Me, My Jeff & I: An Analysis of “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea”

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At heart, this album is a love song. Not in the conspiracy theorist sense that Jeff Mangum rescued Anne Frank from ever perishing in the Holocaust & returned her to his Louisiana abode where she grew, masquerading as his sister until he could finally marry her, BUT a love story of the self. Sure, Jeff’s personal love story with Rose Wallace Goldaline, the name given to Jeff’s archetypical lover, is referenced throughout, alongside more conspicuous references to Peter and Anne’s immature love in the annex, as described in Anne’s diary; But the true lover being chased is Jeff’s anima as characterized through these feminine entities. Jeff is constantly seeking, finding and losing his muse, his creative force, his appreciation of beauty and wonder that he was first united with in infancy.

A surreal, dreamscape of carnival chaos twinkling under the blitzkreig of WWII, starring Jeff Mangum as “the Two Headed Boy” whose head space is occupied by the Dark Brother when he has gone too long deprived of his feminine half – a role played split between Anne Frank and Rose Wallace Goldaline. Through these storybook characters, Jeff explores the duality of all things – the beautiful consciousness of a young girl, chewed up and spit out by genocidal warfare, and the destruction that paves the way for fecundating, explosive creation. Everything is both of these things, and when one departs from the other, the entity experiencing the loss is, itself, lost. Jeff’s very real journey through gaining this wisdom endures cycles of loss, seeking out his whole self, reclaiming himself temporarily & losing himself again. The ephemeral avenues down which he finds this other half throughout the album include dreams, love, sex, music, birth & death – the spaces in which we are fully emerged in our psyche, rather than the isolating world outside.

Appropriately enough, most of the songs Jeff wrote for this album were made in the first few moments of his day, after awaking from dream. This is why the language he uses is so dreamlike. It reads like a strange storybook, out of order and constantly implying a heavily dramatic change through symbols and their interactions. The following paragraphs give a synopsis for the changes that occur in each song, followed by a verse-by-verse analysis of the symbols conveying the transformation.

King of Carrot Flowers Pt. 1: In the Womb

Jeff describes infancy in terms of chaos – violence and splendor, inextricably intertwined, reign in his first experiences of the world. It sounds as though he is describing a brother and sister (perhaps step-) finding themselves in an extremely dysfunctional family, in which they explore their bodies incestually against a backdrop of domestic violence. “Your mom” stabbed [his] “Daddy’s shoulder”. “We would lay and learn what each other’s bodies were for” Jeff is born into a world where the masculine and the feminine war – where men and women separate. These gendered entities become a sustained metaphor for the yin-yang dynamic in Jeff’s own psyche, giving “we” the potential representation of just one person – wee Jeff – single genderless child entirely lost in the chaos of his young world. Everything is explored in a very Id-centric manner – sensually and animalistic – fighting and pleasure.

This song  sets the stage of Anne’s life as well as Jeff’s, AND what the other was missing. Anne looked on at her parents and the Van Dam elders with contempt for their childish ways as she was forced to pave her individuality into their stuffy “civilization”and “proper” ways of doing things: backstabbing, selfishness, assumptive communication (if at all) and nosiness into everyone’s personal life. Jeff’s childhood had similar disparities – while he was immersed in the beauty and wonder of innocent youth, his parents were quarreling, and then allowed to raise a wildish mind. While Jeff and Anne were loving their first days of life, their parents were wishing an end to their raw existence.

As life progresses and Jeff becomes socialized more and more into this continually divided and subdivided society, an internal separation occurs as well. Vacillation between unity and separation characterizes the album, and Jeff’s life as it catalogues his journey.

[Verse 1]

When you were young, you were the king of carrot flowers

And how you built a tower tumbling through the trees

In holy rattlesnakes that fell all around your feet

And your mom would stick a fork right into daddy’s shoulder

And dad would throw the garbage all across the floor

As we would lay and learn what each other’s bodies were for

If the journey of the self begins anywhere, it is in the womb, manifested in infancy. Before we are confronted with a world of strictures, roles & obligations to tear us apart, we are completely whole and blissful in the womb. The symbol of the tower connects the earth to the sky (which will come to embody the feminine’s residing place), the two polarities of Jeff’s spirit. Serpents are heavily symbolic of wisdom and balance – and they are falling, presumably, from the sky to the earth. With this backdrop of unity – Jeff in his mother’s womb, outside of his human cradle, the polarized entities of man and woman are at war. The father is alluded to be physically abusive to the mother (“and dad would throw the garbage all across the floor” ~ “inside my mother; in a garbage bin”) while unified-Jeff was exploring himself and his body, as a spiritual whole, aka “WE would lay & learn”

[Verse 2]

And this is the room one afternoon, I knew I could love you

And from above you how I sank into your soul

Into that secret place where no one dares to go

And your mom would drink until she was no longer speaking

And dad would dream of all the different ways to die

Each one a little more than he could dare to try

This womb room was a place of complete bliss & loving union between Jeff & his anima. Again the imagery of above (the human) is meeting the heavenly entity below, subconsciously where our truest selves are scattered about the ether. The unconscious is the mysterious investigation of psychoanalysts everywhere, very much deemed the secret house of our innermost wishes, desires, fears, truths, etc. Few dare to enter, because entrance can reveal some shocking things. Dreams are said to be the brain’s encoded messages from the psyche/unconscious mind. Again, while this beautiful, loving exploration of yet-to-be-born-self is going on inside Jeff’s mother, outside, she is at odds with her other half, both are using their existence and strange disconnected unity (dysfunctional marriage) to wish it away – the mom numbs it while the dad contemplates suicide. These gendered parental figures will come to add to the archetypal collective, as the dark sides of the masculine & feminine entities within us & Jeff.

