Interpretations:The World's Address

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Interpretation 1[edit]

I think this song is a horrible pun. First listen to the song, with no preconceptions. (The World's Address)

Now, listen to the song, but think of the title as: "The World's A Dress"

Especially interesting are lyrics like: "The World's (address|a dress). A place that's worn, a sad pun that reflects a sadder mess" --Unknown author

Interpretation 2[edit]

Yes, the title is a pun, but it's not just word-play; there's a discrete ontology being expressed here. "The world's 'a dress,' a place that's worn," refers to the same essence/perception duality first expressed in "Puppet Head." The "world" for most people is indistinguishable from their perceptions of it, when in fact our perceptions are only sensory projections onto something we can only experience directly in the form of our own bodies. Thus, for most people, the "world" is something they unknowingly "wear."

If it helps to understand, the "puppet head" is a metaphor for the same phenomenon (the perceptual "world"). Existing in the world means automatically appearing in the puppet show (wearing the "dress"), and putting your "hand inside" is the somewhat cynical ("as you fall from grace") recognition of the world beyond perception and (perhaps reluctantly) becoming more than just a puppet, but also a puppeteer. Click here for a more complete analysis: Interpretations:Put Your Hand Inside The Puppet Head

I would love to hear from anyone who reads and understands this. I'm aware that many TMBG fans just like them because they're upbeat and quirky, but I strongly suspect the Johns were motivated by the very ideas I've outlined above. Immanuel Kant first formalized the essence/perception dichotomy in his "Critique of Pure Reason," and given the Johns' appreciation for German culture, I feel comfortable in stating that they are familiar with it and aware of its influence on their songwriting.


February 24, 2004
But I wonder if there isn't a much better pun on "worn". The depressed narrator of the song can see everyone's (ugly) secrets reflected in his tear stains ("reflected" being another pun much better than the one our attention is repeatedly called to) and he views the world as shoddy or used up. As for the titular pun, I'm not sure it's all that brilliant. While it's clear the second meaning intended is "The World's A Dress", I'm really not sure what the first is. The world's location? Copernicus and Einstein(?!) are mentioned so I guess that's right, but hunh? I think that it is right to state that the narrator's perception has changed but I don't think it's very clear what exactly he's seeing now, and I think the Kant stuff is pretty tortured reasoning. The Puppet Head interpretation I think is also wrong. In the song it seems very clear that one does not want to put one's hand inside the Puppet Head; note zombie Linnell droning about how he must do so, and Flansburgh's wish that the head might be busted in. Putting a hand inside the Puppet Head is acting a false role for convenience's sake - designing ads to please your boss (like a pig). But Puppet Head is actually a pretty cohesive song for all the nonsense that seems to be in it. I think The World's Address is much less so. The Johns, and I think Flans is particularly guilty, have a number of songs that are more tonal, and don't quite fall together lyrically. The feeling of this song is definitely sinister, with the series of escalating musical blasts that open the song and the heaving saxophone under the "call the men of science" part, and that tango piano adds the happy playing off of sad that TMBG constantly employ. The lyrics are also sinister (or just sad) but perhaps too vague for interpretation. So is the pun, which is why it is a "sad" one, not unlike "Chipped away the lye" in The Statue Got Me High which seems like a cool pun at first until you think about it and realize you don't use lye in sculpting. Anyway those songs still feel right, even if the wordplay is forced, and besides they rock. -User:Tisher
Feb. 24, 2004. Nice response--thanks! You're right of course about the musical aspects of the songs you mention, and that I forgot to mention the double meaning of "worn," which I agree has a more satisfying emotional element than sterile questions about the nature of reality. I also agree that wearing the "world," like manipulating the "puppet head," equates to what you describe as "acting a false role for convenience."
I didn't mean to imply that becoming an actor withing the world's "dress" is necessarily a good thing. Who hasn't at some point been jaded enough to want to shirk this mantle of illusion, to throw off the world's surfaces (the "dress"), to bash the puppet's head? A good example is "I'll see you after school" (from "Puppet Head"), which for me is a touching wish for the time when the world of perception was everything, not just surfaces. I guess all I'm really saying is that I think we agree.
About the literal meaning of the song's title, "The World's Address," if we go back to the "world" as commonly perceived--the myriad colors, sounds, tastes, textures, etc.--it becomes clear that the World's Address is IN OUR HEADS. Am I over-analyzing? This seems to me a very accessible idea, although it may be tortuous to some. Not only is it the core of German Idealism (the World as Idea), with which I'm sure the Johns are familiar, but it seems well within the scope of the song's intent.

