Friday, December 13, 2013

Lyrics (Over)Analysis – Rubber Ring by The Smiths

The Smiths developed a reputation of attracting a fan base of lonely socially awkward teenagers that used The Smiths as a sort of therapy for their own problems because they were able to relate to his introspective lyrics.  There was a criticism of the The Smiths that their target audience are immature teenagers and that once those teenagers grew up and overcome their shyness and get laid, they will no longer need The Smiths and the band will become obsolete. This song explores the phenomenon that adults tend to think of troubles they suffer as kids and as adolescent as trivial and now they are more “clever” then that.

Cleverly enough Morrissey decided to satirically write about this phenomenon and this song is about Morrissey lamenting the fans “growing up” and abandoning The Smiths when they no longer needed the band as therapy. I have to say it’s one of the things I like about Morrissey and The Smiths that elevate them above other mope-rockers is that they have a sense of humour albeit a self-mocking one. This is probably my favorite Smith song in terms of quality of the lyrics.

“A sad fact widely known
The most impassionate song
To a lonely soul
Is so easily outgrown”

The song starts off with Morrissey acknowledging that even the greatest song that speaks for the lonely broken hearted person will become obsolete when the person becomes happy.

“But don't forget the songs
That made you smile
And the songs that made you cry
When you lay in awe
On the bedroom floor
And said : "Oh, oh, smother me Mother..."”

This is Morrissey pleading to his fan base not to forget him and his songs and remember the times when they were depressed lying on the floor listening to ‘I Know It’s Over” with awe (smother me mother is a reference to that song from Queen Is Dead album which is probably known as one of his most emotionally dramatic song of his career).

Rubber ring, rubber ring, rubber ring, rubber ring

I interpret that the ring in the chorus is used to symbolise a wedding ring. This is recognizing the loyalty that the fan has with their favourite group to be akin to a marriage. However because the ring is made out of rubber which I believe is connected to the ring-shaped flotation device that was originally made out of rubber that prevented people from drowning.  Essentially this is a disposable ring that may save the lives of the fan but the fans will eventually discard and dispose when it is no longer useful to them once they have grown up.

“The passing of time
And all of its crimes
Is making me sad again
The passing of time
And all of its sickening crimes
Is making me sad again”

The passage of time will make Morrissey to remain cynical and sad as he considers the fan that “grows out” of the music to be considered a betrayal or a “sickening crime”. As all his fans will eventually move on, he will always remain the same.

“But don't forget the songs
That made you cry
And the songs that saved your life
Yes, you're older now
And you're a clever swine
But they were the only ones who ever stood by you”

This is another plea from Morrissey to his fan that even though the fan is now older, wiser and “clever” and more emotionally stable, that they should always keep his songs close to their hearts because those were the songs that stood by them and “saved” their lives  when life was rough.

“The passing of time leaves empty lives
Waiting to be filled (the passing...)
The passing of time
Leaves empty lives
Waiting to be filled
I'm here with the cause
I'm holding the torch
In the corner of your room
Can you hear me?”

However despite the passage of time leading to people growing out of listening to The Smiths, the passing of time also leaves a new generation of depressed lonely socially awkward people needing their lives to be fulfilled by someone that can empathized with them. Morrissey will always be available to comfort the new generation of fans and will hold the flame for every generation of socially awkward youths.

“And when you're dancing and laughing
And finally living
Hear my voice in your head
And think of me kindly”

He is reminding the people that when the depressed socially awkward fans finally recover to be happy with their lives to continue to remember and honour Morrissey for keeping thems afloat when times were tough.

“Do you
Love me like you used to?
Rubber ring, rubber ring, rubber ring, rubber ring

Morrissey then emotionally pleads to the fans that grew out of him whether they still love him and then lament that his songs are just the rubber ring to the fans. Just like previous Smiths songs cover the topics of shyness and social rejection and isolation, this song is about the isolation and rejection he feels about fans who previously had kinship and related with him.

“You're clever
Everybody's clever nowadays”

The audio sample plays over Morrissey lament over the chorus snidely remarking that everybody is clever, too clever for The Smiths when the teenager becomes adults.

“You are sleeping
You do not want to believe”

The song end with an enigmatic sample from an LP "Breakthrough: An Amazing Experiment In Electronic Communication With The Dead" by Latvian psychologist Konstantin Raudive that supposedly is translation of people who hear from the dead. I interpret the last line of the typical Smiths fan who do not believe in themselves and are waiting to be “awaken” by The Smiths and eventually grow out of the group.

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