --RonAmoriM 22:58, 3 August 2007 (UTC)

Brit gives his two cents of interpretation without having heard the song, says it's random lyrics[edit]

Gulp! First to have a go at working this one out. It seems to have familiar Giants themes of the narrator being freakish see Linnell (Renew my Subscription, I've got a Fang, Hopeless Bleak Despair) and Flans' clunky Cyclops Rock or his mono puff cover of Don't break a heart that needs you. Probably a Linnell song, writing for children has perhaps strengthened his love for Lewis Carroll/John Lennon nonsense songs, as this is what the song appears to be. Full of contradictory statements its nearest musical relatives are the late 60s wordgame songs best personified by the Beatles "Hello, Goodbye" or "All Together Now" and Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd. Lyrically, the Cap'm is more sophisticated (and less LSDy one suspects!) than these songs, though one suspects it is randomness for the sake of it. And why not? One hopes the music matches the fun of the lyrics (I've not heard it). If Linnell wrote it, it should. Maybe others will find a deeper meaning. As a Brit I often miss the american nuances of some songs. I still find it hard to believe "bangs" is a hairstyle. We just call it a fringe! (Mr Tuck)

Start of the Flansburgh-Linnell feud theory[edit]

Oh, this song definitely has a deeper meaning to it. It's quickly become one of my favorite TMBG songs ever, partly BECAUSE of what it is saying. This song is the anti-Boss Of Me. Linnell wrote this song to express his feelings after Boss of Me, written by his partner John Flansburgh, won a grammy award and became TMBG's biggest hit in the last 10 years. Linnell was traditionally known as the guy who writes the hits, the leader, the "captain" of the band. But now, he's being seen as this quiet nutty guy who follows Flans around, and he is reminding Flans and the world that he really is still the Cap'M of TMBG.

Line by line breakdown:

Do you think there's somebody out there Someone else who's better than the one you've got? Well there's not There's not

Personal message to Flansburgh (as well as the media, fans, and anybody else who's been paying attention) that he is still the best, and that they need him.

When you talk you keep looking away from me 'Cause you probably think that I'm high on pot But I'm not I'm not

Everybody thinks he's a nut, but he seriously means what he says.

Look me over I'm the Cap'm You act like it's a joke but I don't see you laughing

Take a look at him, he really IS the leader here, as funny as it sounds.

You seem to think you can't be called a cap'm Unless you drive a boat Well I don't I don't

This is just him writing a silly line, but making a point that his Cap'M metaphor does apply to his position as captain of the ship which is TMBG.

Look me over I'm the Cap'm Go ahead and mess with me, you'll find out what will happ'm

Flansburgh tried to mess with him by stealing the spotlight, and Linnell is responding by writing this song.

Sit beside me at the helm Yeah this is what I call the helm And this button here Is the fast-forward button

Another metaphor - the fast-foward button at the helm is Linnell wanting to get through that Boss of Me phase of his life as fast as possible. Of course, he still wants Flansburgh at his side when this is all behind them.

Did you say what I think you just said My hat looks good on me? I agree I agree

Flansburgh complimenting his hat is him saying that yes, he wants Linnell back in charge.

Okay, maybe it isn't LITERALLY about John & John, but it's definitely a feeling of somebody thinking that they're better off without one of their superiors, and then in the future realizing they need them afterall. --Richegreen 00:38, 1 March 2007 (UTC)