Interpretation 3[edit]

Some more thoughts on the nature of the original (or at least, spelled out in the title) form of the pun - think about the line 'under every garment I can see the world's address.' This implies that the location of the world is not so much in our heads as in out bodies. Another logical conclusion that can be drawn from this line is that, because under the garments is where the world is, the world _has_ a dress. This is something people have overlooked thus far - it's really a three-way pun. 's can have three meanings - possessiveness, is, and has. While it is used much less frequently the latter way, it is still a valid grammatical construction. This also fits well with the puppet head theme. So now there are the following three meanings of the title line:

1. The world is in out bodies/minds, 2. The world is a show we put on, and 3. The world is covered by said show.

Obviously, the last two are mutually exclusive. I believe this is resolved by the fact that the word 'world' in the 2nd meaning refers to a wholly different thing that it does in the 3rd. So these three meanings are now:

1. The world (Everything/The Universe) is an illusion/creation of humans and their senses 2. The world (Where most people live/What we experience) is a show we put on, subconciously in most cases, and 3. The world (Truth, reality, what matters) is covered by that show

On further thought, I take back that bit about it being in our bodies. While it is logically implied by the song, I don't think that's what it really means. Also, keep in mind that all of this is what the _narrator_ is saying, it is his personal belief. The Johns may see where he is coming from, but the fact that they can write this song means to me that they understand and sympathize, but don't completely agree, with the narrator.

This is one of the primary reasons I love TMBG - most of their songs are more character studies than anything else. They never talk directly about themselves, though it is possible to infer their general stances on things from the songs. They focus on showing, and more importantly evoking, a wide range of emotions and world views, and this is perhaps the most fascinating, I would even argue 'true', meaning of art. This is also the reason, somewhat unrelatedly, why I love White Ninja so much - he is a character that can feel everything from sadism to embarrassment to sympathy to loneliness to self-importance, and the simple drawings and absurd scenarios back this up admirably.

Back to the song... one thing I can't quite figure out is why his tearstains are on the wall. Tearstains, in my mind, belong on cheeks primarily, and perhaps on beds. I think it would be very interesting if he were referring to himself (or his eyes, or face) as a wall, especially a reflective one, though I haven't taken the time to entirely work out what this would entail.

Finally, the repetition of and within the chorus seems very significant to me - he repeats himself over and over, for those who may not have already guessed. To me, this is a person incredulous at the inability of those around him to see what he sees, and he is deluding himself into thinking that they only need a little encouragement to understand it - it is something they haven't guessed yet, not something completely contrary to everything they know. There may even be his implied suicide at the end, as he is repeating only one more time. Since his life is consumed with this idea, and his need to convey it to others, what else but death would come after his final repetition of it?

Thanks for bearing with me here, -- Personman

Interpretation 4[edit]

To me, this song makes a lot more sense if every time it says "the world's address" you read it as "the world's a dress". A place that's worn - you wear a dress, and he sees the world as worn (as in worn out/tired) since he was deceived (Probably by some kind of significant other). The part "Albert Einstein and Copernicus were wrong" is simply going along with the pun, they thought the world is a planet when it is in fact a dress. Kristofski

Interpretation 5[edit]

I'd always looked at the "World's A Dress" as meaning that our concept and iconic vision of "the world" is a cover for "the sadder mess" that is what actually goes on here, including the fact that we "wear" it down. And the importance of the world is not that we think of it as being the globe that floats around in the solar system, but the fact that we need to realize that it's being destroyed. --ozwalled

Interpretation 6[edit]

I think it's about a musician that wrote a song with a horrific pun. It tears him apart because he wrote it (tearstains on the wall) and it keeps it up at night. What's odd is how it seems to have his inner conflict in the song as well as the song he wrote. And if you haven't read, the pun is "The World's Address" rather than "The World's A Dress", and of course, both Einstein and Copernicus researched the sun. - Ecks

Interpretation 7[edit]

The World's address is a place that's worn. The World is a dress and it's being worn. That is a sad pun that shows how sad life is. The pun "Reflects a sadder mess". There is a lot more to this, but you can't really appreciate it unless you find it yourself. - BucketHatBobby

Interpretation 8[edit]

When I was young and dumb, I didn't notice the central pun. I took it as a dig at shallow women who only think about superficial things like dresses and have no interest in the beauties of science. Apart from the pun line, this interpretation actually works, though I daresay I'm all wrong. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 00:00, 17 February 2006

Interpretation 9[edit]

The world is a dress, kids. Its a place thats worn.
The song is a sad pun that reflects a sadder mess. I don't know what more you need.
-The expressive panda 01:28, 19 May 2006 (CDT)

Interpretation 10[edit]

Aside from the fact that I don't know how anyone can miss the "world's a dress" pun (no offense to those who did,) I always thought it was reinforced by the line in Hey, Mr. DJ, I Thought You Said We Had A Deal where it says "Well, I told you about the world (its address)". It always sounded to me like it was a reminder more than a clarification, as in "I told you about the world (it's a dress)."

