Interpretations:Upside Down Frown

From This Might Be A Wiki

This song is a favorite of mine, because I can so closely identify with the theme. Basically, "I love you and sympathize with what you're saying, but you mistake my straight face for apathy." In other words, John L. has trouble expressing emotion in a way that makes sense to others.

I wrote a poem once about a guy who is told "I love you" and responds "I love black jellybeans, the kind that no one wants." He is asked why he can't open up, and responds "Get the ribspreader." The "upside-down frown," for me, is an emotional response that somehow gets lost in translation. (Northside Jonny)

Besides Take Out The Trash, this song probably is the most straightforward and transparent song from The Else. The narrator is affected by all those normal emotional things in his life, but decides not to let it become externally apparent. The second person of the song (girlfriend, wife, whoever) is really annoyed by this, taking it for apathy. She sees things too literally, and so misses out on the true feelings hidden in him. That's about it. It's a nice little song. ~ magbatz

Agreed. I think (and to be honest its a guess given our guarded Linnnell is) that this song is one of his most openly autobiographical. In many ways he rivals Morissey for the doom and gloom he just sings it with a smile and upbeats melody this track seems to acknowledge that he although he can be gloomy he's very happy with his family life. Upside Down Frown being a joke of sorts. Perhaps to disguise the intimate nature of the song, Linnell smothers it with drum loops that belong only in the refrain and not the delicate intial verses. It's still a pretty song Linnell just about manages to keep the tweeness to acceptable levels. (Mr Tuck)

I dunno guys, I think the song is sarcastic. To me Linnell really seems to drive the sarcasm home with When I'm with you, the landscape goes all weird/Black is white, and the rainbow has a beard. Such an exaggerated lyric has got to be sarcastic. Like "oh yeh, not only is your information important to me but my whole life view has been shifted." -- 2sheds

We are making a major assumption that the text does not support - assuming the narrator is male, the other party female. There is no mention of the genders of either party.

Has anyone noticed that this is a theme with this songwriter - the frustration of dealing with reading other people's faces, especially when their expressions do not match their thoughts or feelings? "Unrelated Thing" is the sybling of this song, in that it relates the same sensation - the discomfort caused by talking to a person who gives mixed signals about their feelings.

This fascinates me. Difficulty in reading people runs through other songs as well - "I'm Your Boyfriend Now" is about a man who says he can "see it in your eyes, read it in your heart, hear it in you silence," and we know he has read the other person incorrectly.

I don't know the writer, but I think this song might be more general than is proposed above - I think it might be just his observation of his own discomfort about reading faces, that he is sharing that emotion with the listener because it is something often in his mind. He has said publically that some ideas get into song lyrics because they are anxieties floating in the background for them as people; could this be one instance of this?

Also, I can see the upside down frown referencing those photos (they were made into ads a while back) where a photomanip has a pretty woman with her eyes and mouth inverted and placed back on her face. You know something is wrong with the photo, but it takes a minute to realize her smile is actually an upside-down frown. Then it's disturbing. I wonder if the songwriter saw one of these and it reminded him of the sensation of people giving you a false face during conversation?

~Christina Miller, July 2007

I guess I always thought that the singer was male due to the John's voice, granted that's no guarantee, just an explanation. The other character, I believe, is definitely female because of the line "You say I'm going to die when you tell me", When is the last time you have heard a guy use such a line?

Good point. The last time I heard a man say approximately that, he was gay.

I always thought of it being a guy literally with an upside down mouth, so that whenever he hears something good, he'll frown, and vise versa, and his girlfriend doesn't quite get it. Kind of a simple interpretation, but it makes enough sense. ~ Anonymous

I think this song is about someone experiencing dissociation under torture. Not a pleasant interpretation, granted, but reading through the lyrics again, it still makes the most sense to me. - Anonymous 2

I'm not sure, but it kind of sounds like a guy that just recieved botox... You know, trapped in a smile for a period of time. ~~Anon the Third

I think it is about a person has a crush on someone and hangs around the around but the second party is oblivious to the fact that the person likes them and the "You say you've got some very excellent news/ You say I'm going to die when you tell me/ And in my way, I will" probably is about the other person getting a bf/gf and the person singing is crush on the inside,but puts up a barrier and pretends not to care. ~User:The Joaq

Regarding the line, "Black is white, and the rainbow has a beard." It's good to remember, when looking for interpretation in this song, that the rainbow having a beard isn't just a matter of two randomly-selected nouns: the rainbow is a symbol of gay lifestyles, and a "beard" is slang for the girlfriend/wife of a gay man, who is dating/married heterosexually for show only. Thus, "Black is white, and the rainbow has a beard" doesn't mean "Everything is random," it means "Everything is the opposite of what it seems." ~~Anon Quatro

That and a rainbow is an arch and a beard can be seen as a reversed arch. Much like a frown and a smile.

Just thought it was interesting[edit]

And worth mentioning that the line "The rainbow has a beard" is a reference to the Cream song S.W.L.A.B.R. from the Disraeli Gears album. This is also referred to in (She Was a) Hotel Detective in the Future.

Probably just Linnell playing around with a lyrical concept he liked, but maybe it means something...

I believe that this song is sung from the viewpoint of a young girl's doll. The girl is possibly mentally handicapped, as when she tells her doll (the narrator) that she has some news ("You say you've got some very excellent news; You say I'm going to die when you tell me") she gets angry when the doll's blank face (or frown) does not change to a smile. ("I know you'll think that I don't seem to care; It's just because my frown is upside down; It's upside down, my frown; Is upside down"). The rest of the song is the doll's feelings on the matter and how he thinks the girl feels.

This song does seem very self evident, and I (and other people besides me, I hope) can associate with the feeling in the song. I'm often asked if I'm okay, when people tell me exciting things, because I dint really respond externally, even if I'm thrilled inside. The lyrics themselves kinda speak of the other side of the coin for me, of a guy who always looks infuriatingly calm (even when his girl/trend tries to get a shock response out of him, ala the second line), even though he feels like everyone else. Also, I can't stop thinking of thus old movie The Tangerine Bear. It's about this Teddy bear that no one will but, because his mouth was put in upside down, leaving him with a very unsettling frown for the whole movie, no matter how he feels. It can really suck to be stuck inside yourself like this.


I believe the narrator of the song is a plutonic friend who secretly loves the girl giving him news that she's getting married (or has a new boyfriend). The whole song is an inner confession of his love, but instead of telling her, he simply smiles and nods - meanwhile his heart is breaking.

The Bearded Rainbow[edit]

The Bearded Rainbow is really the BEARDED IRIS. The name "Iris" comes from the Greek word for "rainbow," and these irises truly come in all colors of the rainbow.

No, Actually Just a Jerk[edit]

I think everybody except 2sheds missed the boat completely. I agree that the narrator is sarcastic, or worse. I always had a sense that the narrator is a real jerk who actually is smiling condescendingly because he doesn't care even a little bit about the other person or what she is saying. Giving a lame excuse like "my frown is upside down" and saying "I'm with you in my private way" just makes him a bigger jerk, because he thinks other person is so gullible that they will swallow his lame explanation and "keep coming back".

A big clue-in, which nobody has mentioned, is the vocals. The song is sung in a very "sweet", mockingly gentle tone. Ultra-smug from start to finish. -- Hockpa2e

Copied from my comment on the video[edit]

Asked on Discord to take a listen, holy cow, it's so good. And I'm pretty sure it's about a mean boyfriend, or at least a little self absorbed of one, who knows. --Jimmyzenshins311 (talk) 19:15, 21 September 2021 (EDT)