Come Back, All Is Forgiven

Analyzing a joke is like dissecting a frog, in the end they both die.

Woody Allen

Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.

Martin Mull

Against all good advice, I plan to dissect every lyric in Custard's 2015 album, "Come Back, All Is Forgiven". I don't intend to shy away from continual and utterly-incorrect over-analysis.

A long time ago, when you were just a little kid, I helped a man named DF Hannah write a series of zines about the band Custard. The philosophy of the zine was that we would approach the band's work from all sorts of angles, but always avoid self-indulgence, avoid trying to make ourselves a part of the story. (We didn't always succeed at that.)

Well, for this analysis, I'm going to turn my back on that idea and go Full Gonzo. If a thing is worth thinking about, it's also worth over-thinking.

Orchids in Water

I woke up on the road again,
my hands upon the wheel.
I turned towards my passenger and said,
"Well this must be how it feels?"

This album, unlike any other Custard album LP or single, begins with music and lyrics simultaneously starting at 0:00. I don't know of any other album, by anyone, that does this.

Many albums begin with a "gentle startup". Silence, slowly giving rise to music. Often there is a walking introduction from one instrument (think of the ascending riff at the start of Wahooti), or a vocal "1-2-3-4". Such a start serves as a way for the musicians to synchronise their timing. Sometimes there is a wall of sound, with guitar, drum and bass exploding to life. But never is there drums, guitar, bass and vocals, instantly at full pace, medium volume, as if we've just walked into a room, half way through a ballad. It's sudden. And I think the reason for such a beginning is embedded in that first verse.

Have you ever woken up, while driving? Suddenly, everything is happening, all at once, and you have a dawning realisation that you've just experienced a micro-sleep.

Microsleeps, and the dangers of driving while tired, were brought to the public mind in Australia during a series of televised warnings from Australia's most well known scientician, Dr Karl Kruszelnicki. The montage at the end of this example shows that feeling of suddenly waking (though with more drama than in the lyrics)

Dr Karl is a popular radio broadcaster, aligned with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). I think he's the scientific patron of this album, as his influence arrives in a few more places during the album. ABC meanwhile are the copyright holders of the album.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation logo

So here we have our narrator, David McCormack, waking up on the highway, driving.

Songs that mention driving are frequent in the Custard cannon (Sarsparilla, Bedford, Nice Bird, Truth about Drugs... need I go on), and also popular in the country genre. Aligning with both notions, this song has a distinctive country feel. This pop-country philosophical story telling is also evocative of the Go-Betweens. OK. I didn't think I'd bring it up so early. But Grant McLennan and Robert Forster have a place in the heart of this band and this album as well.

Round and round? where have we heard that lyric...

On to the chorus:

Orchids in water
They go round and round my mind

What are these orchids in water? Reminiscent of the viral facebook postings of your soppiest friends, with some kind of feel-good "follow your heart, be true to yourself" tripe written in a cursive font over a soft-focus background image of lotus flowers on water. Thoughts of mortality, reminiscences of scenes from your life, fears, insecurities.

Orchid message

That's what I think the narrator's invoking. But I could be less than 100% correct.

(Incidentally, the Blue Orchids are an English post-punk band that played with the Go Betweens, three times, in 1982 in Norway, Stockholm and London. Just a coincidence? I certainly think so.)


Boy don't they warn you
all the time

These frequent warnings may be a further reference to the microsleep warning campaign. And the constant warning from the sight of white crosses on the side of the highway (a common leitmotif in australian music).

My hands are tired
my eyes are weak

While tiredness and sore eyes are all signs of driver fatigue, they're also signs of parenthood and the onset of middle age. I know these symptoms well. Recent publicity stills show that DM has picked up a pair of spectacles.

Custard 2015

it's been hot in here for days
the air-conditioner is on the blink
and the fans they all took away

There's three possible meanings here:

A lengthy road trip in a car with faulty air conditioning. We've all been there, it's a little hell on wheels.

Or it could be a dig at the recording process, putting this album together. Air conditioners and fans are problematic when recording, and studios can end up very hot places.

It could just as well be a story about life in an office. Air conditioners often go on the blink, but office managers won't allow people to use ad-hoc circulating fans, because of the increased fire risk from uncontrolled electric appliances.


Musical interlude. Nice twangy guitar riffs, one taking over from another. Very simple, very laid back. Clean, effortless. The entire album has a wonderful effortlessness to it.

I will not pass this way again
I can promise that for sure

Now we're getting into some heavy philosophising. You might recognise this sentiment as being from a famous quotation:

I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being; let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.

Stephen Grellet

...a saying that has long been associated with Quaker philosophy (and long predates Grellet). But a more likely place for David to have picked up this sentiment is from his father's record collection. No doubt the Cusdad, Ian McCormack, spun this fine tune once or twice during David's formative years:

The once-popular tune, from Glen Campbell is lifted straight from the original Quaker saying.

And everything I've given back
Was what I wanted even more.

...and this has a similar philosophical ring to it. To my mind it evokes this quote, often misattributed to Richard Bach,

If you want something very, very badly, let it go free. If it comes back to you, it's yours forever. If it doesn't, it was never yours to begin with.

