On Max Tundra’s lyrics

Max Tundra’s 2002 album, Mastered by Guy at the Exchange, (MBGATE) is 40 minutes of a sort of stilted, strange, hyperactive electronic pop, and rapidly became one of my favorite albums (now that I got around to listening to it a couple years late). Funnily enough — as my friends will tell you — I hate lyrics, but I’ve really been enjoying his. They have a wonderful brilliance and intelligence and an incredibly amateur quality, which is kind of confusing at first but becomes endearing.

MBGATE is Tundra at his most austere: “It was some change which came upon me or upon the room/Indescribably subtle, yet momentous, ineffable.” Get out your thesaurus. But then, don’t, because next is “Lysine,” a musing on the importance of that amino acid. There are a few meditations on Tundra’s day jobs (“Lights”) and friends (“Acorns”), and a hilarious song which is simply a request that director Michel Gondry make a video for him (but: “Judging by your clients/’Twould cost a weighty fee/To make me an ‘Around The World’/Or ‘Let Forever Be’”).

However, one topic appears to be the focus. Like seemingly every lyric ever written, Max Tundra’s are all about women. “Cabasa” is the first and most explicit paean:

Thinking back to when I asked Naomi out/Sitting around in a wooden classroom/Planning my line with a friend from Cornwall/Hiding my erection with a book by Morrish/Misread smiles and summer promise/Intervening love between the years/Has made me understand/I’m glad Naomi turned me down.

In “Labial,” about stealing his best friend’s girlfriend, Tundra makes a snide complaint about the other man and reflects on his current situation:

I’d like to be as articulate as Mr. L/Writing songs about Barbara of Seville/Such a wonderful way with a pen when he’s feeling unwell/I only sing about things that happen to me/I never learnt how to fill my songs with allegory/While my peers paid attention in English I thought about how/I could undress that girl who appeared in my life with a pow/Never mind that she slipped from my hand because look at me now.

My favorite moment, though, is the beginning of “Hilted,” yet another song about some girl from his past:

Six seconds in your company makes me feel upset/That I’ve only known you for six seconds yet.

Is it possible to more clearly express the mood of the beginning of a relationship? I don’t think so. Maybe I’m beginning to see what I’ve been missing while I ignored lyrics all this time.

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