Guest post by Lucy Donnelly
“She told me to stay
or go away
And I looked in her eyes and left her.
Some people try
To tell me why
I made up my mind and left her”
That’s it. Those are the lyrics for the whole song – repeated and with a haunting chorus of humming in between, yes, but essentially that’s all there is to it. I’ve actually really been getting into Caribou (the performing name of one Dan Snaith) lately and this track from their 2005 album ‘The Milk of Human Kindness’ is a right gem. The song actually completely differs from the other more drum-heavy tracks on the album, and in doing so really shows a sense of versatility and also a sensitivity that is somewhat lacking in the other tracks (which by the way don’t necessarily require either of those traits!) A little folksy, the opening riff is a pretty little acoustic line with a soft drum accompaniment and acts as a lovely introduction for the clear, lilting voice of Snaith.
If I were a hammerhead, this would be my soundtrack. I would float majestically through the water, eyeing off other big fish-like things with my overly competent peripheral vision and then I would proceed to more shallow waters (where, let’s face it, my brain presides) to chill out and tan. A little side note: Hammerheads are actually one of the few animals that can acquire a tan from the sunlight. Me, being melanin-deficient, I have to Google these things to know which species I need to envy. But back to the song: there is a lovely lightness and simplicity to this track which provides a nice contrast to the rest of the album. Lyrically, musically, atmospherically.
I suppose it makes sense that the song is so very… symmetrical. Dan Snaith is actually a mathematician by trade, his father a professor of mathematics and his sister a reader in mathematics. That’s a lot of math! It is actually hard to believe that somebody of his background could create a song so emotionally evocative as this (then again I am eternally suspicious of the number/formula wielding brigade… I do not believe math-rock can be trusted as a general rule of thumb).
“In music I will have an idea to put some different sounds together or a melody that meshes with a chord sequence or a sonic mood,” says Snaith. I think that this song depicts just that. A mood. Simplistic lyrics. Simplistic structure. Simplistic melody. Yet it just… works.
A deeper lyrical analysis would say that the words themselves say exactly what they say about a couple’s demise. Is that deeper? Or is the Hammerhead once again in shallow waters? It is to me the easiest, bluntest and saddest way of putting things. Hello, the relationship is ending. Here is the ultimatum. Here are people attempting to analyse things. Yet here is the outcome. It’s all very easy when put in these terms. Very mathematical, in a sense. Yet so enlightening, to-the-point and ‘gettable’. In such a quaint, lamenting tone.
Perhaps relationships really are equations. In which case Caribou has everything completely worked out, in the basest of terms.
Caribou – Hello Hammerheads
More straight up relationship advice, available here.