That is brilliant! So this is Linnell's version of How do you Sleep! Excellent. Yours is my fave interpretation. Loads better than mine. I hope that's what the song is about. Saying that, Flans does serve the Macca purpose. Without his energy, enthusiasm and drive the Giants would never have got going. I prefer Linnell's songs, but when he's on form Flans is brilliant too. Its just that he lacks the consistency post Flood. Boss of Me isn't the greatest song, but if Flans hadn't written it, and got the Malcolm gig, the Giants wouldn't have the financial security that this, and the other media work has brought them. Just lets have more Linnell songs on the albums. The MOR stuff can go on the EPs. (Mr Tuck)
I really enjoy this interpretation. I'd take it one step further and say the lyric "You seem to think you can't be called a cap'm unless you drive a boat; Well, I don't." can be interpreted as a reference to Linnell's quiet demeanor and stage presence, standing behind his podium ("the helm"). You think a bandleader has to emcee and jump around on stage? Well, I don't. Veloso 21:44, 21 May 2007 (UTC)
I disagree with this (The above) interpretation. I think it makes Linnell seem extremely petty. After watching Gigantic, I get the feeling that Linnell makes songs to make songs, and that he just enjoys making music and does not care about any glorification. For you to suggest he made this song as a struggle against Flans "stealing the spotlight" seems like nonsense to me. I feel like you interpret the song very subjectively, and this might be how YOU might feel if you were Linnell. I really don't think this is the intention of the song.
My interpretation of the song is fairly similar to this one except I could never see Linnell as a jealous brat like you portray him... I just always picture a couple that has been together for quite some time, maybe a married couple... Anyway, over the years the guy has kinda gone a little weird. He... well, he wants to be a cap'm. He always had a desire to be a sailor, but he never got to live out that dream, so he pretends at home instead. His other half is annoyed by his constant blathering about this silly dream and often ignores him.

Anyway, after a while (fast forward button) she sort of loosens up and starts to play along, entertaining his dream... And this makes them all the more happy. I dunno, probably it's either much more or much less complicated than that, but that's what I suspect about just about every TMBG song... They're all either ridiculously profound, possibly containing the answers to the mysteries of life, or else the Johns are just weirdos that write silly songs and then sit back and laugh while we struggle to make deep connections. *shrug* :)


Yet another having not heard the song develops his delusional narrator theory[edit]

Though I haven't actually heard it, according to the lyrics, it sounds like some delusional narrator thinks he's some powerful man and sees that other people doubt him. Now for a line-by-line without the lines:

He starts by confronting their belief that he's not the best, and defends his own side saying, 'well, you're wrong.' They dismiss him as if what he's thinking could not be thought by any sober or sane man, though he claims he is. He cries out, "I'm the captain!" (and the weird pronunciation further lends to the fact that there's something wrong with him and he's not) as a plea for them to believe him. They tell him, 'well a real captain needs a boat,' and his argument is, 'says who?', and assures himself in that way. Chorus thing: So, is he the captain?-- he seems to be willing to bet he is. He calls someone over to what he says the helm, though I'd say it's more likely the remote to a television which he controls-- whether a TV or something else, it's still not a boat's helm, but rather some random laughable thing which he has power over. So the person he's trying to convince gives up on convincing the narrator of the opposite, and pityingly decides to compliment his sailor hat or something. The narrator, after this conversation and a reiteration of the chorus, then reflects on it all and wonders why everybody thinks that, being the person he is, that he can't be a captain. To which he answers, he is the person he is, and he doesn't fit their description of a captain, which leaves us uncertain on whether or not he's certain of his captainhood.

So is the narrator a captain? Most likely, no. But is the narrator in denial and aware of the truth, or is he sincerely sure that he is a captain? It's not clear. So yay unreliable narrators and yay ambiguity! ~ magbatz 23:18, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

The unreliable narrator/unhinged narrator thing is a big Linnell theme. Obviously Linnell's narrator is songs like this and renew my subscription are obviously not all there. The best example of the unreliable narrator shocking the listener is "I'm your boyfriend now" (Oh please please please release this properly!) where you suddenly realise that the love struck singer is absolutely unhinged. (Mr Tuck)

rebuttal of the Linnell envious theory[edit]

I really don't agree with the interpretation of Linnell getting back at Flans at all. I think they probably both played a heavy enough part in boss of me to get that grammy even if it was flans's song. They couldnt of gotten it without each other. Plus that would just seem like a dick thing to do almost and I dont think Linnell is that kind of person either way. I dont know I could be wrong but I would think after over 25 years of being with each other just maybe they are probably mature enough to not write like BLAH I WRITE THE BETTER SONGS!

I tend to agree, though I think its fun to imagine. (Mr Tuck)

Start of the record producer hypothesis[edit]

I assume this is another unreliable narrator, but it does feel personal, somehow. I can't put my finger on it logically, but I keep thinking this is a record producer he's talking about. This feels like a real person to me.