King of Carrot flowers Pt. 2: Birth & Infancy After his toddler’s initiation into a divided world, Jeff finds himself torn in many directions, but with no real way to navigate towards his own will – “I will shout until they know what I mean!” The will is the first semblance of personality to arise from the quagmire perspective of a toddler, which can often only be expressed (with the developmental deficit of language)  through temper. The first word of personal significance a child learns is “NO!” – I WILL SHOUT UNTIL THEY KNOW WHAT I MEAN. Jeff doesn’t want a lot of the structures that learning to function in this world imposes on his life. Transitioning from a carefree infant which everything is done for – and to – him, into a life of responsibility and duty. The first sense of self to be shed is wonder, though it takes years.

Heavily influenced by his Christian upbringing, it’s easy to see how God was a significant grapple to that waning wonder. Jeff has claimed adamantly that the first line of this track, “I love you Jesus Christ” was meant literally. Though religion is never the answer, an innate love of existence and the divine existed in both Anne and Jeff. She disliked Peter’s complete abhorrence for religion & God and though she didn’t always identify well with Jewish strictures (such as the religious rituals her mother neurotically enforced at the beginning of their persecution), she loved life and the mystery of her family’s study, practice and reverence for it. If Part 1 is about existing in the blissful, heavenly navel, Part 2 steals it away and Jeff is left with only the option to ride the waves and find himself (his selves?). And stay true to what he finds – “ever proclaiming me”. Anne’s greatest trial with her parents was feeling misunderstood. She was the scapegoat for pent up tensions in the secret annex and as the youngest, everyone had something to say about how she ought to be reared or what she was doing wrong, all the while, Anne is rearing herself through the self knowledge she records in her diary. Jeff has also stated that Part Two is about living in Seattle with his mother, where Anne’s similarly disintegrating relationship with her mother is explored heavily in her diary. The structure of our childhood introduces us to the traumas that we will overcome for the rest of our lives. We, as Anne Frank was, are born into a world of hatred, pain and violence that we are first introduced to via the dynamic between our family, specifically our parents.

King of Carrot Flowers Part 1 sets the stage of wholeness yet to be immersed in life, while in Part 2, that love of life is confirmed (I love you Jesus Christ), but emerges  into the world of individuality – an individual that is waiting to be whole again. In Jeff’s lyrics, the image of the world comes to represent himself, as this experience is universal; The day that they are awaiting is the day that unity returns. Not only is Jeff waiting for the return of his anima, but “the world, it … waits” as well.

Part Two

[Verse 1]

I love you, Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ, I love you, yes I do

I love you, Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ, I love you, yes I do

And on the lazy days

The dogs dissolve and drain away

The world it goes

And always waits

The day we are awaiting

Jeff has stated that he means exactly what he says in this song, separate from religion, he really does love Jesus Christ, this man that preached love and acceptance and peace to his followers. Birth is implied and will soon occur; the lazy/dog days are over now, and Jeff is being assimilated into society – aka, being pulled apart (“the world, it goes”). This image of a world/planet/star being destroyed is a recurring one, meant to reflect the separation of self. Therefore, when there is a separation, there follows a longing for unity again…”the day we are awaiting”.

Part Three

[Verse 2]

Up and over

We go through the wave and undertow

I will float until I learn how to swim

Inside my mother in a garbage bin

Until I find myself again again

[Verse 3]

Up and over we go

Mouths open wide and spilling snow

And I will spit until I learn how to speak

Up through the doorway as the sideboards creek

With them ever proclaiming me me oh

BIRTH; “up and over” through a “wave and undertow,” Jeff is turned on his head and wrenched from his heaven, being forced to breathe as a single entity, separated from his spirit – “until I find myself again”. Here, water, a house, and snow are all combined to form a strange, twisted image. The ‘room where I could love you’ from before was Jeff’s mother’s womb, the side boards of which are creaking with giving birth, and proclaiming Jeff – spitting him out. Jeff is no doubt wailing for breath, for being born, for losing his spirit, and spitting out snow where he does not yet have the knowledge to express himself through speech. Snow is another recurring image, as a sort of surrogate ether and uncertainty that the Two-Headed Boy must return to in order to find himself (SNOW FALLS LIKE ASHES) – into that of unconsciousness where his spirit lies – snow comes from the sky and sky = spirit/other half/feminine entity, remember?

[Verse 4]

Up and over

We go the weight it sits on down and I don’t know

I will shout until they know what I mean

I mean the marriage of a dead dog sing

And a synthetic flying machine, machine

Oh-Oohh-Oh-Oh

“Up and over we go,” at first meaning birth, now comes to also reflect Jeff’s earthly body yearning for his aerial spirit – the only thing on his lips that he could want to speak about, as it is the only thing he’s missing, desiring. The exper of birth has been said to be the most traumatic injury of life as it separates us from a warm, blissful haven where everything is provided for us and we are chemically and physically bound to our mother. Entering the world, we must breathe and also experience isolation for the first time ever, an extremely jarring experience for something that has not yet met the world and its expectations of a human life. Jeff does not yet possesss speech to scream for that unity again (which is an ironic commentary on this album that does the job for him, while still encoded in dream speech that few have attempted to de-code). Jeff’s meaning is the marriage (unity) of a dead dog (how he views his corporeal, spiritless form) and a synthetic flying machine – like an aeroplane or a time machine or a womb. The aeroplane comes in as a symbol for that ethereal unity of self, that can be experienced in death (“one day we will die and our ashes will fly from the aeroplane over the sea,”) in utero (“this is the [womb] one afternoon, I knew I could love you and from above you how I sank into your soul. Into that secret place where no one dares to go,”) in dreams (“in my dreams, you’re alive and you’re crying as your mouth moves in mine, soft and sweet”) or – wishfully – in a time machine, which all of these things are by nature “I wished I could save her in some sort of time machine”.

 

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In the Aeroplane Over the Sea: First Love

After enduring the phase of separation, as an infant, Jeff now sings a love song, in which his first reunion since birth is experienced. Sometimes when after a long time of having lost ourselves, we find ourselves in another & come to love ourselves through loving aspects of our shadow in another. This happens in the title track, but also addressed is the inevitability of failure within this delicate balance. After all, another person is also another individual with their own broken, separated psyche. Love is often over-romanticized as “making you whole,” which absolutely occurs, but fades out just as easily as it came to be. This leaves you with two ephemerally satiated individuals about to confront their brokenness again. In lieu of this new understanding, Jeff’s lyrics turn to death, as he recognizes that the only permanent sort of reunion, outside of dreams that last a nighttime and loves that last a honeymoon phase, is in death.