Jess Lair

And this line gets to the theme of the album, if the album has one. A remembrance of things past, in search of lost time. The notion of involuntary memory: the things which we ignore in daily life, but that arise in our dreams, or are evoked against our wishes and crowd themselves into the mental stream of our inner life.

And that's what it is to hear a Custard album in 2015. Memories long ignored arise. Feelings forgotten are instantly recalled. A wall of sound erupts as you push open the door to Ric's cafe. Excited chatter, familiar faces, expensive beer, art on the walls. Things forgotten arise again.


Orchids in water
they go round and round my mind
And if you wanna stop here I'll be fine.

If you're tired, the advice written in driver's education handbooks used to be: pull over and go for a walk. Eventually this advice was changed. (And we'll come back to the drivers' education handbook later in the album). The advice now is that if you're tired, exhausted, wiped out (...sounds like a typical parent, on a good day), you should find somewhere safe to stop the vehicle and have a rest.

Orchids in water On the line...

Doo-wop chorus in the background.

We Are The Parents (Our Parents Warned Us About)

So this is

Fast tempo drums, slow tempo lyrics.

How we will

Reminiscent of Sinatra Theory?

Bring in the
new year

I'm disappointed that this is what new year has become. In middle age, you're lucky if you make it to eleven o'clock.

"I know," she suggests, "let's call 8 O'Clock midnight, we can celebrate with the kids, have a count down and everything, then all go to bed at a reasonable hour." What if I don't want to go to bed at a reasonable hour!? What if I'm not feeling reasonable! What if I'd just rather.... (Dad falls asleep mid-sentence. It's 8:15pm. He's been cranky for days, he missed his midday nap, poor dear).

Sea grass matting
on a cement floor

Childhood in the 70s. The smell of the sea grass matting.

Seagrass matting on a cement floor

I thought for sure
You already knew

Every pet
We ever had
will come back one day

Did you have any pets in your childhood? Did you have a pet dog? If so, how did that story end? It was a tragedy wasn't it. Every pet dog story has a tragic ending. They grow up so fast.

But what is this lyric really about? Resurrection for pets? Is it some kind of homage to Stephen King's Novel Pet Sematary, or the film it inspired?

Pet Sematary

Even I don't think that, so I don't see how you could let your imagination make such an extraordinary leap.

Could it be a reference to Pet Sounds, the legendary Beach Boys album, that often tops lists of the greatest albums of all time. That seems unlikely.

I think it's the eternal return of our memories. The pets live! But only in our memories.

I sing that song
so bad

You can play along
with ice cream tubs for drums Oh yeah

Cusdad was a groovy guy in his time, never stopped being groovy. See David and Dylan playing along to dad's music, using their ice cream tubs for drums, on the sea-grass matting on a concrete floor, downstairs.

One review referred to the 'snapshot lyrics' -- well the above lyric is practically a faded Polaroid, and could be from anyone's childhood in Queensland in the '70s.

I don't know how it started
I've got no idea how it will end
but we must have made a deal with someone
either up above
or down
we've scored one more night to
make amends

What are we talking about here? It's problematic. I'm uncertain. I think we're talking about the album itself. The idea of being granted "one more night to make amends."

Of course there's a reference to Faust. Is it Marlowe's Faust or Goethe's Faustus?


It's vaguer than that: just the general idea of making a deal with the devil.

And the deal could be with heaven or hell: so it might be a 'twist of fate' style deal with an Angel.

How did it start? How did the deal, a new record, come about? It seems like a pretty safe bet for ABC music to have taken on. A massive amount of the entertainment economy is driven by repackaging and reinvention of nostalgia. Star Wars, Marvel, James Bond and so on. Music festivals seemed to have filled up with bands from 15 years ago: I paid many dollars to see Blur in Melbourne recently, and it was worth every penny. Giving Custard one more chance is a great deal for everyone. The aging fanbase may not go out as often they used to, but their combined disposable income is greater than what is was in the band's first heyday.

we are the parents
our parents warned us about

On to the chorus: here we have exactly the sort of lyric that is accused of being "too clever".

This has long been a criticism levelled at Custard, and it's a sad indictment either of the Australian listening public, or, more likely, of the average Australian rock journalist's opinion about the intellectual power of the Australian listening public.

But now we can get onto the song that I haven't seen mentioned by anyone else. Jimmy Buffet, "We are the people our parents warned us about."

In that song, we've let our parents down by failing to become a Jesuit priest, or a naval academy grad. But what is it that this song is calling out about us? What is it that the narrator has done to bring on his parents scorn:

we can spell
"scientist" correctly

The trick with 'scientist', in case you're new at this, is that the old rule "'i' before 'e' except after 'c'" is broken. There is a "c". and yet the 'i' still goes before the 'e'. Weird. (Weird also that weird also breaks this weird rule).

It's one thing to spell Scientist correctly, but can you spell 'Kruszelnicki' without having to look it up? I certainly can't.