Could the helm be the sound board? It would have a fast-forward button, or slider. ~Christina Miller, March 2007

more on the nautical themes and Ren is the cap'm[edit]

I suppose at this point, we're certain that the title of this song is "The Cap'm" and not "The Cap'n", right? Is this significant? "Cap'n" is a known abbreviation for "captain" as in "Cap'n Crunch". "Cap'm" isn't a word, as far as I can tell. While the lyrics do seem to indicate references to "captain" (hat, helm, boat, etc.), I found a similarly-spelled word "capitium" that means "A bandage for the head." Not that that necessarily adds anything to an interpretation-- I just thought it was interesting. (Semprini)

I like to think that is a reference to Ren and Stimpy.... in the "Space Madness" episode, Ren is periodically referred to by Stimpy as "Cappum" (cap'm). So it is a word that's been thrown around before. Sorry that this doesn't really add to much Jade

This song and with the dark remind me of piece of dirt and mr me. They seem to be a pair (i.e. nautical themes the narator is tired of in with the dark. This same sort of self-referencing happens in piece of dirt when he says something about a spooky man named me, only to lead in to the very nautical next song, mr. me...Its like this self refrencing pair is referencing the previous self-refrencing pair, making a quadruplet. not the deepest or most complete analysis. Just a connection that caught mee eyee. Yar. -MMunters

over-dominating boyfriend[edit]

I've got this song figured out. It's about an over-dominating boyfriend who doesn't listen to his girlfriend. He refers to himself as the Cap'm, meaning that he's in charge of everything. The girlfriend tries to get through to him the entire song, but he just blocks her words out. Near the middle of the song where it gets quiet and you can hear the crowd clapping is when he finally hears her: "What was that? What was that?" But then immediately he goes back into his own world and drowns her out "What was that? My hat looks good on me? I agree!". --Rob

The cap'm is one of the Dust Brothers[edit]

This is about one (or both) of the Dust Brothers, who produced The Else. The Dust Brothers recording studio is called "the Boat[1]" , and the reference to "The helm" is the mixing console, where the "fast-forward button" can be located. The rest of the nautical references tie into the studio.

Thanks so much for posting this info! I feel less nuts for my completely unsupported intuition above that this was about a record producer at a sound board. ~Christina Miller, May 2007
Sounds good, but then why would they thing TMBG was high on pot? I think this song must have a double meaning.
It's sung from the perspective of the Dust Brothers -- whose name presumably is a drug reference -- so it would be one more or of TMBG thinking that the Cap'm is on pot. Not the other way around.

Marvel's The Captain[edit]

I don't care if they don't read comic books, when I hear this I hear it sung from the perspective of The Captain. He's a new marvel universe character who has been any number of "Captain ..."s and finally decided to just call himself The Captain. He is cynical, surly, insecure, and a little messed up and he's from Brooklyn so he could totally pronounce it Cap'm (even though he never did in the comics). The best line is "Go ahead and mess with me, you'll find out what will happ'm" since he doesn't look like anything other than a loser most of the time. :)

more on the Johns rivalry and M for marriage[edit]

I think it's a fascinating theory that this song is about John Linnell proclaiming to John Flansburgh that he is indeed the captain of They Might Be Giants. But I've never seen or heard anything from the Johns that indicates a rivalry between the two. They are a team that has worked very well together for a very long time, which is something precious few bands can attest to. Linnell confessed in the documentary "Gigantic" that he feels Flansburgh could do it all himself and be very successful. Linnell seems perfectly comfortable staying in the background while Flansburgh remains the active spokesperson for the band. But it is entirely possible that there may be a part of Linnell that secretly desires more recognition than Flansburgh, so I think this theory is still a good one. Having said that, I'd like to present an alternate interpretation of what this song is about.

Along the lines of some other theories posted here, I think this song is a warped, real-world song about control in a romantic relationship. The first half is an argument between the husband and wife, and the second half is after they make up.

Men and women who are dating or married are often struggling to "wear the pants" in the relationship. Instead of calling it "pants", Linnell goes the other way by referring to this as a "Cap." Perhaps the "M" in "Cap'm" refers to marriage, so the entire word "Cap'm" is the voice of the song (not necessarily Linnell) proclaiming he is the one in control of the marriage. The first line is the one that really creates this impression to me: "Do you think there's somebody out there, someone else who's better than the one you've got?". Whenever someone talks about finding their perfect mate, they talk about it in this manner. Sometimes people are with someone who is perfectly fine, but they grow weary of them because they still dream of finding somebody better. Linnell's follow-up line, "well, there's not" is a blunt dose of reality from the speaker to his wife. It's like saying "I AM the best you can find, so quit dreaming". The line, "When I talk you keep looking away from me...", shows how the singer's partner is has stopped taking him seriously, and doesn't believe he is the one in control. "But I'm not" is his rant to her that he is serious when he says he's in control. The chorus repeats this claim. "People seem to think you can't be called a Cap'm unless you drive a boat" is the singer further stating that he's talking about being the captain of the marriage, not a boat. "Go ahead and mess with me, you'll find out what will happen" indicates that he is demanding she accept that he's the one in control. He needs to feel he is in control, and he needs her to acknowledge it, whether she truly agrees or not.

