Toes – Glass Animals

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.

– According to lead singer Dave Bayley:

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.

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Lisa

Hello! My name is Lisa. I find the human condition fascinating and I often write stuff about that. I blog at zenandpi.com but you can also find me on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, and if you like what I do, consider signing up for my newsletter. Thanks :)

6 thoughts on “Toes – Glass Animals”

  1. This is such a cool song!

    In regards to getting writing inspiration from music, I couldn’t agree more. One thing I’ve been getting into a lot lately that you might try is hearing stories in classical music. It may not have words, but I find it fascinating to think about who would be doing what if the music was actually a movie score. It’s like reverse engineering the story!

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    1. I was just thinking about trying that too! I have the soundtrack to a horror movie saved with a bunch of creepy songs, might try one of those when I get a little better at this :)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m sorry but you are wrong. This song is about drugs plain and simple. The big ride is a black cadillac where a man buys heroin. The “devine ape swine”? Is a drug dealer. The main character’s hands are blackened from injecting them with drugs, and are now practically hooves lol. So he injects his toes “so he can smile”. Hence how he is “crooked but upright” lol. As in high on heroin, but concious. What most people don’t realize is that you don’t necessarlily go comatose when you shoot up.
    Finally, look at the last lines you’ve quoted. The main character is walking down a hallway to a room where he usually shoots up- a chill in your bones is a common reference in poetry to heroin.

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    1. I’m sorry but I’m not wrong. According to the lead singer Dave Bayley the song is in fact based on “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”.

      But the great thing about music, like any art form, is that it can mean many things to many different people :)

      Like

  3. It was my favorite book as a teen. I too stumbled upon this track thanks to Spotify and liked it instantly. That being said I couldn’t quite grasp it’s mean, that’s how I found this post. I am ecstatic that the song is based on the book. I too was worried it was drug related, and while that would not have influenced my liking it would have changed the circles in which I discuss it. Now thanks to you though I can clearly see it’s a wonderful homage to a great book.

    First off looking toward music for inspiration sounds like a great idea that I fully intend to steal (borrow maybe).

    Secondly (from shakey memory) your run down of the song is rather spot on. I will try to avoid spoilers as I feel everyone should give this book a try. It’s short, and an easy read although it should be avoided if you are squimish. The chorus that doesn’t really “fit” is one of the main plot points of the book. There are two factions one that view there creator as God and want to be more human, and one that thinks he is the devil and want to return back to what they once were. The building he looks back on at the end is the vivisection chamber.

    Just wanted to say again, thanks for making this great song, greater.

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    1. This is awesome! I’m so glad you liked the post and thank you for the additional info. I completely forgot I meant to read the book this year so your comment was also a reminder. Thanks again!

      Like

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