As an aspiring writer I find myself more and more looking for inspiration in places I had never looked before. My newest muse seems to be music. I am exploring the art of poetry and I figure songs are just poetry set to a melody, right? I thought maybe I would try my hand at taking a song and really listening to it an understand what the lyrics mean and what I like about the song.
For my first attempt I have the song Toes by Glass Animals.
I recently started listening to Glass Animals after hearing their song Gooey on a random Spotify playlist. I liked it so much I started playing all of their track in random order. Toes, the eighth track on the Glass Animals’ debut album ZABA, became my new favorite.
The lyrics are about that book, The Island of Dr. Moreau, which is about a man who finds himself stranded on a weird tropical island, with all these crazy animals on it.
So apparently the song is based off of the book The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells. I haven’t read it, or even heard of it but it has since been added to my TBR list. Without reading the book I can only guess at the meaning of the lyrics but I imagine I am probably not far off in my interpretation.
Put your hand down boy
Welcome to my zoo
Put your head inside
My big black wild, while
I can still help you
Hearing the first verse I picture a personified jungle setting the mood for the a man it is about to take on a journey and attempt to educate. “Put you hand down” is a way of telling someone to wait, it is not your time to speak. The jungle welcomes the man and by calling calling itself a zoo it implies there are many animals to see.
Next next three urge the man to go inside and learn something, for his own good. I love the play of the b’s and w’s in “My big black wild, while”. The line just flows off the tongue.
See the snake baboon
Funky, chic and smooth
Honey can you spy
The divine ape-swine
Cause he can see you
Here we get a description of some strange animals who are also seeing the man, and possibly thinking he is strange too.
I’m a man, I’m a twisted fool
My hands are twisted too
Five fingers, two black hooves
I’m a man don’t spin me a lie
Got toes and I can smile
I’m crooked but upright
I love the chorus! This is the chance for the man to talk and of course he is only concerned with himself. He describes himself as twisted, which I think has more to do with his character than his appearance. He says he has five fingers and two black hooves, which invokes an image of a demon or the devil himself.
The man is insisting he is a man and asking the jungle not to “spin him a lie”. He is separating himself from the animals he sees around him. He describes himself again saying he has toes and a smile and that he is crooked but upright. Man has crooked ways but walks upright unlike the animals around him.
And all I ever want
Is just a little love
I said in purrs under the palms
And all I ever want is breaking me apart
I said to the thing that I once was
The bridge doesn’t fit well with the other parts of the song, or maybe it does but not as obviously as the rest. It seem to come from the man thinking out loud perhaps, about who he wants to be and who we once was. Man wants love more than anything but leaving the jungle and the animal kingdom has only resulted in him feeling torn apart.
To the left now boy
Underneath the moon
By the thick tan sand
And the tall thin grass
One more thing for you
See the distant flume
In the sleepy dunes
Makes my nerves clench close
And my bones go cold
When I see that room
At the end of the song the jungle is showing the man one more thing. Hearing it I imagine a factory or something industrial off in the distance. The jungle wants the man to see the destruction he has caused and understand that it being so close makes the jungle and it’s animals afraid.
I think whether my interpretation is right or not the song is obviously about something deep. It is well written and the play of the words sounds pleasing to the ear. You can’t help but enjoy it.
Give it a listen and let me know what you think the song is about.