Anne encountered this knowledge herself in the attic. Tortured by the tension of such close quarters with her family and the Van Dams, a recently pubescent Anne turned to Peter for support. Their awkward, naive yet loving relationship was often what got her through the increasingly stressful days. Notice also that Julian Koster’s singing saw fist makes an appearance on this track. This sound effect (as well as the dee-dee lyrics) are representative of the feminine essence that Jeff sees in both Anne and Goldaline singing – the divine way in which they communicate. When the singing is present, Jeff has found his anima/is in harmony with all of his selves.

[Verse 1]

What a beautiful face

I have found in this place

That is circling all round the sun

What a beautiful dream

That could flash on the screen

In a blink of an eye and be gone from me

Soft and sweet

Let me hold it close and keep it here with me, me

Finally, peace enters the angsty, temper tantrum toting toddler’s narrative as love sweeps away all the ugliness. The phrase “circling round the sun” carries with it a continuation of the the theme of cycles, and with the aerial planet of the sun – Jeff is literally hovering near this newfound love – this echo of spirit – ON EARTH. The fact that this reunion occurs in the earthly realm is important, because it means that a birth has taken place, whereas to meet with her in the sky would mean that a death has taken place. Cycles: (repetition of finding oneself, losing oneself, and yearning for oneself)“that could flash…in the blink of an eye and be gone from me” supports the importance that cycles and brief reunion hold in this narrative. *“Soft and sweet” are phrases that come to be associated with the female entities throughout this album. **Again, “dream” is referred to  – one of the four places that Jeff finds himself whole again
[Verse 2]

And one day we will die

And our ashes will fly from the aeroplane over the sea

But for now we are young

Let us lay in the sun

And count every beautiful thing we can see

Love to be

In the arms of all I’m keeping here with me, me

Though he wants to savor this moment of unity, Jeff recognizes that it will eventually slip away – even if they remain together forevermore in life, eventually they will die – and yet death is its own reunion: a resubmergence into the ether of everythingness. This type of unity is once again represented through a connection between earth and sky – the ashes of their dead, earthly bodies fluttering down from a synthetic flying machine; a tool of warcraft in Anne Frank’s time, but an altogether miraculous invention, allowing the earthbound, gravity laden human to connoiter about the clouds and atmosphere.
[Verse 3]

What a curious life we have found here tonight

There is music that sounds from the street

There are lights in the clouds

Anna’s ghost all around

Hear her voice as it’s rolling and ringing through me

Soft and sweet

How the notes all bend and reach above the trees

[Verse 4]

Now how I remember you

How I would push my fingers through

Your mouth to make those muscles move

That made your voice so smooth and sweet

To recognize that you have transferred from a place of ennui to bliss is a special thing. To contemplate that your bliss is temporary and will soon return to ennui is a depressing thing. To understand that life is a constant give and take of these two things is “strange”. Music is in the streets – now remember, the female entity is the one that we always hear singing (whether through the singing saw that is featured in this song to be the voice of Anne Frank/the ghost or the oft-reprised ‘dee-dee-dee-dee-dee”), making this translate directly to “my other half has come to earth. The sky from which she hails is full of lights (vs. being full of thunder and sparks, which emerge later as a symbol for the will towards unity, whereas here, the lights represent unity being attained) and Anne Frank’s spirit is winding through all of the above. This is a very cohesive, stitched together image , in which the earthly music still bends into the sky, and this singing (from the female entity/ghost/anne) is coming from Jeff’s own lips, demonstrating that all these characters are aspects of one man’s psyche – “hear her voice as its rolling and ringing through me”. This moment of complete unity causes Jeff to remember moments before when his second half was fully in his grasp: he remembers even that HER unity with Him (as opposed to the other way around) made her complete too. This second half of him isn’t just some lifeless shadow dragging behind, this other half is a true entity with its own pain and longing from separation – with its own personality and ploys and existence – and very possibly this entity narrates King of Carrot Flowers Pt 1 – the smooth sweetness that Jeff laments when they are separated is in fact caused by their unity – she does not sing this sweetly (or at all perhaps) when they are apart. Notice as well the body imagery being implied by these lines – it’s easy to imagine a lover placing fingers into their paramour’s mouth from the outside, but time and again, Jeff describes being literally inside of someone else – a motif conveying moments of unity.
But now we keep where we don’t know

All secrets sleep in winter clothes

With one you loved so long ago

Now he don’t even know his name

“we keep where we don’t know” – they stay in a locationless place – in the conduits of his mind; in dreamland where these unconscious secrets exist in the quagmire of our psyche; where we are always united with all our selves, rather than the stricture that consciousness lays across us, forcing us to be just one – just a half. All lost knowledge of ourself is contained within our unconscious mind, where there is no need for names to separate one from the other, because they are all one on the continuum of the psyche.
[Verse 5]

What a beautiful face

I have found in this place

That is circling all ’round the sun

And when we meet on a cloud

I’ll be laughing out loud

I’ll be laughing with everyone I see

Can’t believe how strange it is to be anything at all

They meet in the sky again (in death – another unity place). Jeff again acknowledges that all of this is continuous cycles of separation and reunion and that he will eventually be reunited with all of his selves when he rejoins them in the ether of death – when he falls from the sky as ashes commingling with her (ASHES THAT FALL LIKE SNOW).

Two Headed Boy Pt. 1: Angsty Adolesence

Turbulence. This song captures the angst of adolescence when the split personality first enters the stage. It cannot decide whether it is a celebration, a lamentation, a torturous meeting of intimacy, an orgasm or an abortion. It is going every direction at once with full force, only to fall short. This song is representative of the attempts that we make in our youth to reconnect with our true selves – the desperate acts that leave us more singed and alone than we were when we started. Though Jeff has already recognized the impossibility of capturing his anima with any kind of permanence in the living realm, his desperation for unity provokes numerous attempts at reconnection – music, sensual intimacy… questions of suicide. The music follows his understanding, as the pacing becomes less urgent in the final verse, and Jeff accepts that he must go within himself to pacify his need for connection and ultimately ‘let go’ so that it may find him.

