Love Songs for Robots

Last night, the song “Love Songs for Robots,” by Montréal, Quebec band Patrick Watson (led by a fellow named that), came into my mind as a possible song to write some thoughts on. I wrote down the title in my document of blog notes.

It’s an interesting song I first heard on CBC Radio 2 late-night radio, most likely on Laurie Brown’s former show, The Signal. The piece has puzzling lyrics that are also hard to discern with Watson’s singing style. If she heard it my late mum might say, “He’s mumbling!”

I think the song is about our obsession for electronic things, which is sometimes to the detriment of our human relationships.

“Breaking down
Your days are getting longer
There’s a yellow glass dragon who’s chasing you around
Sit your head on a silver jet stream while the smoke is rising over your thoughts and your dreams
Watch over, you watch and fall down
Your nuts and bolts are all over the ground
You get up, get up
You get up, you get up

Something’s leaking
It leaks from your eyes where all these tears past the problems
Stop wasting your words from around as you’re running out of thoughts as it burns, burning out
Watch as the flowers, thrones and winds spills close as it whispers away
You get up, you get up, get up
You get up

I will love you
And I will love you”

(“Love Songs for Robots,” by Patrick Watson, Robbie Kuster, Mischka Stein, Joe Grass)

The official video for the song has this synopsis from the producers: “Love Songs For Robots is our attempt to create the sort of film Martians might make for humans, if those Martians had only observed us from afar. The piece is inspired by the sculpture and ballet of the avant-garde artist Oskar Schlemmer, with choreography and dance by Mistaya Hemingway (La La La Human Steps).”

Meanwhile, this morning, I reached another milestone in my cycling, a 70-kilometre bike ride. After scarfing down a lot of food and cleaning up me and all my gear, I had a phone conversation with one of my brothers (the one I most recently talked about in my post about Jackson Browne’s “Lawyers in Love”). We talked for about an hour and a half, celebrating how each other is embracing retirement (or as his son says, “Living the shit out of your life.”). When we discussed what we’d be doing when we got off the phone, I said I would be sitting down to figure out what I’d be writing about today for the blog. I said I often have ideas, but wasn’t really sure today. (I hadn’t yet recalled the note from last night.) He said was going to be working on the stuff he’s so passionate about.

As I opened up my blog notes, I saw the note on this song, and read up on it, along with the lyrics. The line, presumably to a lover robot, “Your nuts and bolts are all over the ground…” resonated with me. On today’s cycling route, I encountered the typical, occasional roadside debris that we cyclists, in particular, have to be hyper-vigilant in spotting and safely avoiding. Over time, I saw a few more nails and bolts and scrap metal pieces than usual. Who knows where they come from, but I usually stop if it is safe to do so, go back, pick them up, put them in the garbage if there’s a bin nearby, or at least huck them out of the way into a ditch where they won’t harm rubber tires. 

It was an unusual ride as I encountered several people either in cars or on bikes that were not paying attention to their surroundings and were probably quite lucky not to have collided. At the same time, when I was stopped to take a photo of a hazard on the bike path to report it to the City, two fellows slowed down, seeing my bike was laid down and I was standing there, to ask me if I was okay. What a kind gesture of concern.

Then later, working on the computer, it suddenly started acting up, as machines do sometimes, often for no apparent reason. I couldn’t get connected to the internet after an hour and a half of unplugging/plugging in, restarting, etc. Finally, I called Bell MTS for technical support, which led to me getting no solution, along with conflicting reports about service outages in the whole area around us. Meanwhile, I could join the hotspot on my phone (from a different service provider, Rogers, which I’m still connected to, hours later after I rejoined the post-in-progress.)

I wondered, “Oh no… did the Martians or the robots see me pick up those nails and bolts? Were those scrap bits left for some other robot, like a gift to a lover, or a friendly scavenger hunt? Did they get angry and cause the outage? Gee, is it all my fault?”

Then, just as I was writing the above paragraph, I heard a car pull up in front of our house. One of the car’s wheels was making an odd, flop-flop sound, and I noticed it was flat, almost off the rim. I walked out and called to the woman to ensure she knew there was a problem. She did.

Robots? Martians? Or, maybe… cyclists?

As I returned to my internet and robot bewilderment, I saw that the woman was on the phone. Then she started pulling out the jack and tire wrench. I asked if she needed help. She enthusiastically said, yes, please, she hadn’t ever changed a tire and would watch me do it if that was okay.

If you’ve ever tried to change a car tire yourself, you know the crap gear any car from at least 1980 onwards comes with. It’s not fun. It’s rather brutal, actually. I explained the process as I did it and we had a great conversation. Then, almost all the way up, the jack collapsed. A neighbour joined us at this point and asked if the emergency brake was on. It wasn’t. My bad. He and I then tag-teamed, socially-distant, raised the jack again (the cheap thing it was) and changed the wheel. She was very grateful. We were winded. She was also glad to meet two neighbours. (Incidentally, changing my bike tires over last night from gravel to road was nothing like that amount of work!) 

Today is an odd day. So many random interactions, some good, some not so good but it is the good ones I will choose to remember. But still, no internet, or TV service. The best reason for not having all of your services from one provider. Otherwise, you might not be reading this from me until, who knows… until the robots aren’t angry anymore, maybe.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official video for the song from the Domino Recording Company YouTube channel

And, a performance by the band for Paste Magazine. The version is kind of catchy, though the lyrics are even harder to catch than on the studio version (and some, the singer misses altogether), but I like it.

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