The song takes a more romantic turn towards the end. "Sit beside me at the helm" is the singer stating that he does love his wife, and wants her beside him when he pushes the "fast-forward button". This is his way of telling his wife he wants to continue moving forward with her, spending the rest of his life with her. "Did you say what I think you just said? My hat looks good on me" means the wife finally does tell the singer he's the captain of the marriage. She has realized he still loves her, and now knows he just needs to feel like he's in control. But we all know the wife is still in control! She's merely allowing him to think he's in control to satisfy his mind. But he's fallen for her white lie because he proudly agrees the hat looks good on him. He continues proclaming himself as "The Cap'm" for the remainder of the song, and she laughingly plays along (acting like it's a joke).


Lovable Nut[edit]

I must say I mostly agree with Milhouse911, above. I also agree with Christina, that it seems to be inspired by a real person. (One of the Dust Brothers? Maybe...I don't know.) And I think it's a freaking fantastic song. It's about a lovable nut, a quirky guy who calls himself The Cap'm (and presumably expects everyone else to as well) and rules his roost from his helm on the sofa. The person he's singing to initially thinks he's a joke, but eventually falls for his nuttiness - suggested by the sweetly funny compliment regarding his hat near the end. And I love his response to the compliment: "I agree!" I also love the slightly complex wordplay of "Well I don't" - he means both that he doesn't drive a boat, and that he doesn't think you have to to be called The Cap'm.

Northside Jonny, Sept 2007

Waking Life movie dead-end theory[edit]

this reminds me of the movie "Waking Life" where there is a guy that is named the Cap'm (i think) who drives around this big car with a rubber duckie in it. the pot reference seems to make sense in the context of the movie. and i swear he even said the line: people think you can't be called captain unless you drive a boat and mentioned a fast forward button.

i wish i could say for certain, i don't have a copy of the movie laying around...

i'd be really happy if someone could confirm or deny this. it was definitely the first thing i thought of when i heard the song.

I just saw "Waking Life", and there is a guy in the movie driving a boat car. But he never mentions his name, or any of the lines in the song for that matter. Maybe you were on pot when you saw it! -Milhouse911
Heh, every time I hear Boat of Car I think of Waking Life. 04:54, 27 July 2007 (UTC)

political interpretation[edit]

My interpretation would be this is about the president. I typically don't like to see the political views of songs but this one stands out for me. "Do you think there's somebody out there, someone else who's better than the one you got? Well there's not." seems like the president (Bush I suppose) defending himself. The part about pot just seems like people thinks he's crazy and don't want to listen to what he has to say. The "Look me over I'm the cap'm, go ahead and mess with me you'll find out what will happen." or alternatively "you think its such a joke but I dont see you laughing" seem to coincide. He's the president, mess with him, and well you get the idea. Also, people always say how he's such a joke and a horrible president but no one laughs about it in the "funny ha ha" type way.

Then there's "People seem to think you can't be called the cap'm unless you drive a boat, well I dont." Seems like one of those Bush-isms. Like his famous "I'm the decider." Or his need to explain things that seem obvious. I'm not quite sure about the "fast-forward button" but the "Hat looks good on me, I agree" part sounds like his "hat" being the reference for his job. (Like juggling many hats means you do a lot of different jobs.) The sort of pompous response of "Yeah, thanks, I think I make a good president" seems to fit.