As for the pun, the idea that I got was that "the world" is just a pretty notion we wrap around the whole of human existance to cover up all the pettiness and irrationality. We look at the world as a big, beautiful place so we don't think about all the little irritations around us. Hence, the world is a big, beautiful dress that is worn to cover up a sadder mess. My thoughts, anyways... --JiuNoon 13:05, 19 May 2006 (CDT)

Interpretation 11[edit]

I thought this song was about the comfort of religion (first verse - betrayed by a friend or loved one, turns to religion for solace; second verse, a sense of superiority over others and contradicting science). I'll admit this theory held more water when I thought the line was "a place that's warm" (which misunderstanding is also why I missed out on the pun).

I still like to think that's what it's about. "The World's Address", of course, being his religion's central doctrine - i.e., the key to understanding everything in the world. I guess the "worn" thing could refer to most religions' followings having deteriorated over time? Well, I don't know. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 09:26, 11 August 2006

Interpretation 12[edit]

I believe it's a nod to the hitch-hiker's guide to the galaxy and its central theme of 42 being the answer to everything. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 19:01, 14 December 2006

Interpretation 14[edit]

It's refuting the heliocentric model suggested by Copernicus. According to Ptolemy Earth was the center of the universe, with concentric shells with stars(teardrops on the wall) and planets and the sun attached to them. At the time, people believed they knew the world's address, Earth at the center of the universe, which would mean that if they are at the center of all the concentric shells they would be at the place where the world is naked. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Angry Bob (talkcontribs) 11:07, 16 May 2007

  • This also ties in with Einstein. Relativity is all about discarding the idea of absolute motion which views the world as stationary and everything else moving around it. ChaosS (talk) 21:32, 10 September 2013 (EDT)

Interpretation 15[edit]

I remember a number of years ago thinking I saw a meaning in this tune. Reading through these comments, certain details being called to my attention tell me I probably wasn't quite on the mark with this, but some of it still makes pretty good sense:

perhaps the pun is that the world's address is the third world, both in the sense that it's third from the sun and third world as in an underdeveloped country.

Obviously this doesn't account much for the reference to Copernicus and Einstein, though the "men of science" could easily be denizens of first world countries. I'm not sure how I'd interpret the first verse either, beyond (perchance) trade organizations going behind the backs of third-world countries for their own benefit (coffee trade's a fine example of that).

For the sake of keeping my thoughts in order, I'm going to take the liberty of just going through the lyrics with interpretation as it occurs to me:

"I know you deceived me
Couldn't sleep last night
Now my tearstains on the wall reflect an ugly sight
I can see your secrets
No need to confess
Everyone looks naked when you know the world's address"

Aforementioned gypping of third-world countries as far as commerce goes. The "ugly sight" is, needless to say, the result of said gypping.

"The world's address
A place that's worn
A sad pun that reflects a sadder mess
I'll repeat it for those who may not have already guessed
The world's address"

It was mentioned before me that the "narrator" keeps bringing this up, thinking it to be obvious and that maybe if he just pursues the issue people will notice. Of course, the sad pun of the third world reflects upon the wretched state of being of third-world countries. This applies a bit to this song's reference in Hey Mr. DJ (I wonder when they're going to clean up the mess).

"Life's parade of fashion
Just leaves me depressed
Under every garment I can see the world's address"

If it weren't for the suffering of the third world, we in the first world wouldn't have modern conveniences (such as fashion).

"Call the men of science
And let them hear this song
Tell them Albert Einstein and Copernicus were wrong"

Again, calling attention to the issue preferably in the eyes of the educated few who shouldn't need to be reminded. For all I know, Einstein and Copernicus were added as a mere witty quip.

That essentially covers it insofar as I can see riding along on that theme. Any thoughts?

--JazzJesus 08:13, 25 May 2007 (UTC)

Interpretation 16[edit]

It's just one of their science education songs. The song is refuting the heliocentric model suggested by Copernicus. According to Ptolemy, Earth was the center of the universe. There were concentric shells to which the stars, planets and the sun were attached. At the time, people believed they knew the world's address, Earth, at the center of the universe. The concentric shells covering the naked Earth would parade around it like a set of dresses. Earth underneath all the shells would be naked. Also refuting Albert Einstein would mean that you'd get rid of the idea that there can't be absolute space and absolute time which means you can have an address of sorts.