And other commentators have linked the use of the word Scientist here with this lyric from 'Girls like that (don't go for guys like us)': That Julio Iglesias/He just ain't scientific

and know all your local
codes exactly

What sort of codes are we referring to here? This entire epistle is an effort to find hidden codes: so now we have the word code explicitly mentioned, I could too easily go off on a long tangent about the history of cryptography, steganography, black chambers, hyperapophenia and so forth: but I won't.

It could mean post-codes, but it could just as well mean local building codes. If anyone in the band knows all of the local building codes exactly it would be Glenn Thompson, qualified carpenter. In Glenn's lyrics you'll find many references to the experience of a carpenter; but we'll get to that soon enough.

unless I'm mistaken
I can hear
thunder near
hey hey hey

"Hey Hey It's Saturday" was a popular and long-running television show that was a part of Australia's national identity for a long time. The host Daryl Somers, was a drummer, and drummed with Custard live and off air. It is very unlikely that the words "Hey hey hey" in this song are a reference to Daryl Somers, but I wanted to mention the connection.

The Jimmy Buffet song 'we are the people our parents warned us about' also has a few "Hey hey"s thrown in for good measure. Maybe Jimmy Buffet was also referencing Daryl Somers.

i don't know how it started
i've got no idea how it will end
but we must have made a deal with someone
either up above or down
and scored one more night to make amends

We are the parents our parents warned us about

oh yeh
oh yeh.
Woooh oooh oooh ooh.

Warren Rd

Onto track 3 and we pass the microphone from David McCormack to Glenn Thompson.

There are those who would say that Glenn has the more melodic voice. I do not have a good set of ears, so I will simply say that it is good sometimes to have a change of voice, in the same way that Lennon and McCartney gave continuous variety to the sound of a Beatles album.

When we bought our apartment in Warren road
we never knew it would test our moral code

Glenn's rhymes are tight because his songs are very well structured. He is a carpenter after all. Look at these smooth lines. Soon we'll see something even cleverer.

Note too that he starts with vocals and guitars, and there are no drums until the chorus. Measure twice, cut once.

With its windows wide and its ceilings high
and its backyard trees pointing to the sky

Glenn could be a realtor. He has taken us, in a few short words, on a grand tour of this fine apartment. I am ready to move in, just show me where to sign.

Here again, as before he reveals his carpenter's eye. (Remember these classic carpetner's line from 'Piece of Shit': Ripping up the Carpet Tiles/Greeted by a lonely smile/And the foundations seemed so solid/But the roof was always leaking)

it was touch and go
till we found our home
now we dance to the music at night

Great realtors don't simply sell the location, they sell the lifestyle. By highlighting the music at night, he's greatly enhanced the sell-ability of this property.

he said "Glenn my tramp' is a private one,
you can bounce on it when your kids are gone

In case you missed it, "tramp" here is an abbreviation for "trampoline". A neighbour has extended an open invitation permitting Glenn to enjoy the gentleman's private tumbling equipment. Some commentators have seen in this an obvious sexual overture, but I'd hold off on that angle for now.

don't say 'Hello' to my crazy wife
'cause she doesn't even want you in her life."

So here we have a little tension in suburbia. Reminiscent of 'The Slap' (produced by ABC TV) or Lantana.

It's in the above line that we find the test of the Thompson's moral code. Should you befriend the husband in spite of the wife? What's going on in your apartment block? Are there crimes afoot? Who's really the crazy one? Clearly the husband is Gaslighting the wife.


it was touch and go
till we found our home
now we dance to the music at night

Musical interlude. This is a country album.

It was touch and go
till we found our home
now we dance
to the music at night

And into the bridge via a neat dove-tail joint. No glue. Perfectly crafted.

In this little micro climate
a furry grey feline pet
might be enough to start a war

if you don't like it here
you can sell and go
and i hope you don't mind that I tell you so

This sentiment is dangerously close to the white supremacist chant of "Australia: If you don't love it, Leave." but may simply represent an unbounded enthusiasm for the environs of Warren Rd.


cause the bins are on fire and they might explode
but i've called the authorities and let 'em know

Those rascally local kids.

Who amongst us can honestly say she has never been responsible for a bin set on fire?

As I was putting these notes together a news article came through concerning Marrickville. Police intercepted a man in Marrickville, carrying a Thompson (no relation?) submachine gun. I expect he was headed for Warren Rd.

It was touch and go
till we found our home
now we dance
to the music at night

Record Machine

Hey baby get away
from the record machine

The record machine here may refer to a machine which presses recordings into vinyl. Of course it's simpler to assume it just means a record "player", or any sort of music player.

The working title of the "We have the technology" album was "Hello Machine" (also Track 5 of that album).

RockingHorse Records, Brisbane

The album "Come back all is forgiven" is available on every conceivable media, including vinyl. I ordered my copy from Rocking Horse records, where the guy behind the counter said "Better get in quick, it's a pretty limited run." And regarding the album he said "Isn't it great, it's like they never left."

Once, long before you were born, record stores were the heart of a city's youth culture. It was such a brief period of history, and there is very little trace of it left in Brisbane for example.