Random real-life weird guy[edit]

Like many Flansburgh songs, this is something that seems really deep, but probably has a simple meaning. I think of it is some guy that Linnell stumbled along, who wore a hat, called himself the captain (but had difficulty pronouncing it) and John's interpretation of this guy's life. If you just enjoy the surface of the song (and it's one of his best melodies), and try not to think too deep, it's truly a funny song. The part in the middle of the song where he's playing with the fast forward button, sort of loses concentration, and is suddenly brought back to attention by someone saying his hat looks "good on me" ("I agree!!") also cracks me up, as well as the rhyme of Cap'm and Hap'm. It's just a funny song, Linnell showing off his sense of humor and appreciation of people who are oddballs.

Mike W Octember 2007

Is Lennon[edit]

Does anyone think this is about John Lennon, or the Beatles? When I read that the harmonies and chord progressions were like "And Your Bird Can Sing", I can connect some of it to the Beatles.

Do you think there's somebody out there Someone else who's better than the one you've got?

^That refers to John Lennon's early relationship with Cynthia Lennon, then leaving her for Yoko Ono.

When I talk you keep looking away from me Because you probably think that I'm high on pot

^Refers to the Beatles' heavy drug abuse.

Look me over, I'm the Cap'm

^Sgt. Pepper's album cover.

Unless you drive a boat Well, I don't

^None of the Beatles drove boats.

JasonDeLima 20:28, 14 February 2008 (UTC)

Started as camp[edit]

Did it ever occur to anyone that maybe Linnell was just typing or reading a typo of the word "camp" and thought how similar it was to "cap'n" as in "cap'n crunch"? Inspiration does come in the most unlikely of places.

Ron L. Hubbard[edit]

I have a suspicion it may be about Lafayette Ron Hubbard, who was known to favor nautical garb. Ahoy!

A person in crisis[edit]

My interpretation of this song was formed partially by a misunderstood lyric. I always thought he was saying "This BOTTLE is the fast forward button"- bottle implying alcohol. My interpretation has been that this was some pathetic boyfriend or husband quarrelling with his partner about his ridiculous captain outfit which he is wearing because of some unfulfilled dream. When it gets to the part where he says the line about the bottle he reveals that his life is really a wreck- a wreck he wants to fast forward through by drinking. The partner then realizes that the captain act is one of the few joys in his life and decides to play along by complimenting his captain's hat.

So instead of viewing this as a quirky song about some nutty guy I've been hearing it as a story about a person in crisis. By the way, does this song remind anyone else of the pirate guy from the movie Dodgeball?

The couch-potato[edit]

The line "fast forward button" has convinced me this is the story of a couch-potato who has watched too many pirate cartoons. He's so deluded he thinks he's the captain of a ship, and invites his friend to sit beside him and watch TV.

Of course, this is what I picture, you can read a little bit deeper meaning into this, but it's a bit vague to do that.


The Star Trek fan[edit]

I always thought this was a guy who was really into Star Trek (or, more likely, Firefly, given the abbreviations), and really, really wants to be like Captain Picard, or Mal, or whoever. So he wants to be called the Captain. The only problem? People seem to think to be the Captain he has to drive a boat, and he doesn't. He clearly disagrees with this. As he is the Captain, he has decided his living room will be his bridge, or helm. Instead of getting to push lots of shiny hi-tech looking buttons, he has to make due with his remote and the fast forward button.

Of course, I often feel this way myself, so I'm very fond of the idea that you don't have to drive a boat to be captain. Mankoi 05:25, 13 May 2009 (UTC)

Disturbed Captor[edit]

Wow, reading these interpretations makes me think I'm the disturbed one here, but here goes anyway.

I think this song best fits as a story of a jealous boyfriend/husband whose girlfriend/wife has either insinuated that he is going to leave him or has been looking at other men. As a deeply disturbed person, the narrator has kidnapped his girlfriend/wife and is holding her hostage, shouting or singing these crazy-sounding things to her, telling her he is the best she'll ever get, establishing his role as Cap'm, etc. As he speaks, she keeps resisting, trying to look away, but she is stuck where she is. I imagine a Joker-esque character holding a knife standing over a woman smiling at the line "you say it's just a joke but I don't see you laughing", perhaps referring to her mocking his authoritative nature in the past with him having a "let's see who's laughing now!" type of moment. Calling her to "the helm" is his attempt at a return to normalcy which clearly won't happen for either of them in the future. I also see him sitting at the helm beside her, leaning over to her (she is bound and gagged) and he says "Did you say what I think you just said My hat looks good on me? I agree, I agree" clearly depicting his insanity.

My two cents.

