Song of the Week- April 24- "Civilization"

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Song of the Week- April 24- "Civilization"

Postby Aspiemom on April 25th, 2011, 3:15 am

Easter Sunday. I just escaped from 6 hours of trying to socialize with my in-laws in the suburbs. :roll: I picked a song about social anxiety, "Civilization" from Grown Backwards.

The singer begins the evening understandably nervous about meeting his girlfriend's friends. But he seems to experience a fight or flight reaction as the evening goes on. At the beginning, he's stifling urges to "jump and shout" or "tear it down," and managing socially acceptable conversation like "I thought you might prefer the cabernet." Maybe a bit formal, but more or less okay. By the end, he's staring at her shoes or imaging a gorilla "far, far away." :oops:

A few points for discussion. :coffee:
Why does the singer think he's going to be "civilized" one day despite all evidence to the contrary?
Is the "civilization" described here similar to "so civilized" that you wonder where you are in "Totally Nude?"
Why is the confrontation with the waiter difficult?
Why isn't the girlfriend eating? What's the point of going out if you're not going to eat?
Do you agree with me that the evening gets more difficult as the hours pass?
If you are an extrovert or socially adept person, does this song make any sense to you?

Here's the lyric:
Somewhere between the darkness and light
Faces all glow but its not too bright
Civilization, its all about knives and forks

Isn't she here? What time is it now?
Is this the right place? Do I fit with her crowd?
I'm gonna be a civilized man someday

Part of me wants to jump and shout
Part of me wants to tear it down
I thought you might prefer the cabernet

Civilization, its all about sex
Havin' a ball in a padded banquet
I'm gonna be that really cool guy someday

The waiter looks me over
Would you like cream or sugar?
I don't know - what was I supposed to say

She wonders if I'll notice
I should have brought some roses
Her plate is full, she hasn't eaten all day

Glasses collect we order some booze
She looks at me, I stare at her shoes
Mature situations, maybe a broken heart

Maybe I ought to pay the bill
Maybe she thinks I never will
A million things that cross a woman's mind

Just be yourself, well that's what they say
I barely know who I was yesterday
I'm gonna be that civilized guy someday

Good friends and conversations
The rise and fall of nations
A moments glory and they've had their day

And on my high school folder
I drew a big gorilla
Something familiar, something far, far away

Somewhere between the darkness and light
She touches my hand, she don't seem to mind

We can go home, we can be civilized
There's no way to communicate.
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Re: Song of the Week- April 24- "Civilization"

Postby Oedepus on April 25th, 2011, 3:22 am

This is so strange Aspie, I have Grown Backwards scheduled for this thursday, I read all about it before I listen to it (as I have done with every DB recording) and one of the songs I'm most excited about hearing for the first time is Civilization, because the lyrics really struck me.

Must be the Gorilla part :lol:

I can't comment much until I have finally listened to it, but based on the lyrics alone, I can tell this is going to be a fun song. The way you present it is very attractive as well! each verse has something interesting about it, I can shoot in the dark about why he feels he will be civilized one day, the character seems not only socially awkward, but a tad immature, so maybe this future civilized state, is growing up and settling down.
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Re: Song of the Week- April 24- "Civilization"

Postby Aspiemom on April 26th, 2011, 3:24 am

Oedepus wrote:This is so strange Aspie, I have Grown Backwards scheduled for this thursday. . . .

I can shoot in the dark about why he feels he will be civilized one day, the character seems not only socially awkward, but a tad immature, so maybe this future civilized state, is growing up and settling down.


Sorry I forgot about your schedule. Glad I at least chose the right week. :) Talk to you Thursday!

I think the character is just painfully shy. In this DB interview of Daniel Levitan, both participants suspect they have (have had?) Asperger's Syndrome. Reminds me of song from the Knee Plays where DB sings "In the future, everyone will be mentally ill." (Yeah, I know autism is a neurological disorder rather than a mental illness, but still.) Here's a link to the 2007 interview: http://scienceblogs.com/cognitivedaily/2007/05/david_byrne_interviews_daniel.php
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Re: Song of the Week- April 24- "Civilization"

Postby muleskinner on April 26th, 2011, 10:46 am

hmm...I don't know....people who have been married for a long time go out to eat, and while not taking each other for granted necessarily, don't have to pay too much attention to the sometimes awkward situations which can arise when people are in the dating stage of a relationship. "Civilization" documents those new feelings of self consciousness and of wondering how to handle situations which had been automatic or second nature while married.

"Grown backwards" and "Look into the eyeball" chronicle the transition from being married for a long time, (and in several instances, the emotional breakdown of the relationship) to exploring being with a new person, including the social aspects of that process.

I think I saw this disclaimer in both CD liner notes:

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

uh...wait. No I didn't.
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Re: Song of the Week- April 24- "Civilization"

Postby Aspiemom on April 27th, 2011, 2:22 am

muleskinner wrote:hmm...I don't know....people who have been married for a long time go out to eat, and while not taking each other for granted necessarily, don't have to pay too much attention to the sometimes awkward situations which can arise when people are in the dating stage of a relationship. "Civilization" documents those new feelings of self consciousness and of wondering how to handle situations which had been automatic or second nature while married.