[Verse 1]

Two headed boy

All floating in glass

The sun it has passed

Now it’s blacker than black

I can hear as you tap on your jar

I am listening to hear where you are

I am listening to hear where you are

The sun that was once being circled around is now gone (aka, his anima is gone) – reinforced by the image of such isolation of being crammed into a glass jar, but the yearning is still present. Noise is being made by sequestered Jeff – a tapping against his jar to be acknowledged – to be refound & incorporated. The Dark Brother reigns now, and is actively trying to find this wounded spirit. This alludedly dead aspect of spirit (floating in formaldehyde, suspended in time between birth and death) and the same one that was beginning to explore in KCF. This alludes to the in between time when something is in the ether and must choose to re-emerge into a state where separation must occur.
[Verse 2]

Two headed boy

Put on Sunday shoes

And dance round the room to accordion keys

With the needle that sings in your heart

Catching signals that sound in the dark

Catching signals that sound in the dark

Freed from the jar, the strictures of religion and society are once again laid across this wildish, diametric individual. A needle piercing his heart sings. We can assume that this singing needle is the same pain of the female entity — “with wings and ring around a socket right between her spine”. This two headed boy has a needle through his heart and notches in his spine – all physically deforming echoes of where his other half once was. Radio waves are how they transmit to each other now (radio waves emit music – the special language Jeff uses to communicate with himself). The two headed boy is dancing to the music of an accordion as the needle (a receptor) picks up the radio signals that she is transmitting to him. He’s found her again; through his pain of loss, he feels her existence. This motif will continue to build throughout the album.
[Chorus]

We will take off our clothes

And they’ll be placing fingers through the notches in your spine

And when all is breaking

Everything that you could keep inside

Now your eyes ain’t moving

Now they just lay there in their cloud

This is the separation: “they’ll be placing fingers through the notches in your spine – all is breaking”. This image can also be read as extremely sensual – an intimate and vulnerable exploration of self, seen before in KCF. Could it be that Jeff has found the correct conduit into the secrets inside his darker side. By picking up her singing (secret songs that you’d keep wrapped in boxes so tight, sounding only at night as you sleep) Jeff has gone into a very deep, dangerous and beautiful place inside himself. A place so dangerous, because he is visiting her there, and we know that when he, the earthly being, visits her, it is in the sky, it is in death – “now your eyes ain’t movin now, they just lay there in their cloud”
[Verse 3]

Two headed boy

With pulleys and weights

Creating a radio played just for two

In the parlor with a moon across her face

And through the music he sweetly displays

Silver speakers that sparkle all day

Made for his lover who’s floating and choking with her hands across her face

[Chorus]

And in the dark we will take off our clothes

And they’ll be placing fingers through the notches in your spine

And when all is breaking

Everything that you could keep inside

Now your eyes ain’t moving

Now they just lay there in their cloud

Pulleys and weights make me think of Jeff coming back down to earth – perhaps a failed suicide attempt, the dark brother taking after his dark father~ Again on earth, this male entity is ravenous for communion with his female spirit, but is now approaching the problem in a worldly way. Building a radio outside of himself that will pick up her signals – her emissions. This intimate exchange is likened to the secret meetings that Peter and Anne would have in the parlor of the secret annex – viewing the moon at night from the downstairs area – their place of communion with each other under the eerie moon in which Anne was both frightened and excited, feeling safer to not be there alone, but to go with Peter, and tremulous at the suggestion of intimacy between them. Rather than follow a potentially deadly thread within himself, Jeff works in the real world to commune with himself through music – something to be shared with the other broken humans of this world. This music will soon call to him a similarly wrenched lover.

Again, an intimate, vulnerable investigation is done of the body that shows physically how it has been wrenched from its other half, and how this constitutes death.

[Verse 4]

Two headed boy

There is no reason to grieve

The world that you need is wrapped in gold silver sleeves

Left beneath Christmas trees in the snow

And I will take you and leave you alone

Watching spirals of white softly flow

Over your eyelids and all you did

Will wait until the point when you let go

Ultimately, this episode of strained association is a failure, as the two can only visit each other outside of the natural cycles (birth and death) through ungodly/unnatural (technology of the radio) bastardizations of connection that results in both appearing as abortions in the other’s world that cannot exist as they wish to – as a whole. Yet Jeff recognizes that this is not a reason to grieve, as the natural cycles will allow the two to rejoin each other, and until then, he can be with her in his dreams – he can go within himself  naturally and walk the thin, s-shaped path that separates yin from yang. The Two Headed Boy must go into himself & take only the music he finds there & return to the world of forms with it. A reemergence of the snow imagery, alongside the symbols of secret boxes containing gifts, shows us that he must be content visiting her in dreams and music- SECRETS – the secret song language that keeps the two together.

The Fool~

Instrumental piece. The Fool follows the Two Headed Boy. If the Two Headed Boy is the angsty adolescent that continually tries and fails to keep his other half with him, he is a fool because he is neglecting the wisdom that everything comes and goes in cycles. This song, with its wartime march, chronologs the continued trudging though the battlefield of adolescence.

Holland, 1945: Loss of Innocence

Okay, our adolescent is a fool, surprise surprise. This continual striving for reunion only to have it backfire that makes the boy into a fool is also what causes his loss of innocence. Jeff details this progression through Anne Frank’s loss of innocence which occurred when a whole nation turned against her because she was born. One head of the boy (the female entity) that had held power in their naive view of the world loses its power to the dark brother, who lashes out violently at the world, in anger for what’s been stolen from them. This is one of the reasons that Anne was such a hero to Jeff. Though she experienced the fear and anxiety of living in the annex for years, with bombs & gunfire sounding off at night, penetrating her dreams, she maintained her conceptualization of beauty in the world, a truly amazing feat. Such a conquering of violence (though Anne’s positive outlook lost plenty of battles within her own psyche) requires spirit – the beauty & wonder-fed spirit that Jeff’s archetypical lover, and sought-after feminine entity maintains. This is why the feminine remains in the heavens, with wings, white roses in her eyes & a ghastly song preening from her lips.