The record exchange, Adelaide St
The record exchange, Adelaide St

I found an extensive essay on the topic, by Bruce Anthon, former owner of Kent Records. It's now only available on the Wayback machine: Revolution Rock Oral History of Brisbane Music 1942-present

Bruce is a mate of mine. I worked out while writing this article that he was the first drummer in the Go-Betweens. Mind blown.

got a pocket full of cash
and my suit of kerosene

Kerosene, also known as paraffin or lamp oil, is a combustible household product. The word "kerosene" is a very cool word to use in a song, where "paraffin" is not. Kerosene is widely used in Japan as a home heating fuel. In Japan, kerosene can be readily bought at any petrol station. Japan arises elsewhere in this song.

tried to leave you but it's taking too long
spent my money on a popular song
I had enough now
I wanna go home

Maybe it's time to go home?

Here's John Swingle, singing and drumming to the song "Maybe it's time to go home," with Treehouse. He also sung this song with another band, I think it was Small Fantasy, but I'd need to check with DF.

John Swingle

The Swingle, who remains perhaps the greatest undiscovered talent that Brisbane ever created, was mentioned in the first track of "We have the technology" where-in his lyrics were repurposed. The song "Maybe it's time to go home" mentions vinyl records with the line: "Frank Sinatra, wearing out the old gramaphone."

cut it out again
five hours later
i'm sitting with your Japanese friend
running out of time
picking up the pencils pixels she sends

Candy Japan is an interesting online business that sends you a random assortment of Japanese candies each month. After reaching $10K a month in recurring revenue they branched out into sending random stationery as well, from PenJapan. Read more here. I assume (and therefore am correct in supposing) that this lyric is about PenJapan.

On closer examination the lyric is "pixels", not "pencils". So this song is about receiving digital assets, possibly audio or graphic files.

tried to leave you but it's taking too long
spent my money on a rock'n'roll song
heart replacement
let me go home

Note the word "heart." More on that later.

cut it out again


and I've got some fears
I haven't thought of yet

When you're crafting material for a new album, you need to dig deep through your back catalogue of anxieties, neuroses, breakups, breakdowns and life lessons, to see what you can distil, repackage and record.

I don't wanna understand
I don't wanna know about your plan

I have my suspicions about this song: it may be about a man recuperating from heart surgery. He doesn't want to know more about health plans, he just wants to get home. He's exasperated with the hospital and surgical staff, who won't let him leave, and keep asking things like "do you have any more questions?"

I'm happy watching the water boil
I love the way the water dances

It is interesting to watch water boil. I think this particular lyric is reminiscent of the kind of quirky messages from the Bedford era.

Here's a grandiose feature film of water boiling:

ah ha
tried to leave you but it's taking too long
spent my money on a rock n roll song
heart replacement so let me go home

cut it out again
i've got ideas
i've got ideas

I've got ideas too. Too numerous to mention.

If You Would Like To

Chief said "Davey make me a play list for my wedding day"
So I did
but he didn't like it

The local custard-lore aficionado DF says that "Chief" refers to "Dave Brown" the first manager of the band. I think he was also involved in the band C.O.W (Country or Western) which had Glenn Thompson and Dave McCormack.

This half-spoken half-sung intro is a little bit crap. Sorry. The tune that follows is a sweet little pop ditty, reminiscent of "Short Pop Song" and other tiny album fillers.

So I bit my tongue and let it bleed for ages

Similar to "bit my fingers 'til my fingers bled" line from "Paul's Got a Girlfriend"

Then I came up with this

oh let the sunshine in
hold my hand

Similar to "I will, hold your hand" -- first lyrics from Wahoot Fandango.

and we can make another plan
with the best of intentions
and high above the house
where the clouds all hang about

Similar to the film clip for 'Pack for Suitcases', from 1994:

you can jump into my hands if you would like to

Matthew guitar solo, and then the above repeats.

oh fall into my hands if you would like to.


(This is my favourite song on the album)

smiled and took my hand

It's possible that the Catherine mentioned in this song is fictional, or an amalgam of several people. But I like to think it's a real person, and Catherine is her real name.

Whos Gerald

Perusing the 'History of Custard' (pdf) zine the other night, in search of Catherine, I found that Paul and David's university band "Who's Gerald?" featured one Cathy Atthow on drums. (I think she also contributed violin on Wahooti). Reading this story of Who's Gerald it sounds like they were a popular party band amongst UQ students. But this Cathy is not that Cathy: the lyrics later in the song indicate an Ipswich locale and the Spring Hill reference doesn't quite fit.

Popularity of the name "Catherine" according to Wolfram Alpha.

Most Catherine's I know are older than me. Perusing the US census data from Wolfram Alpha, popularity of the name Catherine peaked in the 1950s. Ipswich is of course behind the rest of the world, so the name probably peaked a decade or so later there.

said she could understand
what all the rules were here for

I think Catherine was a slightly older lady that acted as a driving instructor to the young and awkward Dave. Admittedly this is probably incorrect, but as far as good theories go, I think it's great, so I'm sticking to it.

I think Jarvis Cocker, in his prime, could've made a pretty awesome song about having a sexually charged encounter with his wise driving instructor. But even then it would not be as good as this song. This song is very good.

In that Datsun van

Datsun is now owned by Nissan. In the 70s and 80s they were a very popular make, helping the rise of the Japanese automobile in the Australian market.