"Grown backwards" and "Look into the eyeball" chronicle the transition from being married for a long time, (and in several instances, the emotional breakdown of the relationship) to exploring being with a new person, including the social aspects of that process.

I think I saw this disclaimer in both CD liner notes:

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

uh...wait. No I didn't.


Well, I hope that at least "She Only Sleeps" is fictional. ;) I suppose resuming dating after a long marriage would be awkward. In "Civilization," the connection to the girlfriend seems fairly strong though. He's guessing plausibly about what she might be thinking. She even rescues him at the end by taking his hand when he can't manage eye contact. The problems relate to making conversation with her friends (on boring topics like the rise and fall of nations), interacting with the waiter, and deciding when and how to pay the bill. But I agree that trying to make a good first impression in that kind of dating situation would be more difficult than going to a similar event with a spouse.

What about the line "Somewhere between the darkness and light" that begins and ends the song? It describes restaurant lighting on one level. Does it refer to his progress toward being a civilized man too? Or maybe a nod to Remain in Light? :coffee:
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Re: Song of the Week- April 24- "Civilization"

Postby Oedepus on April 27th, 2011, 3:51 am

re: eye contact:

"I had demons and felt socially inept," he says. "In retrospect, I can see I couldn't talk to people face to face, so I got on stage and started screaming and squealing and twitching about. Ha! Like, that sure made sense!"

Re: Marriage:

Byrne has enjoyed 12 years of marriage to fashion designer Adelle Lutz and has an 11-year-old daughter. But domestic bliss has not helped smooth out his rough edges. "It's not always been a happy marriage," he says. Indeed, the man who wears his neurosis like a badge of honour recently went into therapy for the first time. He didn't like it.

"I guess I wanted a quick fix," he says. "I thought it'd be like taking my car into the garage - here's your problem, here's the solution! And it didn't work that way. Did it relax me a little? Maybe. Did it solve my problems? No. And I'm not sure I wanted it to. I subscribe to the myth that an artist's creativity comes from torment. Once that's fixed, what do you draw on? Analysis is like a lobotomy. Who wants to have all their edges shaved off?"

-Look into the eyeball era

Fast forward to Everything that happens:

You and your wife, Adele, split up in 2004, after being married for 17 years. Was this album a reaction to that?

"It might have been. I'm definitely more comfortable with how my situation has worked out since then. Obviously, you go through a lot of emotional turmoil in a divorce. By the time I was writing this stuff, I was okay. I'd come out the other side. Probably, my two records before this reflect that emotional roller coaster ride more. Sometimes I write stuff that strangely predicts what's going to happen in my life. It's like the song is an emotional fore-cast. Often I'm not able to read it clearly until the storm hits."

What's an example of such a song?

"Um, I'm not going to say. It's too personal. If you do have this predictive power, maybe something good awaits you."

Do you have a new relationship?

"I've had a girlfriend [art star Cindy Sherman] for a couple of years. That's pretty solid. My relationship with my daughter [Malu] is good. I've settled into a new life."
Howdy-do? This is Peter McCalister, the FATHER. I'd like a hotel room,
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refrigerators that you have to open with a key. Credit card? You got it!
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Re: Song of the Week- April 24- "Civilization"

Postby Aspiemom on April 28th, 2011, 2:13 am

Hi, S!mbells,

I like the comedy in the song too, particularly the arrangement. We're not talking about the meaning of life with this one. It's gentle self-depricating humor instead.

Thanks for taking a look at my questions. I hadn't thought of the confrontation with the waiter being difficult because he's wondering what others would think. Makes sense with the line "what was I supposed to say?" though.

(Re: autobiography- DB sings in "Lillies of the Valley" that he "likes a little sugar in my coffee," but does that settle the question? I see DB as more of a hot tea with lemon guy in real life. I'm thinking his Scottish parents probably served pots of tea. My point being that a song can be semi-autobiographical, with some parallels to truth and other stuff just made up.)

Maybe the girlfriend isn't eating because she's nervous too? That would be nicer than being neurotic or depressed or anorexic or determined to be a size zero through self-starvation. It bugs me when women don't eat. I agree that it's ambiguous.

I'm glad you like the song. Maybe I should play it for my friends the next time they try to drag me to a cocktail party. Grown Backwards is super cool. :breakdance:
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Re: Song of the Week- April 24- "Civilization"

Postby Aspiemom on April 29th, 2011, 1:51 am

s!mbells wrote:Interesting choice after Strange Ritual Aspiemom. Is there a connection? Rituals are part of civilization and I guess strange rituals are too......

I was thinking about the lyrics "Civilization, its all about knives and forks". I was thinking we eat animals with these tools - is it civilized to eat animals? It depends on who you ask maybe.....I'm not sure it's entirely civilized but I guess meat eating has got us (humans) this far.....respect to cows and chickens!