An interesting type of reunion occurs here that differs from the, until now, dualistic being of Jeff & Anne (his feminine side). We have not yet seen Jeff identify with his masculine side explicitly. After the feminine entity departs (in Two Headed Pt 1), a very yang, chaotic, masculine entity is left (the dark brother). “Now she’s a little boy in Spain playing pianos filled with flames” – the one dancing to the accordion keys. Though he has shadow qualities, he is still the lover/other half of the anima; they occupy either head of the two headed boy. This ‘Dark Brother’ returns in Two Headed Part 2 with a ‘head full of flames,’ from which his brains are oozing out. He is broken, essentially, which we can see clearly in the refrain from Two Headed Boy and its allusions to bodily trauma resulting from the separation of conjoined twins/lovers/one self. This violent chaos is what Jeff rejects in the adulterous, abusive father, which is why all the father needs is his “lover to bring a child to [his] chest” to love the shadow entity (all you have left). Sparks & thunder, as a motif, are symbolic for Jeff’s need for unity, and the peril his psyche enters when it is divided – ‘thunderous sparks form the dark of the stadium’ while the father is off committing adultery. The sparks enter the father’s heart as he craves his lover and child. In “Ghost” the feminine spirit literally falls down from the sky (laden with “thunderclouds”), plummeting towards earth.

However, in this track, the Dark Brother apologizes for his violent, warlike reign in Two Headed & the Fool – “He didn’t mean to make you cry with sparks that ring and bullets fly on empty rings around your heart the world just screams and falls apart” – and departs himself. The male lover’s departure leaves Jeff an empty, broken shell, which is why we are given the imagery of the world falling apart. Through every subtraction of self that Jeff experiences, he is constantly learning how to cope, the refrain expresses his need to “pack up every piece” that is left of himself and keep moving, though he is often left with emptiness.

Finally, Jeff returns to the place of wonder inside himself, to see that where his mother (anima) and brothers (dark brother & father) once were, are now empty slots, and those entities now have flies buzzing around their decay where there used to be the flowers of innocence.

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[Verse 1]

The only girl I’ve ever loved

Was born with roses in her eyes

But then they buried her alive

One evening, 1945

With just her sister at her side

And only weeks before the guns

All came and rained on everyone

Now she’s a little boy in Spain

Playing pianos filled with flames

On empty rings around the sun

All sing to say my dream has come

Singing now from the perspective of the dismembered two headed boy (the dark brother), Jeff reflects on his long lost love – epitomized by Anne Frank. **Starting with In the Aeroplane, the lyrics have become increasingly more suggestive of the holocaust as the the tracks have gone on. In the Aeroplane alluded to wartime fighter jets that would spew death across the nightscpaes of much of eastern europe in the days of Hitler’s blitzkrieg & London’s nightly air raid attacks. In two headed boy, an image straight from Anne’s diary (viewing the moon in the parlor at get with Peter), the significance of the radio and even the horrid experimentation that went on in nazi death camps on twins. The horror of wartime (the clash between the masculine and the feminine entities) is expressed through Anne & Peter’s archetypes, because they lived through  this real occurrence. Finally, Jeff inserts a song so specifically and whole heartedly about Anne Frank, we can assume that he is addressing it as her lover, as Peter** Anne was born pure with a mind full of beauty and determination and strength, and then she was snuffed out as a inconsequential candle by the nazi regime, alongside those that bore her (her mother). The beauty that Anne held was tortured and the innocence raped from her psyche (floating and coking with her hands across her face) – remember? the feminine entity is active, not passive, and experiences as much damage as the masculine entity. When this horrid loss of innocence and beauty occurs within the light aspects of the psyche, it means that the shadow is reigning – the dark brother with his flaming piano and boiled brains, broken as he is, is at large. The rings around the sun are now empty, whereas when the two halves were one, the rings contained a “beautiful place… that is circling all round the sun,” because the world (our symbol for Jeff, the individual) has gone – been destroyed with torture and war and separation. The singing that she used to do has been converted, and the dream where he used to be able to access her in has come, and she is dead.

[Chorus]

But now we must pick up every piece

Of the life we used to love

Just to keep ourselves

At least enough to carry on

When such a destruction occurs in the psyche, all that is left to do is pick up the pieces and trudge forward. Slowly build back – regenerate – what was stolen from us by the atrocities of the world (war kills innocence, Anne and the female entity are innocence embodied through the female child archetype). Jeff must hold tightly to the way that he used to see beauty in everything when she was there (count all the beautiful things we can see) – Jeff must work actively to bring her back by building her within himself. “In spite of everything, I still believe that the world is a beautiful place”

[Verse 2]

And now we ride the circus wheel

With your dark brother wrapped in white

Says it was good to be alive

But now he rides a comet’s flame

And won’t be coming back again

The Earth looks better from a star

That’s right above from where you are

He didn’t mean to make you cry

With sparks that ring and bullets fly

On empty rings around your heart

The world just screams and falls apart

Despite the tragedy of having gone through this transition, it all comes back down to cycles. The cyclical circus wheel is a perfect metaphor, then, frenzied and chaotic with wailing calliope. This cycle brings the rapid departure – all three are together on the ferris wheel (allusion to Ferris Wheel on Fire, in which ‘Oh Sister’ is the opening track??) -of the dark brother, whose momentary connection with Jeff/Jeff’s anima leaves him wrapped in white. This dark energy needed to be expressed and incorporated, but recognizes that it is now time to leave, as war and destruction reign when he is in the driver’s seat. Jeff is better off when he is orbiting at a safe distance. He is truly sorry for the death that he has caused and the violence that goes hand in hand with masculine archetypes on this album, and that intense shame and retreat reflects itself in just another abortive attempt at reconciliation of the psyche – Jeff, the world, “just screams and falls apart”. He cannot incorporate both aspects yet. Now, the empty rings are around her heart, because she also needs him.

