Mike Gordon is fascinated with dreams. His hotline frequently mentions his methods to create lucid dreams and deal with them, as do several of his songs, especially Party Time's "Only a Dream." While "Idea" doesn't outwardly address sleeping or dreams, the song seems to still be influenced by nocturnal visions.
"Idea" presents a surreal landscape of owl tycoons – is that someone who got rich off of selling owls to zoos, or an actual avian millionaire (complete with top hat and monocle) that used its wisdom to predict fluctuations in the stock market? – and ancient crumbling oceanfront cities. The protagonist scales walls, gets into confusing arguments and is captured by a pair of knights. The underlying message below the metaphors is to not stack things up higher and higher until they collapse. It falls somewhere between a metaphor for the correct way to live and a good Jenga strategy.
Mike Gordon Band, “Idea” – 11/6/2010, Los Angeles, CA
When Moss was released in 2010, a variant of “Idea” (“Idea (Another Idea)”) was a bonus track on both iTunes and Amazon’s MP3 store. The music is similar (identical in the choruses) with different lyrics. What makes it so interesting is that it opens up a new perspective on the original song. Buried below the layers of surrealism in “Idea” is the fact that the protagonist is fighting with the person he’s singing to. “Idea (Another Idea)” makes that fight crucial; moreover what they are fighting over seems to be his inability to stay in the real world. The song starts out grounded in the real world – it even references the fact that Mike is a bass player – but as the music gets closer and closer to “Idea”’s (the song is a bit of a musical asymptote), the lyrics get weirder, until finally the chorus stops being an apology and starts becoming almost identical to the original (only replacing “stacking it up” with “hacking it up”). The character is hanging out to his “one last strand of grace,” but eventually falls back down the slippery slope of living in his imagination.
Lyrical theories aside, what caught the ear of many of those in attendance at its nTelos Pavilion debut on 6/15/10 was the outro jam after the final verse. There is potential for this section to become a massive Page and Mike funk fest. If that starts to happen then maybe it wouldn't be such a bad “Idea” to keep stacking these up. In the meantime, “Idea” has taken root and become a staple in the Mike Gordon Band repertoire.
Mike Gordon Band, “Idea” – 11/17/10, Madison, WI, 105.5 Triple M In Studio
I love this tune, and would like to suggest an alternate, albiet far stranger interpretation.
I'm pretty sure this song is about a stalker.
He sees someone he would like to get to know on the road, so he abandons what he is doing to follow her. He then climbs over walls to meet her only to get scolded, and for good reason; its a bad idea to stalk people. He then begins hiding to try to meet her, then follows her to work, then creates a stucture out of chairs to surprise her at her window, all of which reminds us that stalking is usually a bad idea. However, in the end the quarry finds herself alone and pining for company when her stalker approaches, and she rejoices and apologizes for driving him and his insatiable desire away. Moral of the story: Stalking Works!
A shade on the literal side, but it makes me laugh while I dance.