An incompetent guy in charge?[edit]

"Do you think there's somebody out there Someone else who's better than the one you've got? Well there's not, there's not"

He's saying that since he was specifically chosen for this job, he's the best they got.

"When I talk you keep looking away from me 'Cause you probably think that I'm high on pot But I'm not, I'm not"

He knows that people don't take him seriously because his ideas seem strange to them, but he thinks they're brilliant.

"People seem to think you can't be called the Cap'm Unless you drive a boat Well, I don't I don't"

So he's not a literal captain.

"Did you say what I think you just said My hat looks good on me? I agree, I agree"

He only listens to his subordinates when they're giving a compliment (or at least, when he thinks they are)

Frankly, the song reminds me of David Brent/Michael Scott from The Office. Or George Bush.

Simple case of self importance[edit]

The great opening line from David Copperfield: "“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”

In the case of "The Cap'm," we are introduced to a person who is quick to assert that he, himself, is in fact the hero of his own life, and hence, "The Cap'm." This despite the obvious truth that he has done, and continues to do, nothing worthy of the title of "hero" which is pointed out by the fact that his "helm" is merely his television remote control. All of his "adventures" in life are lived out vicariously on the screen in front of him. Ultimately, this song speaks to the smallness of modern life where passive entertainment becomes the substitute for real world fullfillment. - Jaiotu

The wannabe captain[edit]

The way I see it, the narrator from The Cap'm is an over-imaginative guy who wants to live like a captain, and wants people to call him The Cap'm. His friends, however, aren't as imaginative, and point out the fact that he's not really driving a boat at all, but he lets his imagination prevail. Midway through the song, after his friends get tired of his delusion, he finds (or makes up) a new friend which shares his ideas, compliments him on his hat, etc, and that's who the 'sit beside me at the helm' line is pointed at.

The Beatles??[edit]

Man, people are all over the place on this one. Some interpretations are very close to my own idea of the song (Rob in particular), but many are just way too out there. A revenge song against Flans? I doubt it highly. Angry at the engineers of "The Else"? Please. John and Cynthia Lennon? Yeah. And Paul is dead.

This brilliant song, one of the best pop songs I've ever heard, is simple in its lyrics. The speaker of the song, who calls himself "The Cap'm," is a megalomaniac talking to his girlfriend/lover/wife. There's nobody better than me out there, he tells her, even if you think there is. She gives him the benefit of the doubt - you're high on pot. In essence, the Cap'm reponds to this by saying, no, I'm not high - my delusion has nothing to do with geting high. Look me over, I'm the Cap'm. She tries to deflate him - come on, enough of this weird joke. But he controls her - she's too afraid to laugh at the joke. People say Cap'm's drive boats, but this guy follows his own rules. He threatens her again - go ahead and mess with me, you'll find out what will happ'n (that "happ'n" - very, very funny). Then comes the helm, which I agree is probably the couch, and the fast forward button is on the remote. She wishes she could fast forward this terrifying movie she's living in. We don't know what she really says, but he hears it in his madness as flattery - my hat looks good on me. He agrees. Of course. Then the speaker repeats the lines about the joke that she's not laughing at, he reminds us that he follows his own rules, and the song reaches its climax and ends. I don't know whether to laugh or scream.

Now let's discuss the music, because it ranks as one of the greatest songs Linnell has ever written, and it is worthy of comparison with his very best like "Ana Ng," "Someone Keeps Moving My Chair," "I Palindrome I," "Dr. Worm," "The Mesapotamians," and "Don't Let's Start," to name a few.

The opening riff is power chords all the way - I'm reminded of Pete Townshend or the Foo Fighters. Then the music backs off to give the Cap'm some room to sing. Linnell goes back and forth throughout the whole song with slow pacing followed by Marty's drum driven beat, with those power chords again. Next, the chorus, one of those bridges that seem so naturally easy but that only John Linnell can hear before he let's us hear 'em too. Then a strange keyboard solo - is that the Cap'm playing? Back to the slow/fast thing followed by a very strange absence of sound except for echoing clapping, like we're slipping away from reality. But the Cap'm finds his bearings and gets us back into the song with the words "My hat looks good on me." Then the chorus, another verse, and one of the best endings in all of TMBG - the chords rising with Linnell singing "I don't" until he almost bursts. It's over, right? Wrong. Not until that rat-a-tat ending, again reminding me of the Who.