The Urvan and the Cherry were two van models that were popular in the early 80s. Of course the ultimate Japanese van of the era was the Suzuki Bongo.

we gaffed together
at the top of the range in Toowoomba

Toowoomba See and Do

The Great Dividing Range is the topic of many a boring lesson in primary school, as it has broad effects on the history, geography and climate of the east coast of Australia. In South-East queensland, the town of Toowomba is situated on the range, with spectacular views of the surrounding plains.

Come back all is forgiven

As a lyric in an album that represents a comeback, this is particularly poignant.

and in my dreams at night
I swear you were the one

Freud's "The Interpretation of Dreams" was the first major attempt at a systematic understanding of dreams, and Freud's first approach of the psychodynamic theory, and the theory of the unconscious mind. In essence, dreams reveal the inner life of the mind, the unconscious thoughts that are not available to us during our waking life, and in particular they emerge as a form of Wish Fulfillment, revealing our deepest wishes.

And here is where we find Catherine now. She doesn't exist in Dave's waking life, she has no part in his conscious reality. But, without his permission, she continues to arise in his dreams. He is almost surprised that such an otherwise meaningless tryst has such a permanent effect on his psyche.

from 1991

1991 is not just a year, it is also a good lyric, with its palindromic structure. It's possible that 1991 is used in place of the actual year, which could've been earlier. This lyric, and the theme of the song, remind me heavily of Iggy Pop's "Candy". ("It's a rainy afternoon, 1990, big city... Jees it's been 20 years, Candy" and "all your life you're haunting me")

But there's another song about a girl that springs to mind here.

Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne", a song which uses the real name of a real person, but is more opaque to interpretation than either "Candy" or "1990's".

this DJ's got me falling in love again forever

and I'm thinking about ya
by 1992 there was nothing I could do
okay okay okay I think it's over

Kate came
'round to see Spring Hill

54 Bradley St Spring Hill

54 Bradley Street, Spring Hill, to be exact.

I'm taking any information about this, and images, from the writing of DF

Apparently there was a house there, owned by David's parents, and it's where the band would practice in the early days.

Here's a shot from Google Street View just now.

52 Bradley street Spring Hill (April 2015)

Notice the curious absence of a brass plaque commemorating the important place this building has in history.

we talked about her father until

This line makes me think that Catherine was a family friend...

she asked me for a vodka and cola

...and she was either nervous, or a dipsomaniac, or both.

we stayed upstairs
just talking for an hour
and then she said "i'll see you later."
I never saw her again

There are many lines that contend for the title of "Saddest Lyric Ever Written."

From "The dog up and died; he up and died - after twenty years he still grieves." (Mr Bojangles) To "Hello darkness, my old friend..." (the sounds of silence) To Irving Berlin's "All alone By the telephone."

But the saddest line in the history of writing is simply this:

I never saw her again.


and in my dreams at night
I swear you were the one
from 1991
man this DJ's got me falling in love again forever
and I'm thinking about ya
by 1992 there was nothing I could do
okay okay I think it's over

oh Catherine
all is forgiven
you call this living?
on your own

oh catherine
all you've been given
in my dreams
at night I swear you were the one
from 1991
man this DJ's got me falling in love again forever
and i'm thinking about ya
by 1992 there was nothing I could do
Okay okay I think it's over

Contemporary Art

Another Glenn song which feels like a follow up to "Music is Crap". This time exploring the business of art.

Contemporary Art
Old fashioned business

Glenn is an artist, adept with the brush. He painted the cover of We Have The Technology, and I'm sure that he's been shown at a few galleries (or at least cafes) in his time.

Somewhere in the liner notes of one of Custard's singles there's a drawing of two hands, one labelled "Art" and the other "Business" engaged in a firm handshake. I'll try and track it down one day.

There's a hole you can see through it
You wanna fill it? well this invoice should do it.

Contemporary Art
Old fashioned business
It's a shape, it's distorted
The price is very very very important

The price is not simply important. It is very very very important.

Contemporary Art
Old fashioned business
It's an 11 minute video of me
entitled "Untitled Number 50, Number 53"

Here we have a use of what the punters call "Irony". On the one hand, the item is 'untitled' indicating a kind of disinterest and nonchalance, on the part of the artist. But on the other hand, the artist is at great pains to point out that it is entitled "Untitled Number 53". 11 minutes is also pretty damn self-indulgent.

Contemporary Art
Old fashioned business
You want something new for your hall?
Dude, I only do stuff that's like 10 metres tall

Jeff Koons Puppy Bilbao

This verse (and the next) remind me in particular of Artist/Businessman Jeff Koons.

Contemporary Art
Old fashioned business
You want some art in your house?
How about this giant inflatable marsupial mouse?

There's a bit of artwork out there concerning giant inflatable rodents, marsupial or otherwise.


