Back in the day, when the Apparatchick forum was in full swing, we discussed each of the album tracks in separate threads. I remember having a great discussion going among 10-12 people about 'Supersonic Sound'. At first we didn't know who was singing, so there was some talk about that. We also talked about how the song fit into the 'robot love story' that carries through a lot of songs on the album, and we spent a lot of time talking about the theme of the object possibly feeling unworthy of love.
Did you know
That you make the most supersonic sound
In my heart every time that you're around
That I can't shut you down?
This is such an uncommon yet oddly beautiful way of expressing love. The phrases 'did you know' and 'in my heart' are both as organic as you can get, and the phrases 'supersonic sound' and 'shut you down' both seem rather technical/inorganic, so it's an interesting juxtaposition. I remember writing in the discussion thread something about how I thought that these lines express 'an amazing attraction', and I still believe that, because I know just what that feels like. When you're around this person, you are so drawn to them that everything else is muted, and maybe this feeling is so pronounced that it can be difficult to concentrate enough even to make small talk - with them or with anyone else who may be around. All you want to do is be close to them, listen to their voice, absorb the warmth of their smile, feel their arms around you. If you've ever been tongue-tied around your crush, I imagine it like that, only x100 ;-)
But I've also come to wonder about the overwhelming nature of this sound - that it could indicate a wonderful and profound love for sure, but the idea of it being uncontrollable or unstoppable doesn't sound all that wonderful, does it? Why would the subject try to shut down the sound in their heart, unless it is something they want to stop feeling? Why would anyone want to stop feeling a love that is so profound and encompassing? And if you have seen the video, the image of the heart shaped sponge dripping red everywhere makes this love/attraction seem pretty painful, actually. I could only ever come up with the theory that wanting to shut down the sound and the painful imagery in the video have to do with the loneliness of living with so much love and devotion locked inside because the object is either unaware of it ('did you know?') or too scared to accept it ('happiness you shouldn't be feeling'). I guess there could be other reasons someone would want to stop feeling this love - for example if their love is in love with someone else, or if a relationship between them is otherwise somehow impossible - but that doesn't sound like the case here.
This part of the song always reminds me of the Carbon Leaf song, 'Life Less Ordinary'. If you haven't heard it before, you can find it here. Part of the refrain goes:
The night you came into my life
Well it took the bones of me, took the bones of me
You blew away my storm and strife
And shook the bones of me, shook the bones of me
Such a unique way of telling someone that you love them - it's powerful and yes, a little overwhelming. She showed up and changed everything, became a safe harbor for him - and unsettled him to the core. It sounds both wonderful and intense, like 'supersonic sound'. Is love meant to shake you, is it meant to render you powerless? Or am I thinking too much (as usual) and the only intent in these lines is to convince someone how deeply they are loved?
Back to SS:
Did you know
That you've been led to believing
That there's happiness you shouldn't be feeling
Like this love?
Did you run
'Cause you thought that you
didn't deserve it,
but you knew deep inside
that you'd earned it?
We spent the most time on the forum thread discussing these lines. It's so sad to think of someone who has a chance at happiness and shies away from it because they've been told it's wrong somehow, or they won't admit it to themselves because of what they've heard from others about what is or isn't possible. Add to that the fact that the object is clearly wrestling with her own sense of worth, not daring to claim love because she doesn't feel good enough, and it's clear that something major has to happen for them to get together - but it's not impossible. There is potential for an enduring, passionate love, but if she is afraid to admit her feelings, or if she is so busy trying to hide them that she doesn't see his love for her, it will be difficult for him to help her break down those insecurities and outside perceptions so they can finally be together.
We're both alone tonight
We're both alone tonight
Is that what you wanted?
Is that what you wanted?
Did you choose to choose?
Is that what you wanted?
This is so forlorn and sorrowful. And the worst part is not just the loneliness - because we all have times of loneliness when we are away from loved ones - it's the fact that the subject doesn't know if his love wanted to be with him or not. He is convinced that they could have something wonderful together, and he seems to understand her insecurities so well, but despite all that conviction and love, he still doesn't know the one thing he needs to know: does she love him or not?
It's possible this is a kind of 'love declaration' song, but somehow to me it sounds more like an inner monologue - in my opinion, he's wondering all these things, not actually saying them out loud to her. Whereas in LLO (the other song I mentioned above), he has already told her how he feels:
My face had said too much
Before our hands could even touch
To greet a 'hello'
(So much for going slow...)
If you've ever been in love with someone and felt you had to hide it for some reason, maybe until you had some clue about how they felt, this may sound like a familiar experience ;-) You greet your secret love by saying something safe yet warm, like 'It's so good to see you', when what you really want to say is 'We belong together' or 'Your smile makes my heart do little flips'. Then you make small talk, carefully avoiding any topics which may seem too personal or reveal too much about how deeply you care about them, which only leaves the most superficial and unsatisfying topics, yet that's all that's open to you unless you want to play all your cards. And maybe you also try to avoid making too much eye contact for fear that one accidental, soul-baring glance will make your feelings obvious and render things awkward between you both, you know, forever ;-) But in the song, he hasn't even had a chance to say that safe-yet-warm hello before his feelings were out in the open. Poor guy!
To make things worse, he later tells her he loves her and she doesn't feel the same way:
A little later on that year
I told you that I loved you dear
What do you know?
This you weren't prepared to hear
I'm a saddened man, I'm a broken boy
I'm a toddler with a complex toy
I've fallen apart, since the ambush on your heart
He has spent time with her, his already very strong feelings growing naturally over time, only to declare his love and find out she 'wasn't prepared' for this - it's not clear if she cares about him but not in a romantic way, or if she is falling in love with him but needs more time for her feelings to develop. You might think this is the worst case scenario, risking everything only to be rejected on some level, but it could have been this situation, where he tells his love too late ('my chance of being open was broken / and now you're Mrs. him'). Isn't it better to take the risk and find out for sure, than to wait too long - or stay silent - and always wonder how the other person feels or what could have been? If you trust that your love will treat your feelings with sensitivity and respect no matter how they feel about you romantically, then you can try to find your courage and tell your love how you feel, and move forward in some direction and stop standing still.
Anyway, he hasn't given up, so she must have given him some kind of reason to hope:
If I could name you in this song
Would it make you smile and sing along?
This is the goal: to get into your soul
If I could make you dance for joy
Could that be the second-chance decoy?
The bird-in-hand I would need
To help you understand?
These lines make me wonder if it is another case of the woman not being convinced that she is loved and/or worthy of love, because he has already declared his feelings, and yet he is looking for a way to 'help her understand'. Unfortunately I think it may be all too common for women to question their worth like this, because of society's constant focus on our appearance and status and beauty and success. He could be completely lovesick for her, but if she doesn't feel worthy of it, there would always be an imbalance between them. (reminds me a bit of this previous post) So his solution is to build her up and make sure she knows without a doubt how he feels - by writing a song that makes her dance for joy, and give her a glimpse of what their love could be like :-)
There are interesting parallels and differences between these songs. As I've said before, the themes of longing and loneliness in popular music are so pervasive and engaging for people, but these are pretty unique examples IMO. Even after five years, 'Supersonic Sound' is one of my top five listened tracks in iTunes, so I thought it was time I finally wrote something about it :-)