John Linnell is a musical genius, and we were very lucky to be born when he was alive. 23:32, 17 May 2013 (EDT)

I'm glad I'm not the only one reminded of the Beatles. When I first heard this song, I realized you can almost sing "Only A Northern Song" to the tune of it. Nineteenseventyold (talk) 20:42, 14 April 2016 (EDT)

Being a transgender man[edit]

This is a song about asserting one's identity regardless of what other people tell you is a prerequisite for that identity, an experience that many trans people have. The narrator is laying claim to masculinity in particular (being a boat captain is traditionally a male and very masculine pursuit).

Do you think there's somebody out there, someone else who's better than the one you've got? Well, there's not

When trans people come out, their loved ones often go into denial and think it's all a phase. They wait for the "woman they knew" to "come back". But that's not going to happen.

When I talk you keep looking away from me

Cis people often think trans people are odd-looking, or have trouble looking them in the eye.

Look me over, I'm the Cap'm

He's making a strong assertion of identity here. He's not presenting as or dressed as or pretending to be--he IS. And he's demanding that people look at him and see him as what he is.

You act like it's a joke but I don't see you laughing

Cis people mock trans people, but underneath the mockery they're very uncomfortable with the idea of someone transgressing gender roles.

People seem to think you can't be called the Cap'm unless you drive a boat--well, I don't

Hello, world's most obvious metaphor. Ignorant and transphobic people frequently say "you can't be a man if you don't have a penis". But our narrator is very clear that an accident of anatomy is not going to stop him from claiming the identity he wants, nor is he falling prey to the idea that if he were really male-identified he'd desperately want a penis. He can be a man in the body he has, no alteration needed.

Sit beside me at the helm--yeah, this is what I call the helm, and this button here is the fast-forward button

He's a little awkward and doesn't quite know what he's doing yet, but he's finding his own ways to repurpose masculine words to fit his particular combination of body and identity.

Did you say what I think you just said: my hat looks good on me? I agree, I agree!

There's no false modesty when someone recognizes him as male and says appreciative things about his presumably very captain-like hat; he agrees as loudly with them as he disagrees with anyone who tries to police his gender. I love the suspicious tone at the beginning of this line. Clearly he's used to people picking fights, not saying something nice.

And for anyone baffled by the thought of TMBG doing a song about someone trans, I point you to "S-E-X-X-Y", as well as the Gender Issues tag in general; they're pretty knowledgeable about this stuff.

-- Rosefox, 2015-05-29

Probably about Mike Simpson one of the Dust Brothers[edit]

I think the record producer interpretation is the most plausible one. It is sung from his perspective and it might not necessarily address TMBG in the studio but some other group the Dust Brothers produced.

Mike may have told a story about a difficult recording session with some group and they mave have found this fodder for some lyrics.

But why cap'm and not cap'n ? Maybe Mike wears a cap with a M all the time, i've seen pictures where he wears an Adidas cap. And they produced Hanson's hit MMMBop.

The helm is clearly the mixing console and maybe something happened with the fast-forward button and their studio is the Boat.

Then again i first thought it to be an inanimate object like so many TMBG songs sung from the point of view of an odd object.

Requin8 - 2016/12/05

Look at me, I'm the cap'm now[edit]

I'll leave.

--Cheeseball701 (talk) 18:57, 28 November 2017 (EST)

Fast and bulbous[edit]

This song is about Captain Beefheart and his hostility to the Magic Band. The lyric about believing he's high on pot (or perhaps some psychoactive substance) can be applicable to the only explanation for such cacophonous and surreal music. ANIASS - 11/10/2020 4:38 (EST)

a truck[edit]

this song is about a guy who drives a truck but pretends to be the cap'm of a great ship. he tries to convince his friends that he doesn't need a boat to be cap'm, but his friends think he's crazy nonetheless. - fork (talk) 01:47, 30 July 2021 (EDT)

The Fast Forward Button[edit]

I hope I’m right about this one, although it doesn’t matter. I think that when the Cap’m presses the fast forward button he skips over the moment when you allegedly complimented his hat. A similar trick was employed in Michel Gondry’s film “The Science of Sleep”.Rudderless Guitar Chord (talk) 11:46, 10 September 2022 (EDT)