Imagine this guy (Scabby The Rat) learing out at you from the top of the stairs:

Scabby The Rat

Contemporary Art
Old fashioned business
Mmm such a big hit in Venice

Glenn is pointing out that whenever someone claims that a thing was a big hit in (some other place), you need to be very wary. This is a particular weak case of an argument from authority. This album contains quite a bit more on the topic of Argument from Authority, but let's examine this specific case first:


Claiming that a thing is good because it is a "big hit in Venice" is likely to be presented in a way that is non-verifiable. The claim itself is so non-specific that it cannot be factually countered. Let's assume, for argument's sake, that the thing was indeed popular with a crowd of people in Venice. Why does that matter? Why does that grant the thing any bankable value? Are the people of Venice in fact reliable as a proxy for decisions around artistic purchases? Venice is certainly beautiful for geographic and historical reasons: but do the current occupants deserve the credit? It's very tenuous to propose that they do.

You oughta see "8 Russians Playing Tennis"

I imagine "8 Russians Playing Tennis" to be a performance piece, that involves, perhaps, a bunch of Russians, let's say: 8 of them, playing a sport, possibly involving a racket and a yellow ball.

Contemporary Art
Contemporary Art

Queensland University

Me, I studied psychology

DM lays out his academic credentials here in order to prepare us for the claims which he will make later in the song. He is not simply a pundit espousing a viewpoint: he is bringing the full weight of his tertiary studies to bear, when analyzing both the domestic disputes and the onscreen judgements which come to light.

in Brisbane in the 1980's
at Queensland University

The learning institution in question is called "The University of Queenlsand", not "Queensland University", but I'll allow it, for reasons of poetic license.

Checking with noted historian DF's "History of Custard", it seems that this claim holds up.


to wit: "David Liam McCormack B.A., completed his degree in 1989"

"Oh I will shut you up badly"
said my neighbour to my other neighbour

So at this point we're overhearing a domestic dispute in an adjacent apartment. Such urban shenanigans counterpoint the scenes in "Warren Rd", and harken back to the Go-Between's "Streets of Your Town" (Watch the butcher shine his knives/And this town is full of battered wives)

"I will tell your mum," she said
And then there was some yelling
And a glass was thrown
And later, I heard the vacuum cleaner

The disagreement rose to a violent crescendo. And now, as is typical of domestic violence, the evidence is being removed.

And went back to watching 'The Voice'
I never, I never, I never ever watch 'The Voice'

Australian reality talent television show "The Voice" premiéred in 2012. The show begins with blind auditions, moves onto coaching and competitive rounds, and includes live performances and career-changing prizes for the winners. The coaches and judges are allegedly "all noteworthy recording artists", and it is this which DLM disputes.

And Ricki-Lee is not an authority
Ricki-Lee is not an authority
Ricki-Lee is not an authority

Ricki-Lee Coulter was a coach in the first season of 'The Voice' (and maybe other seasons too). Ricki-Lee's career was kick-started by placing in the top 60 of "Popstars Live!", then making it through to the semi-finals of "Australian Idol".

Custard have long stood in opposition to the manufactured products of the mainstream music industry. Regarding their early single, "Aloha Tambourist", which used male models to parody boy bands, Dave McCormack said:

"That video got more air-play for us on Video Smash Hits than any other video we'd ever made. All of a sudden everyone was saying, 'Wow, this Custard are a great looking band.’ And they're thinking, ‘This is fantastic — they're playing that new teen-beat music called Grunge'. Then they found out it wasn't us and we were probably never played again. They couldn't believe that we were pretending to be something that we're not, whereas they manufacture act after act to be something that they're not. It's just full of hypocrisy."

When gauging the impact of an academic journal, an "Impact Factor" is used, which measures the number of times the journal is cited. But my favored technique for gauging the authority of an individual is to look at their Erdős-Bacon Number:

A person's Erdős-Bacon number is the sum of one's Erdős number-which measures the "collaborative distance" in authoring mathematical papers between that person and Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdős-and one's Bacon number-which represents the number of links, through roles in films, by which the individual is separated from American actor Kevin Bacon. The lower the number, the closer a person is to Erdős and Bacon.

Ricki-Lee's Erdős-Bacon number is essentially infinite. And I assume this is what the lyric is referring to.

Dave Grohl summed up the feelings of many musicians on the topic of reality talent shows:

When I think about kids watching a TV show like American Idol or The Voice, then they think, 'Oh, OK, that's how you become a musician, you stand in line for eight fucking hours with 800 people at a convention center and… then you sing your heart out for someone and then they tell you it's not fuckin' good enough.' Can you imagine?" he implores. "It's destroying the next generation of musicians! Musicians should go to a yard sale and buy and old fucking drum set and get in their garage and just suck. And get their friends to come in and they'll suck, too. And then they'll fucking start playing and they'll have the best time they've ever had in their lives and then all of a sudden they'll become Nirvana. Because that's exactly what happened with Nirvana. Just a bunch of guys that had some shitty old instruments and they got together and started playing some noisy-ass shit, and they became the biggest band in the world. That can happen again! You don't need a fucking computer or the internet or The Voice or American Idol.

Dave Grohl

music continues...

And shortly, before the new millennium,
I went to the fortune teller

Notice that it is not just 'a' fortune teller, but 'the' fortune teller.

There is only one fortune teller who is so well-regarded that they can be referred to as the fortune teller. I refer of course to Nostradamus.

