Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Interpretation of Fake Plastic Trees by Radiohead

I know I should be writing about Peace Corps and all, since this is only my second post, but Fake Plastic Trees is one of my favorite songs, and for the longest time I couldn't figure out what was going on in the lyrics but I think I've got a hold of it now, so I share with you:

The starting point to appreciating this song is understanding that the 3rd person voice describing the surgery victim woman and her plastic surgery performing husband/boyfriend changes to a first person voice about halfway through the song ("MY fake plastic love"). What's great about that is that we experience a bewilderingly rapid change from 3rd person voyerism to a more personal 1st person where we can better identify with the metaphorical characters who were just described, beautifully (I especially like the description of a "cracked polystyrene man"). So which one of them is it that fantasizes of escaping this relationship ("If I just turn, and run"), the man or the woman?
My interpretation of the 1st person stanza is that the man's voice begins by using the possessive "My," the last lines of the song are in the woman's voice that is so concerned with what her partner wants ("If I could be who YOU wanted" is the only use of the 2nd person in the song), and perhaps the lines inbetween which describe the fantasy of escape belong to both of them, since they both want something different ("But I can't help the feeling"). The last lines definately belong to the woman, she wants to be the object of his desire always, but you can tell from the tone of desperation that she knows that she won't be able to, and this makes her (and me) very very sad. Too bad he won't change and start loving her for who she is. She should drop that zero and get with me.
In the words of the Gorilla Biscuits, “A standard's set that I just can not live up to."
If you haven't heard the song, try finding it on youtube.com or just buy the CD you'll be glad you did.

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