In which a global health crisis is explained by the lyrics of Talking Heads
Every so often there is an event which inspires worldwide dread. (By ‘worldwide’ I really mean that the dread which exists constantly in less developed portions of the world is acknowledged by the developed West, and especially the United States, which has a talent for turning a blind eye to far-off atrocities.) Such an event has historically been either world war or disease. The latter of these two is longer-standing and not as easily controlled, and we are collectively entering a new incarnation of it.
Despite various governments’ attempts at containment and limitation—or perhaps because of them, since they are an admission that the virus is a real threat—the sense of doom and gloom which has long lingered dormant (again, largely over the United States) now pervades daily life at an elemental level. People structure their actions, or inactions, around their concerns. People stockpile supplies, frequently to the detriment of underprivileged communities. People squabble over who should be prioritized and how best to help them. Needless to say, it’s the only topic on Twitter. You can’t spell ‘pandemic’ without ‘panic.’
To whom, amidst of all this, does a girl turn when she too is staying in more often than not, ‘social distancing’ for the safety of her more vulnerable fellow Berliners, perpetually in search of distraction but also of sanity and clarity?
Well, this one turns to the band which perfected the art of reporting on modern damage, of diagnosing the underlying dread in the most innocent or mundane subjects, of crystallizing fear in deceptively cheery (dare I say…infectious?) arrangements. The idea that their work has only gained in relevance over time is both strangely comforting and incredibly unnerving. Here are a few bytes to get you dancing in your chambers of isolation, and to remind you that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Jump back, sit back, get back, relax
I’ve called in sick, I won’t go to work today
I’d rather be with the one I love
I neglect my duties
I’ll be in trouble but
I’ve been to college
I’ve been to school
I’ve met the people that you read about in books
: “Uh-Oh, Love Comes to Town”
Every appointment has been moved to last week
: “First Week / Last Week…Carefree”
We’ve heard this little scene
We’ve heard it many times
People fighting over little things
And wasting precious time
: “Found a Job”
I’m tired of looking out the window of the airplane
I’m tired of traveling
I want to be somewhere
It’s not even worth talking about those people down there
: “The Big Country”
Science won’t change you
Looks like I can’t change you
I’ve tried talking to you
To make things clear
But you’re not even listening to me
I got some groceries
Some peanut butter
To last a couple of days
Ain’t got no speakers
Ain’t got no headphones
Ain’t got no records to play
: “Life During Wartime”
(*my own postscript: Why stay in college? / College is cancelled)
What is happening to my skin?
Where is that protection that I needed?
Air can hurt you too
Air can hurt you too
Some people say not to worry about the air
Some people never had experience with air
Isn’t it weird?
Looks too obscure to me
That was their policy
: “Crosseyed and Painless”
(*honestly, most of this song)
We have nothing in our pockets
But we have nothing left to offer
Faces pressed against the window
Hey, they are just my friends
: “Making Flippy Floppy”
What’s the matter with him? (He’s all right)
I see his face (The Lord won’t mind)
How do you know? (He’s all right)
And we’re going to the top
: “Slippery People”
How did I get home?
I survived the situation
Somebody shut the door
Shut the door
Shut the door
Climbing up the wall
: “I Get Wild / Wild Gravity”
You could pretend I’m a millionaire
A millionaire washing his hands
Help us get ready
: “Big Business”
And that’s just scratching the surface.
Stay safe and healthy, folks. And look out for one another.
Image: from Redferns, Echoes