"Michel de Nostredame" lived from 1503 to 1566. In order to visit him, the singer would've needed to use a time travel device. We know of course that Custard have just such a device: they revealed this on Loverama.

and she said:

...which is strange because Nostradamus is usually referred to by masculine pronouns.

nothing I do would be good
until 2012

2012 was widely regarded to bring about the end of the world, or a Ghostbusters remake. Neither of which occurred, as far as we know.

So I, I never tried one bit
Well maybe I shoulda
Yeh maybe I should, Oh
But what if, but what if, but what if, the fortune teller was right
And ever and ever and ever and everything I did was wrong
Still Ricki-lee is not an authority
Ricki-lee is not an authority
Ricki-lee is not an authority

There's a turn-about in this lyric, whereby the narrator concedes, even if nothing I do is any good, Ricki-Lee is still not an authority.

This twist is similar to the punchline of an old joke, allegorically attributed to Winston Churchill:

Churchill had been drinking heavily at a party when he bumped into a political rival, Bessie Braddock. "Mr. Churchill!", Braddock said harshly, "You are drunk!"
Churchill responded, "And Bessie, you are ugly." and after a pause, added, "but I'll be sober in the morning."


And if the sun exploded
we'd still have 8 minutes of light

This thought probably arises from knowing that the sun is about 8.3 light minutes away from Earth. (Thanks again Doctor Karl) But of course David's qualifications are in psychology, not physics.

Astronomers generally agree that the sun will burn up its hydrogen fuel supply sometime in the next 5 billion to 7 billion years. As it does, gravity will force the sun to collapse into its core, which will ratchet up the heat on the remaining hydrogen and cause the sun to expand into a red giant. At this point, the sun will swallow the Earth.

The process will take billions of years to occur, so we'll have more 8 minutes warning.

But if somehow the sun were to explode at this moment, would we see it explode and know that we only had 8 minutes left before the light reached us?

Not at all. The light we're seeing from the sun is already 8 minutes old. So if the sun went out, we wouldn't see it for 8 minutes, at which time everything would go dark and we would begin our journey toward absolute zero.

Seeking a friend for the end of the world
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

if the sun exploded right now
we'd still have 8 minutes of light
and I'd say that I love you
and everything will be alright

Even if you had time to tell someone that you love them, everything would not be alright. The human race would be killed very quickly. The notion that a single good moment at the end of a life makes up for all suffering before and after, fits in with an experimentally confirmed theory in psychology called the 'peak-end' rule,

The peak-end rule is a psychological heuristic in which people judge an experience largely based on how they felt at its peak (i.e., its most intense point) and at its end, rather than based on the total sum or average of every moment of the experience

You see this at play in many movies with 'happy endings'. Suddenly, in a happy moment at the end, all of the pain of the journey is forgotten.

yeh baby I love you
and everything will be alright.

Rice & Beans

On the door step
that leads out onto your patio
I tripped upon your bags
so this is how
you let me know

Every great album has at least one great breakup song. And on "Come back, all is forgiven" this is it. A great breakup song is not simply saddening, it also gets your toes tapping. And that tension twixt happy and sad is what makes Rice & Beans one of the great breakup songs.

So Dave trips over some bags and thus realises his lady is leaving him.

there's a cab arriving
and the driver she avoids my gaze
"Can you lend me 30 dollars
for a few days
till I get paid?"

The lover who is leaving you is not just your partner, but your sugar mama. Without her income you find yourself on skid row. Poverty is another one of the great themes of rock n roll. And there's no greater song about finding joy in poverty than Small Fantasy's "DSS"

With such a paltry supply of cash, he's reduced to living on only the most affordable foodstuffs.

I'm living on rice & beans

Exactly how much Rice and Beans would $30 buy anyway? And would it provide all the nutrition required for survival? I felt a duty to investigate this further and the answers were, respectively, "plenty" and "yes".

Rice is rich in starch, and an excellent source of energy. Beans are rich in protein, and contain other minerals. The consumption of the two together provides all the essential amino acids and it is no wonder that this combination is a staple of many diets throughout the world.
Rice and Beans, A Survival Combination


I dreamt that I feel asleep
Danny Bonaduce
smiles along

Danny Bonaduce

Danny Bonaduce, is the actor (and wrestler!) who portrayed the youngest member of the Partridge Family, Danny Partridge.

I think that's little Richard

Little Richard

Little Ricky

Although this could refer to Little Richard, singer of Tutti Frutti and author of the greatest lyric in the history of music ("A-wop-bom-a-loo-mop-a-lomp-bom-bom!") it probably refers to Little Ricky, a cast member from season 4 of the Partridge Family. (It could just as well be Little Ricky, Ricky Ricardo Junior, from I Love Lucy)

in a fan's world
the pop stars all get along

it took exactly 37
minutes to pick up your phone
yeh I heard it ringing
but it was better than being alone

Now the summer's empty
they've all gone and moved away
I wish I could find that lightpole
that we wrote upon
"you and me 4 ever"
and ever and ever and ever and ever

Reminiscent of the lyric from "Trees" by Pulp:

