Extended Thoughts: NOM and Albatross

Hell0, and welcome back as Fishboy Week continues! No, this is not a review of NOM, nor is it a review of Albatross. Instead, this article will basically be a written thought exercise as I get really nerdy and try to figure out where the songs of NOM fit in the context of Albatross. For the uninitiated, NOM was a unique album in that the only part of it that was Fishboy’s were the lyrics and vocals. You see, in the creation of Albatross, multiple different plot paths were explored, with whole songs being written, but then Eric decided that he had written himself into a corner plot-wise, or that included the song would interrupt the flow of the album, or whatever. A couple years after releasing Albatross, he went to his friends The Om Nom Noms and gave them his accapella recordings of these songs, and gave them complete freedom to do anything they wanted with them, with absolute no oversight – he just gave them his vocals, and after a couple months got a shiny finished album.

The result is a very good album that brings a new sound into the usual Fishboy repertoire while making sure things still sound undeniably Fishboy. But as stated above, I’m not here to review the album – instead, I’m going to list my guesses for each song of where in the general plot of Albatross that song would have originally fit in. Be warned – if you don’t have an intimate knowledge of both Albatross and NOM, then this review will largely not make much sense to you. Hey, I told you guys this week was going to be “maddeningly self-indulgent” – so self-indulgent I just threw in a Giant Squidstravaganza reference for no real reason.

Bricks #1: I’m going to say this upfront – I’m probably going to use the words “interesting” and “intriguing” a lot in this article, because this album is on the whole rather interesting and intriguing. That said, “Bricks #1” is, well, interesting, in terms of Albatross. It starts out with the lyrics “Life – it’s harder than you thought it’d be / Block of ice – slowly drifting out to sea”. Now, the talking about life being hard could mean that “Bricks #1” originally took place near the beginning of the album, in the “Parachute”-“Taqueria Girl” range. The metaphor about melting ice is also very reminiscent of this passage in “Race Car:

Because I don’t want to be

A fish under the sea (under the ocean)

Just waiting for the day

My life just ebbs away

And floats to the top

However, especially with the final line of “I’m never gonna be the same again”, it’s also possible that all this talk about the difficulty of life takes place not when Fishboy first leaves his room to explore the great wide world, but takes place when he’s in jail. The last line especially could take place right after “Minus One” and the discovery of The Song.

Bricks #2: This companion song to “Bricks #1” also seems to happen at the beginning of Fishboy’s journey – riding a bike across Texas seems not like an event that would happen after the great tour and robbing spree, but instead of it. There’s less for me to say about this song because there are less specifics in this song, and the one main specific – the rain of bricks, is left ambiguous as to whether or not this is a metaphor, though stranger things have definitely happened in the Fishboy universe.

Cobra Cobra: While I do have some ideas about where this song fits chronologically in Albatross, what interests me most is its thematic resonance: it seems very much like a counterpart to “Blackout/Flashback”, which was dripping in night and winter imagery, whereas “Cobra Cobra” is about reveling in the daytime, and I just find that very… interesting. As for where in the album it would have fit, it very much seems like an early song, between “Minus Two” and “Parachute”, or possibly even replacing “Minus Two” – the whole song is an exhortation that “it’s time to run and it’s time to jump”, and that it’s time wake up from the character’s 22-year stupor and fear of the outside world, because “we all wake up some day”.

Gabe Saucedo Hates My Guts: This song is very interesting to me, because one of the plot threads in Albatross that I most want to know more about is this line in “Race Car”: “And all of the friends that we’ve made / Would not be friends if they knew we were out robbing banks”. I really want to know about those friends that were made – who were they? How did the Fishboy band run across them? Were they robbing banks by day, playing house shows and crashing in some nice old lady’s guest room by night? Were any of these friends they made a character from Classic Creeps?

See, Albatross is very much a character study, and everyone else in the story is ancillary – heck, the most important secondary character (the ghost of Buddy Holly) might have just been a figment of Fishboy’s imagination, and is in some ways more of a metaphor than an actual character (more on that when the inevitable Albatross review goes up). So, it excites me to have a song that could have been in Albatross that’s all about a completely different character. I would say that “Gabe Saucedo” probably takes place in the “Hard Earned Money”-“Race Car” range – during the “we’re on an adventure!” part of Fishboy’s hero’s journey – the line about calling Gabe up, instead of going over to his house makes me think that the band is definitely on the road at this point. One wonders how much Fishboy is telling Gabe, but we are led to believe that no one (at least in the public) really knew that Fishboy and his band were master criminals until they were caught at the Proper Name Spelling Bee.

