Is it okay to not know ALL the lyrics? Thatís my question. For example, I was listening to a Fiery Furnaces song and I could only understand some of the lyrics. But then I didnít really care. And I wondered if I should feel bad about that. Why do I not try harder?


It could be a fear of demystification. Finding out the lyrics actually arenít so great could be bad. In the case of the Furnaces, I have understood enough to develop a confidence in them which borders on ridiculous. Weak song-writers can hide behind a lot of noise and mumbling. But it usually doesnít take long to uncover a fraud. When the Fiery Furnaces make it impossible for me to comprehend every word, however, I can easily believe this is no smoke screen, but part of an artistic design.


Or maybe it isnít about a fear of anything, but simply a desire to prolong anticipation. In other words I can continue to look forward to uncovering more of the poetry in time. Like a gift that will never stop giving. I would like this to be true.


But the truth is probably more embarrassing than any of that. What if I am not afraid of what I might learn, but afraid to let go of my beloved interpretation, however vague and wrong it may be?


But if I donít make the extra effort to understand all the words, perhaps I am missing an opportunity for greater confrontation with the artistís meaning. And of course it is only through such confrontation that I grow. Or so Iím told. Being happy with my personal, less complete understanding is perhaps like a stubbornly child who only sees the world he wants to see and not the world as it really is.


When I was a kid, I used to really want to understand every single word of every song. And back then this wasnít so easy as just a call in to Google. I remember you actually had to buy books of lyrics for various artists. And I had no money then either! So that was no joke. I still have some of those books lying around. I wonít give examples because thatís not the point. The point is that somewhere along the line I stopped caring about knowing every word. I just stopped caring. I hope this is not merely a reflection of overconfidence or narcissism on my part. I would rather it be Iím just a lazy fuck.


I wonder what other people do with their unknown lyrics?



May 2007

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