I carved your name with a heart just up above Now swollen, distorted, unrecognizable like our love

Or the lyric from "New Tattoo" (which inspired "Scared of SKill") "Took a pin/pricked my skin/wrote your name in a love heart/wrote your name I hope you dig it"

I'm living on rice & beans
I dreamt that I feel asleep
Danny Bonaduce
smiles along
Yeh I know this sounds familiar
but it won't kill ya

"This sounds familiar" may refer to the emergence of themes throughout this album that are echoed across time in other Custard songs, in particular the next line:

and the cicadas sing along

Cicadas and various insects are mentioned throughout the Custard canon (Spangle Bug, CSL, others). The sound of cicadas are one of the most recognisable sounds of summer in Australia.

you're asking me a lot of questions
about some people I don't know

See the similar lyric in Factual.

I'm living on rice & beans
I dreamt that I feel asleep
Danny Bonaduce
smiles along
Yeh I know this all sounds familiar
but it won't kill ya
and the barflies sing along

"Barfly" was a 1987 film, adapted from the works of poet Charles Bukowski, starring Mickey Rourke, a real-life boxer who appeared in 'The Wrestler'.

The idea of drunk patrons singing along is the underlying theme of Billy Joel's breakout hit from 1973, "Piano man." Billy Joel, unlike Mickey Rourke and Danny Bonaduce, is not a wrestler, although the song "Just the way you are" is allegedly just like "wrestling someone with no bones"

la-la la-la-la-la
la-la la-la-la-la

etc -- washing out perfectly. Nice ending.


I write songs
based on my life
the funny thing is
they're based on my
real life

Hence, any literal interpretations applied by over-eager analysts are likely to be 100% accurate. It was probably because of that particular lyric that I decided to engage in this entire exercise.

Same people
same places
same circumstances

This reminds me of the theme from the BBC television series "Minder" (right people, right time, just the wrong location)

I change things sometimes
but mostly
it's real

Was it "Catherine"? Was it someone else? Maybe that's a detail that was changed, or maybe not.

It's all factual
oh yeh
at least it's based in fact
it's actual
oh yeah
No, I don't want you back

And here's the kicker: "I don't want you back". Even though the song "1990's" is true, and it represents a real person and real dreams: the events are entirely confined to the past and he does not wish to rekindle or recapture any lost love. Let the past stay in the past, he says.

Swimming an ocean of time

"Exploring the past 100 years of Oceania through the cultural and artistic record of the region. Presented by the ABC and Radio New Zealand."—Ocean of Time

Probably just regular old paid product placement. ;-)

no one can find us
kissing the palm of your hand
y'know I remember everything

All the whispers of a memory
gather your thoughts in a line
they go on forever
living one day at a time
clinging together

It's all factual
oh yeah
at least it's based in fact
it's actual
oh yeah
no I don't want you back

over and over
the memories
and I will follow you down
run to the edge
where the memories play
and I will follow you down

One afternoon when we went missing
her older sister had a lot of questions

See similar lyric in Rice & Beans.

over over over
it's all factual
oh yeh
oh at least it's based in fact
it's circumstantial
oh yeah
no I don't want you back

Over and over
the memories play
and I will follow you down
run to the edge
where the memories play
and I will follow you down


Get in Your Car

Let's get in your car
And drive around
Until we
a place to rob
Maybe that service station or this 7-Eleven
Whatever you reckon, girl, is fine by me.

The opening lyrics concern a Bonny and Clyde duo searching for a new place to rob. It's reminiscent of the opening scene of Pulp Fiction.

yeh, we are lonely
Like you always knew

The Drake equation is a probabilistic argument used to arrive at an estimate of the number of active, communicative extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy. Against this equation we must consider the Fermi Paradox, which asks "Where is everybody?"

Although it's highly unlikely that we are alone in universe, it seems unlikely that we have been contacted yet, and quite unlikely that we'll make meaningful contact in our own future.

The great filter is a hypothesis that attempts to explain why exactly the human race is likely to end its run, entirely alone.

Yeh but if only I knew too
bout me and you
Oh there's nothing I can do
bout me and you

We've travelled so far
but what's the point here
of distant stars?

Given the bleak prospect explained in the great filter, the stars give us no solace.

Every day and every night
You'll be hoping I might:

Jump in through the window
Look like someone you might know

if you gotta go you gotta go
Don't worry I'll be fine

If, during our crime spree, we are separated, then we'll have to flee separately, with no pre-arranged rendezvous location. Why bother organizing a rendezvous: we are all alone in the galaxy, and destined to die alone.

yeh we are lonely
like you always knew

yeh but if only
I knew too
bout me and you
oh there's nothing we can do.

bout me and you

we're holding hands
as the sun goes down
and you'll understand
if I'm not around

This is perhaps the most nihilstic, bitter, saddening, and subversive song ever written.

Yeh we are lonely
but if only
I knew too
'bout me and you
no there's nothing I can do
bout me and you

Music builds and builds. Reviewers have unanimously praised the end of this album, those final minutes as the music swells and we are all left to die a hopeless and pitiful death, utterly alone in the universe.

There's a few bonus tracks to cheers us up though. Yay.

External References