Interpretations:Your Own Worst Enemy
Sonny Geraci (supposedly "the guy with the messed up face) wrote a song called "Precious and Few..." which may be referenced in this song. ("Precious and few are the moments that you and your own worst enemy share.")
"I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than have a frontal lobotomy." I think this song references that. Whether that's an intentional references or not, the narrator clearly is trying to lobotomoze himself with liquor (he's working at drinking). That verse is IMO one of TMBG's best because it simultaneously evokes an amazingly clear visual while being so deeply moody. It's not just an extremely poetic lyric. It also plays on words and makes oblique references. It embodies everything that TMBG is.
This reminds me of an old Winnie the Pooh book/movie.
It's your own worst enemy Ringing the bell on the door And the person inside says nobody's home So your own worst enemy peeks inside And sees you softly weeping as some music fills the room Pooh goes to Rabbit's den and asks (through the door/window, it's more like a hole in the wall) if anyone's home. Rabbit responds saying that nobody is home, and Pooh pokes his head through the window and shouts "Hello, Rabbit!" as Rabbit is saying that she isn't home. Rabbit isn't too happy about it.
Full bottle in front of me Time to roll up my sleeves And get to work And after many glasses of work I get paid in the brain Pooh begs a small bit of Rabbit's honey, which Rabbit hands over. Pooh eats all of Rabbit's pots of honey and tries to leave through the door but gets stuck. I don't know how the "paid in the brain" part would fit in.
And the song they play Is that guy with the messed up face Since Pooh is stuck in her door, Rabbit tries to turn him into a decoration by propping antlers on his protruding backside and painting a face on him so that it looks like a moose. He laughs because it tickles and the face gets messed up. Rabbit says "Pooh! You messed up my moose!"
I doubt this is what the song is really about, it just reminds me of it, especially the "and the person inside says nobody's home" part.
When somebody does damage to himself or undermines his own attempts at success, others will say to him, "You're your own worst enemy." This is the only time, really, when the word own is used in this context. TMBG's choice of words here is telling: if "your own worst enemy" was just some guy who hates you, why not simply call him "your worst enemy"? By this subtle twist I think They mean to imply a mind divided against itself. In this song, "you" is the narrator's better nature, the healthy self-preservation instinct. When the self-destructive part of the narrator comes calling, the more sane part of the mind tries to hide. I picture someone hiding under a table, shouting "Nobody's home!" as the doorbell clangs. The person under the table starts to weep, knowing there is really no escape -- in this way the song is something of a precursor to I Can't Hide From My Mind.
Chorus. "Precious and few" are the moments that your mind is whole, is not at dichotomous war with itself. You would expect those precious moments to be ones of peace, of blessed relief from the struggle with darker instincts, but then comes the second verse.
The switch from second- to first-person narration, to me, implies that the bully at the door found his way in. Now the mind is united -- but with the self-destructive "own worst enemy" at the wheel. The person then methodically goes about getting drunk -- either to satiate those dark urges or to silence consciousness period.
Now when the chorus kicks in again it's a bitter joke: "Precious and few." But we see that in those moments you and your own worst enemy actually share, you drink yourself into a stupor. The narrator, an alcoholic, a possible schizophrenic, a classic TMBG antihero, clearly is his own worst enemy.
That's an excellent analysis - the song is about the divided self, and I agree it references the joke about "I'd rather have a full bottle in front of me than a pre frontal lobotomy." That suits TMBG sense of word-play in that it suggests the lobotomization with liquor without saying it outright. And it is very visual.
The only item I would add is that I thought the man was depressed, not schizophrenic. The estranged self that has tracked him down catches him weeping, not causes the weeping. If you've ever been utterly down and decided to drink until you felt better, this is exactly how it feels. That's the TMBG genius, isn't it? To evoke in two minutes some discrete experiential vignette. Here, drinking the blues away.
If you've done it, you may remember a detached part of your mind watching the proceedings, a sensation of weeping and watching yourself weeping from a distance. Knowing the absurdity of drinking yourself better, and of pouring out the shots and waiting after each one to see if it has been effective. It's methodical, like work. Until finally *ding* you get "paid in the brain." That little ding sound is brilliant, in that there is a clear moment, a *ding* sensation when whatever part of your mind was giving you the trouble gets anesthetized.
If the lyricist hasn't ever drunk himself into feeling better, he must have watched someone do it, because he has captured the sequence of events pretty well. I love the black sense of humor about it, too.
Sometimes I get the feeling that "the guy with the messed up face" is actually Chess Piece Face. Or at least, the spectre of being found by such a mobster hangs over this song's subject, who perhaps is in some witness protection program, and whose life is going down the drain as a result... - Chris K.
An Alternative explanation is that the guy with the messed up face is actually the radio artist known as Seal. -MDK
- I agree about Seal. Sonny Geraci does not appear to have ever had any problems with his face. Seal is the most prominent singer with so messed-up a face. That Seal did not in fact sing 'Precious and Few' would probably not be a barrier to Linnell's appropriation of it for this song. When the song's narrator gets 'paid in the brain' there is a ding (sounds like a triangle). It is the aural equivalent of the 'popping bubble' that appears over the head of a comic-strip character which lets us know that he/she is drunk. --Nehushtan 15:44, 18 August 2009 (UTC)
Just a thought: It occurred to me that this song could be more about the alcoholic beverage. In a simpler interpretation than the ones previously discussed, this song could be about abstinence from alcohol; the Narrator is trying his self-control, but eventually can't help himself and sets to drinking. It brings him satisfaction for the time being, but drinking will be his undoing, and he's ruining himself by drinking, hence "his own worst enemy". (i.e., his own worst enemy is the embodiment of his compulsion to drink.) -Anonymite
Guy with the messed up face
Someone mentioned Seal, but how about another artist that might be more inclined to sing something like "Precious and Few"... Eddie Money!. He had Bells Palsy. That's whom I envisioned. And maybe his career was cut short by booze. Tragic.
I read on Wikipedia that Sonny Geraci (of the band "Climax" who performed the hit "Precious And Few") recently suffered a brain anyeurism. So perhaps he turned out to be the "guy with the messed up face" after all. Prophetic.
The man who haunted himself
Basically, it's a song about alcoholism. The second verse gives that away.
The lyrics of the first verse are a literary conceit based on the saying that "one is one's own worst enemy". If you are you, and you are also your worst enemy, then you must be two people. So you go to your house and ring the bell, but you tell yourself that you're not home.
This brings up the theme of doubles, or doppelgängers, which occurs a number of times in TMBG lyrics ("My evil twin" and "Sleep" are two other examples). I'm surprised there is not yet a page dedicated to this theme.
-- Thread Bomb (talk) 01:44, 2 April 2020 (EDT)
Not to put too fine a point on it <coughs> but Walter Nims of Climax wrote PnF, which was covered in an impossibly weenier way by The Lettermen. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCq-RmGBdE0
An Abusive Relationship
I feel like this song is about an abusive relationship in the future and the couple who are in the relationship are looking in on their horrible future.
I’m saying this because the part that mentions looking through a window could state that the past version of the couple who are having an abusive relationship are looking in on their future life.
The part that mentions alcoholism states that the male of the relationship has become addicted to alcohol and it fuels his rage.
The part that mentions someone softly weeping shows that the female of the relationship is weeping because of the male’s awful behavior.
The title of the song could show that the past version of the male of the relationship’s own worst enemy is his future self.
If this were some sort of music video, would see the past version of the couple looking in through a window and see their future selves.