Blame the Machines: An Interpretation

Today’s lyric day search resulted in the song, Blame the Machines, one of the album tracks off of All You Need Is Now.  As soon as I saw this song on the screen, I knew that I had to do “lyric day” in a different way.  Instead of picking just one lyric to apply to my own life, I thought I would discuss this song as a whole.  In fact, I might treat it like I did with many other Duran songs in which I think about what it might mean.

Let’s start with the official meaning.  How has the band described what this song is all about?  According to the Duran wikia:

“The song is based on a news story from Germany about a man who followed his satellite navigation device and ended up driving the wrong way on the autobahn. The song is a commentary on how reliant the world has become on technology, always assuming that the machines will be right.

The style of music has a hint of early band material and includes British newscaster Nina Hossain singing the sat-nav vocals.

Band comments
Simon:
This started off sounding like a Black Sabbath song but then got tempered by the keyboards – which is always what gives us our particular blend.
John:
The title came from one of Nick’s and my silly games, the idea being, “What would we call our offshoot electro ensemble?” The answer was “Blame The Machines”, which Mark loved. The lyric idea followed on from that, basing it on a story in the Herald Tribune about a German driver who was killed when his GPS sent him the wrong way up a freeway off-ramp.”

I have no reason to doubt this meaning.  It seems totally logical to me.  I could see someone blindly following a GPS up the wrong ramp on a freeway, absolutely.  I personally know how messed those can be.  I remember back to 2008 when Rhonda and I were in Atlantic City and my GPS that I lovingly called, Abigail, tried to direct us to drive on the boardwalk.  Yep, it wanted us to drive on the beach.  So, this story seems very plausible.  Could the lyrics, though, be about something else?  It is not that I doubt the band–more like that it could have multiple meanings or that it could be interpreted differently.

Let’s focus in on the word machine.  According to Google, one definition is:  “an efficient and well-organized group of powerful people.”  Hmm…A well-organized group of powerful people?  So, if I was a member of Duran, what would a well-organized group of powerful people be?  The first thought that popped in my head focused in on the music industry.  Maybe record label people or music industry people like those who control radio play.  Could Duran blame them for something?  It wouldn’t be the first time since they basically did that openly with a song like Too Much Information.  Could they blame the music or record industry people for not experiencing the same level of commercial success as they had in the past?  Again, I think yes.

If I dive into the lyrics even further, do they apply to this idea?

I’m driving up the Autobahn
Losing my way as the night gets long
The headlights shining in my face
Scream out the danger of this place

Obviously, there are lines that definitely support the GPS story.  Yet, “losing my way as the night gets long” could apply to my theory, too, after all I bet that Duran has made some choices that they might consider “losing their way” in order to try to get that machine’s approval or to follow the directions of someone who part of the machine.  Thus, the music industry could scream out danger.

And now there’s no way home
This love affair is ended
I should have known
When I bought into the dream
So like your solid soul
To leave me lost and stranded
I blame myself
And I blame the machines

Would someone really have a love affair with a GPS?  I’m not sure about that.  Could a band be in love with the commercial success that the music industry machine promises?  Sure.  Could that machine leave them behind, lost?  Possible.  I cannot help but think about the fact that Duran was in between labels during this time frame and that things did not go particularly well with Sony/Epic. That adds something interesting.

I’m flying blind
I’m speeding through
I hate to think
I’ve been fooled by you
An interactive nightmare show
Which never ends
It just goes on and on
And on and on

The line during this verse that grabs my attention is “I hate to think I’ve been fooled by you.”  Could they, at some point in their careers, think that the machine has fooled them?  That seems pretty logical, if you think about  it.  Interactive is a fascinating adjective.  Is a GPS interactive?  I don’t remember that.  Could dealing with music machine members bring interaction?  I would say yes on that.

Then, last but not least is the voice of the GPS saying,

“And now, turn left I have control
You are not required to think at all
Everything we hear
(Goes on and on)
Everything we see
Everything we love
(Goes on and on)
Everything we feel
Everything we want
(Goes on and on)
Everything we do
(And on)
Everywhere we go
(And on)
Everything we know
(And on)”

One could definitely argue that a GPS could be given control.  Yet, could it also be about the music industry machine being in control?  That would make sense to me.

Overall, it seems to me that this song could be exactly what it sounds like–a situation in which someone followed bad GPS directions while driving.  On the other hand, it could be about something else like the music industry machine.  I think it show the genius of Duran lyrics in that they could be about multiple ideas and it is up to us as listeners to interpret for ourselves.  On that note, how have you interpreted the lyrics to this song?

-A

One thought on “Blame the Machines: An Interpretation”

  1. The story of the songs is the one shared by JT. Me too, can’t find any other explaination.
    Ironically, I’m used to say “Blame the machines !” when I do whatever wrong, on the computer and otherwise.

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