Mangum's opus

By CARLY CARIOLI  |  March 7, 2008

    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
    and 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.

Which begins to sound like a Mad Lib but isn't quite. Like a lot of Mangum's lyrics, it gives you the feeling he isn't sure where he's headed when he starts out and is just as surprised as you are when, at the end, he finds himself so far out in left field. As in "The King of Carrot Flowers, Pt. Three," where he's motoring along on a perfectly straight-ahead idea and then throws an impossible curve: "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."

"The songs are still just little films that I see that have a certain amount of emotion attached to them," he acknowledges, "but to explain them would be really, really difficult." Still, he gives the impression that he's determined to make sense of himself. A little further along in "The King of Carrot Flowers," he illustrates just how difficult this can be: "I will shout until they know what I mean/I mean the marriage of a dead dog sing/And a synthetic flying machine."

"There are only a couple of parts that seem to me to be pure dream-sequence type of stuff," he explains. "But 95 percent of the album is either experiences that I've had or experiences that friends have had, or historical figures -- it's all real stuff. I mean, I could write a song where I'm just farting images all over the place, but I don't think I'd be very satisfied with that. Even though when other people do that I think it's amazing. I love that, you know.

"Like, when I wrote `Oh, Comely,' I felt really great about it. I wrote it till six in the morning. I was staying at my dad's house at the time, and I was walking around the kitchen, and my dad heard me, and he's like, `What are you doing, son?' And I came in there and I said, `Well, Dad, I just wrote this song, it's really pretty freaked out.' So I played it for him and he made me feel okay about it. And I think that `Two-Headed Boy, Pt. Two' is that way, and `Holland, 1945' was that way, where I would be writing them and be feeling like things were right, and then I'd get tripped up by a line and suddenly think, `Oh my God, is this too much? Is this too fucked up? Are people gonna understand what I'm trying to say?' And it's taken seeing other people get the same reaction that I'm getting out of it to realize that I'm not just crazy."

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