I'm off to Maca's for a Quarter Pounder! :jumpyjumpy:

:hippy:


I hadn't made the "ritual" connection, but thanks. I just wanted something lighter and easier after "Strange Ritual."

Knives and forks do add a veneer of gentility to animal consumption. Cultures have all kinds of rules for using forks too, even different forks for different foods, etc. Do Aussies switch their forks from their left to their right hands after cutting meat but before eating it? Brits and left-handers don't, which can lead to some elbowing when they sit next to right-handed Americans. The American hand-switching-fork-technique is inefficient, but we'll never change, just like we'll never use the Metric system. I struggle to get my kids to use silverware at all. They don't see the point when it's so much easier to eat with their hands, and my explanation about utensil usage making other people feel comfortable does not compute with them yet. Maybe when they start dating? :?

I think I'll broil some grass-fed beef to medium-rare and pour myself a nice glass of local, hormone-free milk. ;)
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Re: Song of the Week- April 24- "Civilization"

Postby Oedepus on April 29th, 2011, 3:48 am

I did listen to Grown Backwards today, particulary excited about Civilization. No disappointments!

This is a very elegant album, it makes me think of Tuscany, Meadows, food, castles by sunset, medieval times, and a nice and warm living room where I want to listen to the album when I'm old. The opening track along with "The man who loved beer" are simply stellar. I imagine the song being about the local drunk at a tiny village who has alienated everyone he ever loved. "Glad" is also quite delicious. Civilization is classic Byrne humour, The other side of this life had single potential in my opinion, Pirates is super fun and Dialog Box is quite catchy. Is that an explosion I hear at the end of Tiny Apocalypse? The Opera pieces are lovely, as I mentioned elsewhere, it's not about perfection or technical skill, it's all about the emotion. I for one love it when David sings Un Di Felice at the Union Chapel show.

I have fond memories of the metalic slipcase that is quite shiny, I remember that 7 years ago, when I had just gotten into Bowie, Byrne was always right after him at the cd stacks at the record stores, and this particular album always caught my attention for some reason. I remember picking it up a couple of times and wondering things about it, now I realize it kept calling me, little did I know a few years later I would be writing praise about it. Life can be very mysterious. But I can tell you that before I even knew anything about Byrne or the album, just holding it gave me the impression that it was pretty elegant and sophisticated, and I wasn't wrong!

Coming off Look into the eyeball, it was nice to hear something as laid back as this cd, instead of Byrne repeating the formula (he never does) Eyeball really, really is amazing, but I don't feel GB is standing in it's shadow by any means, it's just a completely different kind of thing.

Why didn't it have any singles or music videos though?

All I can add to Civilization is that by the time David gets to the Gorilla part, the storytelling, rythm and melodies are so nice you want it to go on for a little more!
Howdy-do? This is Peter McCalister, the FATHER. I'd like a hotel room,
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refrigerators that you have to open with a key. Credit card? You got it!
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Re: Song of the Week- April 24- "Civilization"

Postby Aspiemom on May 1st, 2011, 1:20 am

S!mbells, I looked up the history of forks on Wikipedia. :geek: It turns out that forks were invented around the same time that Americans were throwing off their English oppressors. Europe and the rest of the world figured out how to use a fork while keeping it in one hand throughout the cutting and eating process. Americans, perhaps less civilized, came up with the fork in the left hand for cutting and the right for eating. What do I do? I'll never tell.

Oe, glad you liked the album. I agree with you about the sophistication. Interesting about the other DB having disks nearby in the record store. But when it's my time to wait in a small dark room with my big nurse, I want to listen to "Amnesia.". :|
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Re: Song of the Week- April 24- "Civilization"

Postby Oedepus on May 6th, 2011, 5:44 pm

I added this song to my singing list yesterday, it's incredibly fun to sing!

This is my current list:

(Nothing but) Flowers (Between the teeth)
I Don't Remember
The Gates of Paradise
A Long Time Ago
A Self-Made Man
The Great Western Road
Back in The Box
Empire (Radio Byrne version, feat Devo)
Civilization
Gypsy Woman (Back in The Box EP)
Miss America
Sad Song
I'm Not in Love (The Name Of This Band Is)
Help Me Somebody (Everything That Happens EP)
Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)
Never Thought
Blind
The Man Who Loved Beer
The Accident
Well
Strange Ritual
Song For The Trees
Howdy-do? This is Peter McCalister, the FATHER. I'd like a hotel room,
please, with an extra-large bed, a TV, and one of those little
refrigerators that you have to open with a key. Credit card? You got it!
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Re: Song of the Week- April 24- "Civilization"

Postby Oedepus on May 8th, 2011, 5:31 am

Yep, better than the original by Crystal Waters!

It fits really well with the Byrne '94 period, sounds like it could have been on the record.
Howdy-do? This is Peter McCalister, the FATHER. I'd like a hotel room,
please, with an extra-large bed, a TV, and one of those little
refrigerators that you have to open with a key. Credit card? You got it!
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