-Angry Bob 31 May 2007

Interpretation 17[edit]

I don't think this detail of the horrid pun was mentioned here yet, so yeah: A place that's worn. An address is a place (address) that's worn (a dress). Basically, that's the hint for anybody that "may not have already guessed" both sides of the "sad pun". —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 16:41, 29 April 2008

Interpretation 18[edit]

...I'm a bit disappointed by this whole "a dress" thing. I always assumed there was an actual address, and I thought that it referred to the genital regions. I mean, that's where we all come from so it could be an address of the world perhaps...maybe. Plus, wouldn't everyone look naked if you knew the secret of that address? And it is a pretty sad pun if you think about it. I don't know that's what I always thought. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 08:47, 25 February 2009

Big Cover-Up[edit]

I think the song is about a failed relationship. The sad pun (The World's A Dress) reflects the sad fact that she deceived him: she 'dressed up' her lies and ruined his trust in her. Now he has uncovered her secret so that she is 'naked' to his understanding. In his grief he begins to believe that the whole world is shot through with the same ugliness. --Nehushtan 18:59, 13 August 2009 (UTC)

Schopenhauer, anyone?[edit]

"The only true purpose, the real purpose of every communion in love is the procreation, the birth of a child, although people who are in love are unable to conceive the nature's treacherous way, casting over the actual act a shining veil"

I think this Schopenhauer quote is somewhat relevant.

The narrator says, "I know you deceive me." He's talking about the fact that love is not real, it's just an illusion (soon to be dealt with in the chorus) to get humans to procreate. He's obviously upset at this revelation that there is no such thing as love (the tear stains reflect an ugly sight). He has realized that love (amongst all other emotions) are just BS that is there to make humans comply with biological law. Emotions aren't real, they're for the delusional. He realizes the world and the array of emotions that define human existence (the world) is merely a dress so to him he no longer sees a lover he sees his biological mate. Everyone seems naked now that he knows the truth.

The world is a dress (as Schopenhauer called it, "a shining veil"). He knows where the human world really is (the address) in that he now sees humans as what they are: animals. Through our arrogance we wear out the planet for the sake of these emotions whether pride, courage or love.

That's about it, but I think it's pretty solid. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 02:46, 15 January 2010

Under every garment...[edit]

This song is about a whore.

I'll repeat it for those who may not have already guessed.

This song is about a whore

—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 01:41, 10 September 2011

Yes, it's a wonderful awful pun, but it reflects a sadder mess![edit]

The men of science were wrong about the world's address. You see, world does not revolve around the sun, nor does the sun revolve around the world. The world revolves around us. Much as our clothing surrounds us. The world's a dress. Under every garment, I can see that it is our perception of the world that surrounds us. Your secrets of shallowness are plain, I can see them in my tear stains. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 23:45, 28 February 2012

Thomas Carlyle[edit]

In 1833 Thomas Carlyle wrote a book titled 'Sartor Resartus' Latin for the "tailor re-tailored" in which he elaborates a clothing metaphor for the world around us as ancient as the the Hebrew bible and continuing to more recent writers Swift, Pascal Byron, Goethe et al. Briefly stated, he maintains (launders so to speak) his Calvinistic sense of responsibility while shedding much of Calvin's theology like a hot hat on a summer day. He dons the useful sturdy shoes of Goethe and sheds the Byronic ideals that remain untethered to the real. It's an interesting book which Carlyle himself suggests is not for continued reading but sporadic sampling or, my words, putting on before you go out into nature to think about what you wore yesterday. 10:34, 22 January 2013 (EST)

Cartesian Theater a.k.a. cA.V.E.[edit]

More modern demonstrations of 'The Brain in the Vat' theory suggesting the world before us might all be a facsimile taking place no further than from the back our eyes.

Also see "Whistling in The Dark": "A woman came up to me and said "I'd like to poison your mind With wrong ideas that appeal to you Though I am not unkind" She looked at me, I looked at something Written across her scalp And these are the words that it faintly said As I tried to call for help... A man came up to me and said "I'd like to change your mind By hitting it with a rock, " he said, "Though I am not unkind." We laughed at his little joke And then I happily walked away And hit my head on the wall of the jail Where the two of us live today.

As well "Lie Still, Little Bottle": There's no time for metaphors cried the little pill to me He said, "Life is a placebo masquerading as a simile"

TMBG sounds like children's music until you go nuts and I'm pretty sure it's intended that way. =P

TMBG hid the truth to all epistemological concerns in "Ana Ng" - They hid it right in the open. I'll let you all find it.

Interpretation 23[edit]

After being betrayed by someone he loves, his grief sends him into a sort of existential crisis.

Not only does he realize the person was not who he thought them to be, but also that it’s impossible to truly know anybody or anything, because we cannot know reality, only our perception of it. Our perception is a garment that we put onto everyone and everything we know. For each of us, the entire world is wearing a dress made up of our perception, meaning we only ever experience a concept of the thing, but never the thing itself. Therefore the world’s address is not in the solar system or any fixed point in the universe, but entirely in our own minds. A sad pun, indeed.

Someone asked why the tear stains were on the wall. I don’t think there’s a whole lot to that one. Have you ever been so distraught that you leaned your head against the wall and cried? The beauty in this line is the imagery in that he sees a reflection in the resulting tear stains.

--Daniel J, 19:12, 29 January 2022 (EST)