Your ears are full of the language.
A love letter to the lyrics of Coffee And TV by Blur.
Coffee And TV is a work of mellifluous melancholy that speaks direct, via hotline, to my introvert soul.
Is hard enough for me
Introversion is not shyness. Introverts are not anti-social. Finding sociability hard does not make you bad at it. It just takes it out of you. Parties are fun but they are the emotional equivalent of having all of your phone apps open at once and the screen set to full brightness.
And if music be the food of introversion, you would struggle to give me excess of this song. I have played it on and on, dozens of times, whilst writing this post, and rumours of my appetite’s sickness and demise are greatly exaggerated.
That mellifluous melancholy. This song is surely the secret love child of Sweet Jane by The Velvet Underground and This Must Be The Place by Talking Heads. It has its father’s steam train guitar riff and its mother’s wistful lyrics.
Coffee And TV uses lyrical dissonance to great effect. Musically it is a sweeper. It sweeps you up and it sweeps you along with its irresistible rhythm and its honeyed harmonies. But the melody is a mask for the bleak themes contained in the lyrics. The notes provide the spoonful of sugar that helps the bitter verbal medicine go down.
Take me away from this big bad world
And agree to marry me
So we can start over again
These lines remind me of the 1971 film Melody (SWALK), starring Mark Lester and Tracy Hyde. Young, innocent love. Cynical, uninterested parents. I wanted to run away from home after watching it as a wannabe love-struck twelve year old. The lyrics appeal as much to naive romance as they do to introversion.
The lyrics may speak to naivety but there is nothing naive about the language. You could set an English Literature essay on the first four lines of Coffee And TV.
Do you feel like a chain store?
One of many zeros
Kicked around bored
I like Oasis but they could never hold a candle to Blur for conceptual creativity. Blur is a high concept outfit. Their songs are based on original ideas and intriguing stories. The lyrics are full of evocative imagery. There is no dumbing down for populist appeal.
Your ears are full but you’re empty
Holding out your heart
To people who never really
Care how you are
Disillusioned and emotionally adrift, you have the courage to drop your guard and seek succour from people who are disinclined to give it. These are essential lyrics. They address primal themes with profound economy.
So give me coffee and TV
I’ve seen so much
I’m going blind
And I’m brain dead
Coffee and TV. Like Red Bull and vodka. Addictive stimulant and addictive suppressant in efficient, effortless combination. (Easily.) You can be simultaneously wired and disconnected. Caffeinated but comfortably numb.
The song contains recurring hints of an almost autistic sensory overload — “your ears are full” (twice), “I’ve seen so much”, “I’m going blind”.
And there are recurring references to escape. “Take me away from this big bad world,” and “Do you go to the country?” and “Agree to marry me,” and “We can start over again.” The narrator has had enough. This is a quest for solace.
The narration itself shifts perspective between verses and chorus. The verses are written in the second person, the chorus in the first. Both verses start with a question, which feel to me like they are directed by the narrator to himself. This inner dialogue, if that is what it is, makes sense in the context of the video, in which guitarist Graham Coxon plays the role of missing person. Coxon also wrote the lyrics and replaces Damon Albarn as lead singer on this track.
Do you go to the country?
It isn’t very far
There’s people there who will hurt you
’Cause of who you are
Your ears are full of the language
There’s wisdom there you’re sure
’Til the words start slurring
And you can’t find the door
I never read what other people have written about a song until I have my own thoughts formed. It transpires that Coxon wrote the song about his struggles with alcoholism. So Coffee and TV is distraction therapy. He is weaning himself of one addiction by way of two others. And maybe the language filling his ears with wisdom is the language of counseling, which is a futile exercise until such time as you actually want to listen.
“Do you go to the country? It isn’t very far.” It sounds like a way out. Two lines of deceptive optimism. The second verse is where the bucolic meets the alcoholic.
But the grass is seldom greener.
Back in my advertising salad days we used the Coffee And TV video as a style reference when we were selling in a script for a TV commercial to a famous Scottish beer client. The script was based on the idea of murdering a pint, which we wanted to take literally. It involved anthropomorphic pints of lager and we used the award winning Blur film to demonstrate that you could imbue inanimate objects with personality and create characters worthy of emotional involvement in the eyes of an audience.
Aardman Animations were hired for the job and they chose to use real pints of lager, operated by puppeteers.
There was a silly debate about whether the pints should have eyes. The beer brand managers thought they should. The Oscar winning animation experts knew they shouldn’t. The ad agency was caught in the middle. Everyone was a winner in the end.
Since you got this far, would you mind going a little further?
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