June 13, 2013 in Lyrics
By Zachary Kaczmarek
Since Alt-J’s debut, An Awesome Wave, was released last year many have become addicted to the infectious melodies and the unique sounds that the band has melded together. Initially their music sounds beautiful and joyous, with all sorts of harmonious vocals and so much layered instrumentation, and at certain times it’s hard to decipher what some of the lyrics are due to Joe Newman’s strong accented and laidback vocal style. But upon further examination, there’s more to their biggest hits than catchy well written ditties, for at the core there are poetic and very emotional lyrics that give more insight to each song, and allow for a more a enjoyable listening experience.
Although “Matilda” could be interpreted as the band’s ode to a girl that has a place near their hearts, the title is named after the main character played by a young Natalie Portman in the the 1994 Luc Beeson directed film, The Professional, also known as Leon: The Professional. The lines “This is if from, this is from, this is from Matilda”, and “Put the grenade pin in your hand, so you know whose boss” references the final scene in the film in which the main character in the movie, Leon, pulls the pin of a grenade and says “this is from Matilda”, before the grenade kills himself and the villainous character Stansfield, played by Gary Oldman.
This loud buzzing and infectious track chronicles the graphic tale of Tralala, a prostitute in the book Last Exit to Brooklyn by Huber Selby. The title of the song is a play on words and derives from the lyric “In your snatch fits pleasure, broom shaped pleasure”. In one scene of the story, which is the premise of the song, Tralala is sexually assaulted by a group of sailors after a night of heavy drinking. Although the theme of the song is hard to digest and is not exactly easy-listening, the band really does gamble it all on an musical depiction of a story that they felt the need to write about.
The band’s biggest hit paints a picture of a man who is slowly losing the affection of his significant other, and uses lots of creative references than can be broken down. The opening lines, “She may contain the urge to run away, but hold her down with soggy clothes and breezeblocks” expresses how the main character in this song feels the need to keep her around and suggests that he must drown her with breezeblocks, or cinder blocks, to prevent her from leaving, which is depicted in the music video below. The line “Cetirizine your fevers gripped me again” tells how the main character views his woman’s change of heart as an illness, and that she needs a cure, which is where the metaphor for the allergy medication comes in. The main character goes onto to say in the chorus “the fear has gripped me but here I go, my heart sinks as I jump in”, and that he will take a leap of faith to try and save his relationship. The outro sees the main character making a desperate plea, “Please don’t go, I’ll eat you whole, I love you so”, which insinuates that he may do something drastic if she leaves, such as what he suggested in the opening verse of the song.
The tantalizing song, Something Good, describes the death of a matador in a bout with a bull, which serves as a very clever analogy for someone who suffers from a broken heart and must find something good to distract the person from the emotional pain of lost love. The chorus “Get high, hit the floor before you go/Matador, escotada, you’re my blood sport” is good imagery that compares the man’s love for the woman as a dangerous match with a bull that results in the ravaging of his heart. The final verse of the song “Now that I am clean the matador is no more and dragged from view” is the nail in the coffin as the man feels no need to get entangled with this exhausting love anymore, as the matador persona disappears.