Song 271: Deerhoof, “+81” (2007)

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I’m constantly amazed at how nonsense can convey meaning. Take a song like “+81,” a mess of a song that somehow congeals into something substantial.

What are we supposed to take away from the lyrics of “+81”? “Beach on tops circle tread on my tar,” sings Satomi Matsuzaki. “Shopping shopping shoppers/crash crash town,” she sings in another verse. It’s all like words cut out from magazines and dumped onto a blank piece of paper. And yet it works, largely because the song’s first verse, with its images of cellphone talkers and neon lights, conveys a sense of disorder. The confusion makes sense, and it’s appropriately confusing, as if Matsuzaki is trying to tell us something, but the urban landscape is making it impossible.

And even though the chorus’s lyrics (“Choo choo choo choo, beep beep”) are nonsense, they make sense within the context of this song so concerned with sounds. In short, the words mean everything inside the song and nothing outside. Context is everything, even when that context is chaos.

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