Communist Daughter: Sexual Intimacy

With the male lover gone, and the mother’s instinct to incubate & regrow, Jeff is left with craven emptiness. This emptiness came to be filled with the intimacy of sex – a graduation of the sensual intimacy from Two Headed Part 1. Though reunion is attained, it is still an impermanent form, and therefore must fail eventually. This type of short term satiation can be likened to an addiction.

[Verse]

Sweet communist

The communist daughter

Standing on the sea-weed water

Semen stains the mountain tops

Semen stains the mountain tops

With coca leaves along the border

Sweetness sings from every corner

Cars careening from the clouds

The bridges burst and twist around

Transitioning from a place of lamentation on lost innocence, this song picks up with a new archetypical incarnation – the Communist Daughter. Though the preceding loss of innocence focused on the heavier aspects – drudged with war, death, torture and pain, this one investigates the other, more sensual, more feminine side that goes hand in hand with innocence flying out the window: sex. Natural imagery – mountaintops, water, seaweed, cocoa leaves (stimulant like cocaine that fuels feelings of indestructibility and elevated mood – much like that after an orgasm) surrounds this figure, demonstrating that the blissful scene she is found in is not artificial, but can be located within. In the previous song’s last verse, Jeff is tracing back a cord of history to find himself when he was whole at a place and time before his beginning, and before birth is conception. ta-dahh. Unity is reflected by the abnormal inextricability of the city, landscape and sky that seem to be seamlessly melded together: “cars careening from the clouds”

And wanting something warm and moving

Bends towards herself the soothing

Proves that she must still exist

She moves herself about her fist

Sweet communist

The communist daughter

Standing on the sea-weed water

Semen stains the mountain tops

Semen stains the mountain tops

Something warm and moving reads both sexually and natally – a baby moving about warmly in its mother’s womb. Incubation for birth is happening in this song. When the pieces of Jeff have been picked up, they must be regrown – nurtured and strengthened until they are strong enough to be reborn back into the world of separation, and that is exactly what this song accomplishes. Jeff is proving to himself that his selves still exist – that all is not lost with his anima. It is very likely that he is finding this feminine aspect again in another woman – in Rose Wallace Goldaline, who is name dropped in the next song – as well as in “Oh Sister” which was rumored to have had a place on this album, but was then cut at the last minute.

Oh Comely: The Lover Fails

This song is both angry and loving. External sources can never provide us with the holism that must be found inside, so no matter how complete that lover makes us feel, they will always fail eventually, as they themselves are incomplete & go through cycles of gaining and losing their own spirit. Because Jeff recognizes this in his love, he can still love them. They will go on forever because they will always have each others pain inside themselves.

 

Oh comely, I will be with you when you lose your breath

Chasing the only meaningful memory you thought you had left

With some pretty, bright and bubbly terrible scene

That was doing her thing on your chest

But oh comely

It isn’t as pretty as you’d like to guess

In your memory, you’re drunk on your awe to me

It doesn’t mean anything at all

A pledge for unity. The meaningful memory would be the “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” memory. This is the meaningful unity that both continue to seek out during their separation. It is sought after through sex, which unconsciously becomes a blind lust that is no longer the real intimacy they crave. Lust gives us butterflies in the stomach and heart palpitations, but it is no replica of love – real unity. It reads as though the female entity even sought out her self through sexual experimentation with both men and women – seeking to find her whole. The meaningful memory she’s seeking to recreate is tainted by the endorphin rush that she remembers it with “you’re drunk on your awe to me” therefore it isn’t as meaningful as it seems – it is the past.

[Verse 2]

Oh comely

All of your friends are all letting you blow

Bristling and ugly, bursting with fruits falling out from the holes

Of some pretty, bright, and bubbly friend

You could need to say comforting things in your ear

But oh comely

There isn’t such one friend that you could find here

Standing next to me

He’s only my enemy

I’ll crush him with everything I own

The lovers she surrounds herself with to provide comfort and fill the hole in her life are bad imitations of true love, making them really her enemies because they only place a larger gap between her and unity. Fruit is used as a sensual image to suggest sex “fleshy free and flowering like oranges out in the open” – aka she is filling her hole (double entendre intended) with sex. These friends are not true lovers, but only momentary comforts

[Chorus]

Say what your want to say

Hang for your hollow ways

Moving your mouth to pull out

All your miracles aimed for me

“hang for your hollow ways” – the addict’s way: filling their emptiness with habits that will only drag them deeper and deeper into depression and unwellness. “moving your mouth” – an allusion to both her song which would resound when they were together whether in sleep or in true love AND oral sex – to produce the miracle of unity – aimed for him, though not given to him.

[Verse 3]

Your father made fetuses with flesh licking ladies

While you and your mother were asleep in the trailer park

Thunderous sparks from the dark of the stadiums

The music and medicine you needed for comforting

So make all your fat fleshy fingers to moving

And pluck all your silly strings, bend all your notes for me

Soft silly music is meaningful magical

The movements were beautiful, all in your ovaries

All of them milking with green fleshy flowers

While powerful pistons were sugary sweet machines

Smelling of semen all under the garden

Was all you were needing when you still believed in me

These actions are revealing of the feminine’s shadow – the masculine’s shadow acted similarly, committing adultery behind the backs of his true feminine loves (exactly what this ‘Comely’ feminine entity is doing in reverse, by trying to fill his void with strangers). Sparks, again, are symbolic of the yearning for reunion on both parts – when they are on the verge of perishing. She has become so separated from any hope for successful unity that her loss of belief fuels her sexual addiction. This addiction also leads to another kind of unity: birth. “Smelling of Semen all under the garden” She is the garden “the movements were beautiful…in your ovaries, all of them milking with green fleshy flowers while powerful pistons were sugary sweet machines”

[Chorus]

Say what you want to say

Hang for your hollow ways

Moving your mouth to pull out

All your miracles aimed for me

[Bridge]

Do do do, do do do, do

Do do do, do do do, do

Do do do, do do do, do

[Verse 4]

I know they buried her body with others

Her sister and mother and five-hundred families

And will she remember me fifty years later?