Broken Bones: Ah yes, my favorite song on the album, and definitely in my top ten Fishboy songs ever. Unfortunately, there isn’t too much to say about where this song takes place in terms of placement, because it is so couched in specifics – namely, the fact that Fishboy is now stuck in the hospital with broken bones (and broken teeth). Now, this never happens in Albatross, so we have to make some guesswork – the most obvious place is right after “Parachute” – after all, “the wrong spot could just kill a man” – things must have gone really south with the landing. However, what seems more likely to me is that this song takes place after another song on this album, “Accidents”, and I’ll discuss that more when I get there. However, I do also want to mention that “Bricks #2” also contains a reference to breaking one’s teeth, which probably isn’t relevant, but it certainly is… intriguing.

Hovercraft: This song is definitely the hardest to nail down in terms of where it fits in the Albatross story – it’s a song to an unknown person, and while it does have specifics, they don’t really fit in anywhere with Albatross, and are also generally kind of surreal in their own right. It could tell the story of Fishboy sending a message to someone, probably a loved one, that he’s breaking off from the tour or the tour is headed their way, and they can meet clandestinely. Of course, given that the Taqueria Girl is on the tour with them, this makes less sense. In fact, the songwriting style of this song harkens back to the more lovestruck but also more straight-up weird sensibilities of Zipbangboom than Albatross, which is, at the very least, interesting.

Accidents: “Accidents” is about, well, Fishboy getting in a large accident, and ending up with… “Broken Bones”. I’m pretty sure that this would have preceded “Broken Bones”, and that this whole “Fishboy Gets Heinously Injured” plot thread ended up getting dropped entirely from Albatross. However, where exactly would it have fit in the album, if it had stayed? There are a couple possibilities. At the start of the song, a parachute is mentioned, so that immediately makes on think this could have happened early in the album, before the tour even got on the road, but it’s also parachuting out of a car falling off a cliff, and not a plane. Still, it’s interesting that parachutes seem to have always been an integral part of the Albatross story.

Moreover, driving your car off a cliff and then parachuting out seems reckless and dangerous, with a high probability of death, which is very interesting when compared with the “Parachute” line “So I didn’t even think about it / Leapt with my head held high / So long, everyone who’ll never even miss me when I die”. For a band and an album with such a characteristically upbeat sound, I love how Fishboy doesn’t shy away from exploring themes like suicide. So, there’s a fair amount of evidence for this being an early song. However, the final lines offer an alternative: “I called your house to tell you where I was / And all the awful places I had been”. The line about “all the awful places” makes me think that this also could have happened after much of the adventure portion of the story, and maybe Fishboy went a little mad while on the road and drove the tour van off a nearby cliff, somewhere in-between “Blackout/Flashback” and “Half Time at the Proper Name Spelling Bee”. On the other hand, those “awful places” could just be, you know, the bottom of a cliffside, and various emergency rooms.

Larger Than Before: Like “Hovercraft”, “Larger Than Before” is also rather hard to place. There’s some definite parallels to “Blackout/Flashback” – “Another day has ended / Another night’s begun / Moonlight shines upon the ground / Reflected from the sun”, but the talk of melting ice and riding bikes reminds of “Bricks #1” and “Bricks #2”. The biggest clue we have to when this takes place is in the chorus:

And now your heart

Has grown one size

It’s larger than before

Your eyes

You have changed

This is the only real clue we have that this song is more than just an alternate “Blackout/Flashback” – there is a definite air of wrapping up, of looking back on the journey we have been through, and realizing that no only have you changed, but you have changed for the better.

Tired Tried: The last song on NOM is also one of the easier ones to place, as it is a very definitive ending song, and gives us rather intriguing insight into the main theme of Albatross – cementing the fact that at least one of them is failure and how one copes with that. “Although I have given up/ You know I’ll never quit” is very reminiscent of “Now I gotta say that I am relieved / Relieved even though I failed”. The way Albatross ends is ultimately more uplifting, but there are threads of that in “Tired Tried” as well.

Next time: Classic Creeps? Zipbangboom? Who knows? Wrock Snob out.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Arthur
    Jul 10, 2013 @ 14:24:20

    Oh my god. Seeing this made me so happy. I’m a massive Fishboy fan and reading this is like all my dreams come true. I’d love to see a good look at the story of Classic Creeps (my favourite album of all time) sometime this week!

    Reply

  2. Felix
    Jul 10, 2013 @ 17:41:13

    You have no idea how much I’m enjoying this.

    Reply

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