I wished I could save her in some sort of time machine

Know all your enemies

We know who our enemies are

Know all your enemies

We know who our enemies

Are

This hole-filling cannot persist for very long before it fails, and another death/break occurs. However, death always leads to birth. And as all the male/female characters participate in the story as incarnations of the continued masculine/feminine archetype, this feminine entity is reborn after such a break – “will she remember me fifty years later” which is why this time around, it is so important to know your enemies – to know the downfall of inauthentic unity, of hole filling, of shadow-fueled addictions.

[Bridge]

Lalalala lalala lalalala la la la la

Lalalala lalala lalalala la la la la

Dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee

[Verse 5]

Goldaline, my dear

We will fold and freeze together

Far away from here

There is sun and spring and green forever

But now we move to feel for ourselves inside some stranger’s stomach

Place your body here

Let your skin begin to blend itself with mine

The return of her song; unity. This new incarnation of Anne Frank’s legacy comes in the form of Goldaline, the masturbative, over-sexed wounded woman. Jeff predicts their future unity: “we will fold and freeze together”. ‘Sun/spring/green forever’ is the memory that she chases with her explosive nymphomania. The reference to the sun’s presence means that they are together – the sun is the female entity, also signifying cycles – the earth (Jeff) revolves around the sun, sometimes further from it than others. When they are together in death, the cycles are no longer actively happening – they are together in a timeless space, so the sun & beautiful earth are there forever.

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 9.58.45 PM

Ghost: Faith

With the knowledge that the lover will always fail eventually, comes the wisdom that unity will also always return eventually. Jeff is growing closer and closer to a more peaceful wisdom of himself and the nature of the world he exists in & what it is to be a human – to be anything at all.

[Verse 1]

Ghost, ghost, I know you live within me feel as you fly

In thunderclouds above the city into one that I

Love with all that was left within me til we tore in two

Now wings and rings and there’s so many waiting here for you

And she was born in a bottle-rocket 1929

With wings that ringed around a socket right between her spine

All drenched in milk and holy water pouring from the sky

I know that she will live forever

She won’t ever die

Faith: An empowering feeling of recognition that though you feel unwhole and separated from the beauty of the world, it “still exists” – a refrain from the Oh Comely/Sister songs. Jeff feels her in the thunderclouds of his world. If thunder is the symbol for his internal combustive need for her, what Jeff is talking about here is faith: Jeff experiences her through his need for her. He feels her in her absence. He has found faith in the cycles of unity, separation, death, birth, unity. Finding, losing, seeking, finding. Though he is broken he loves her as the dark brother that is left (something the Father will eventually do with the child a lover brings to his chest). Until the end, he loves her. When she is the female entity of the mother that he abuses, he loves her until they both return to the ether, where they can truly be whole. Here, the imagery depicts a woman flying through thunderclouds (she herself is longing for reunion) into an individual that Jeff himself loves as an incomplete person. This gives the strongest visual representation of the female entity being reincarnated repeatedly into that of Anne Frank, his mother, his lovers as this pained female archetype. Though this love gives the feeling of reunion, it is impermanent and must eventually end because both are separate entities searching for reunion within themselves, which can never be supplied by an external source or person. When Jeff and this newest love split in two, the feminine spirit that he had grasped and lost must return to the sky where she can inhabit her wings & song and cycles “circling all round the sun”. “So many waiting here for you” refers to the fact that everyone confronts this emptiness within themselves and is actively searching for that which makes them whole again. With this acknowledgement in mind, Jeff goes into a description of Anne Frank as an embodiment of this energy. Anne was a living inspiration on earth – an angel on earth. Because individuals like this exist, there is still in faith – she will never die. “She was born in a bottle rocket 1929 with wings and rings around a socket right between her spine” A bottle rocket is a firework = sparks. Sparks are the symbol for yearning for reunion. The socket is where her wings (her spirit) are missing. Translation: she was born into a mishap world. She was born with this pain in her heart – a needle that sang in her heart – and even said in her diary that all she truly wanted was a friend. Just someone to be true and honest and share her life and pain and story with. Anne Frank was born into a broken world – was born into her inherited pain, but she was born with wings, so her spirit was intact and rings around a socket. The rings are the symbol for revolution around the sun – cycles. A socket is an empty space. The rings are around what’s missing. She too revolves around the cycle of gaining her other half and losing it. She was born into it lost. Milk and Holy water pouring from the sky are representative of the sky coming down to earth – she has joined him on earth. Rain/precipitation is a type of wonder-world in which a type of reunion occurs where the other feels the other through their absence – has faith in the return. The fact that milk and holy water are pouring form the sky makes it all the more divine.

[Chorus]

And she goes and now she knows she’ll never be afraid

To watch the morning paper blow

Into a hole where no-one can escape

De-de-de-de-de-de

De-de-de-de-de-de

De-de-de-de-de-de

De-de-de-de-de

“She goes” has the intended double meaning of both leaving him & leaving her isolation. She dies and re-enters the ether and knows that everything will always be okay. She leaves her isolation in the sky, entering him through a loved one and knows that they will always be able to find each other. She knows that tomorrow will always come, and the passage of time will always bring another reunion (as well as separation). This hole from which none escape is our existence. When we have faith in these cycles, we live without fear, because we know that the beauty will always return. And in this knowledge, she sings.

[Verse 2]

And one day in New York City, baby, a girl fell from the sky

From the top of the burning apartment building 14 stories high

And when her spirit left her body how it split the sun

I know that she will live forever all goes on and on and on and

A common place in which we find ourselves whole is love. Opposities attract, we love the people that complete us. Jeff finds his anima in the women that he loves, which justifies Oh Sister and Oh Comely. The women of “My Dream Girl Don’t Exist,” “She Did a Lot of Acid,” “Oh, Sister,” “Naomi” they all have common threads. Jeff sings about women a lot – women who have been sexually abused, sometimes by a family member, women in psychological trouble, whose families have either rejected them or mistreated them. Women with pain that dance on the edge of death and total destruction. Incomplete women. Don’t we all love those that we see some of ourselves in? Romantic love is a means of loving oneself, whether we acknowledge it or not. If the first verse sang about the feminine spirit within Anne Frank, this verse tells of the women that Jeff was enamored of. A human girl falls from the sky = symbolically, she is coming to him. When her spirit leaves her body & she is just a body, the sun experiences a tearing apart (just as Jeff/the world periodically does). When she loses her spirit, the sun dies.

[Chorus]

And she goes and now she knows she’ll never be afraid

To watch the morning paper blow

Into a hole where no-one can escape

De-de-de-de-de-de

De-de-de-de-de-de

De-de-de-de-de-de

De-de-de-de-de

Reassurance, reincarnation, faith in tomorrow. The ghost’s song is present, so we know that a reunion has occurred. She is there.

Untitled: Someone is Waiting

The tune to this untitled track takes musical pieces from “Someone is Waiting” from On Avery Island. With faith regained in Ghost, a period of time can pass in which Jeff can live peacefully (without the dark brother) because he knows that beauty will return just as often as it departs. This someone that is waiting is his anima, his spirit, his wonder. The track ends with Julian’s singing saw – the voice of the ghost.

 

Two Headed Boy Pt. 2: Wisdom

Now that Jeff understands & has incorporated the cycles of the world, he must communicate them to the violent & destructive [arts of himself: the Father. Throughout this ending track, Jeff quells his dark side & tells it what is needed to finally rest & feel at peace. Jeff also fully incorporates the disjointed feminine spirit into his consciousness. Jeff is choosing to love all of these aspects of himself & leaves his psyche with the reminder to keep faith when one aspect of himself must leave, promptly exiting the booth with the tape still recording, so that we may hear that he’s been singing to himself all along.

Daddy please hear this song that I sing

In your heart there’s a spark that just screams

For a lover to bring a child to your chest that could lay as you sleep

And love all you have left like your boy used to be

Long ago wrapped in sheets warm and wet

Jeff is cooing to the dark tendencies inside himself to listen to the wisdom of a child who has been through the cycles. This child knows what the father is longing for at the heart of things (reunion – rebirth through love). The father longs to be complete (something we experience impermanently in dreams and in love) – “a child…that could lay as you sleep”. What’s more holistic than that (symbolically speaking)?

Blister please with those wings in your spine

Love to be with a brother of mine

How he’d love to find your tongue in his teeth

In a struggle to find secret songs that you keep wrapped in boxes so tight

Sounding only at night as you sleep

Blister has also been sung as Sister, so this verse is addressed to the female entity, found within one of Jeffs lovers. He is begging here for this feminine entity – with spirit intact – to love this dark brother, because the dark brother surely loves her & delights when he is reminded that she is inside of him (when he suddenly feels this spirit and this wholeness within himself). When he returns to those christ, as trees with the snow falling and can slip back into a state of faith & wonder. She sings messages of beauty and wonder to him – gifts (songs wrapped in boxes) he can unwrap when he recognizes her place within himself – even if this only happens in dreams.

And in my dreams you’re alive and you’re crying,

As your mouth moves in mine, soft and sweet,

Rings of flowers ’round your eyes

And I’ll love you for the rest of your life when you’re ready

In Jeffs dreams, the pain & violence of the dark brother is alive within himself (Jeff often had night terrors, sleep walked and encountered strange states in his sleep) and it is crying in grief. Now ,the dark brother’s mouth is moving inside of Jeffs, but he can recognize this as beautiful. Cycles of wonder (rings of flowers) revolve around the crying eyes of the dark brother (oh how I’d want to keep white roses in their eyes) and because Jeff understand why the dark brother is who he is, he will continue to love him…

Brother see we are one in the same

And you left with your head filled with flames

And you watched as your brains fell out through your teeth

Push the pieces in place

Make your smile sweet to see

Don’t you take this away

I’m still wanting my face on your cheek

…because they are in fact one. They became separate when the violent tendencies of the dark brother (which make him the father) override and cause him to enter a state of manic depravity & violent need for becoming whole again. The brains fall out through his teeth – he loses his mind. Jeff tells him to push the pieces in place (he must pack up every piece of the life he used to love, so that he has the strength to carry though to the next cycle of the sun). Jeff begs him not to take this [existence] away. When the Dark father is in power, he “searches for every way to die,” and Jeff is begging him not to lose hope/faith. Not to end this life, because it will continue through. And they will find reunion again – “I’m still wanting my face on your cheek”

When we break we’ll wait for our miracle God is a place where some holy spectacle lies  When we break we’ll wait for our miracle God is a place you will wait for the rest of your life

Two headed boy she is all you could need

She will feed you tomatoes and radio wires

And retire to sheets safe and clean

But don’t hate her when she gets up to leave

The nature of the cycles are that when they break, they wait for the miracle of reunion again. This cycle is the holy spectacle & God is where it happens – and it will continue to happen as long as you are living. Next jeff sends a prayer to these structures alive in his psyche: Broken boy, the feminine anima is what you need. She will feed you the connection to the divine & o wonder that you need to sustain your spirit. You can find her in your dreams, but don’t become the dark brother when she departs.

Conclusion:

This album is a fairy tale that reflects transformations that occur between the conscious & unconscious mind, told in a love song written by a dreamer. Each aspect of self is incorporated into his psyche: the feminine entity/Sun/Goldaline/Anne Frank (Jeff’s female archetypal lovers; Jeff’s anima), the father (Jeff’s shadow), the dark brother (the male lover & companion of the feminine), and the mother (the progenitor of existence), which on a continuum, are all Jeff/the world (the conscious mind). The album follows this progression from before birth and onward through a life of suffering, learning & gaining the wisdom of everything that exists within cycles. It’s hardly a wonder that this album became such an instant cult classic. Jeff’s lyricism has the power to provoke our deepest emotions from the strangest lines, while providing comfort through the ugliest, bring us ultimately to the same realization: everything exists within us, just waiting to be acknowledged.

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