Work Header

A Thin Semantic Line Separating Weird and Beautiful

Work Text:

The tracklist:

  1. “Love...Is It the Answer?!” - The Happiest Guys in the World (“I want to help all the people/Who are strange and mean and bad”)
  2. “Touch” - Daft Punk feat. Paul Williams (“You’ve almost convinced me I’m real”)
  3. “Uncontrollable Urge” - Devo (“I want to tell you all about it”)
  4. “When You’re Near Me I Have Difficulty” - XTC (“Now I’m feeling like a jellyfish/Just a spineless wobbly jellyfish/And it’s great”)
  5. “Mind Contorted” - Daniel Johnston (“And I know if you saw me now/You would be most perplexed”)
  6. “I’m Alive” - Electric Light Orchestra (“How can it be real?”)
  7. “At Long Last Love” - Bill Henderson (“Is it an earthquake, or merely a shock?”)
  8. “Never Knew Love” - They Might Be Giants (“I go around thinking I’m a genius/But I never knew love could be like this”)
  9. “All I Care About Is You” - Future Bible Heroes (“Cause if it’s not weird it’s not romance”)
  10. “Dreamland” - The Moonlighters (“Faces seen from a dream/Every sound is echoing like laughter”)
  11. “The Little Hoopschrauber (Sp?) - Or Fixing a Hole Where the Vacuum Gets In” - The Philistines Jr. (And now, the weather)
  12. “Dream Operator” - Talking Heads (“Let go of your life/Grab on to my hand”)
  13. “The Human Heart” - Brian Dewan (“A preposterous thing/A monstrous thing/A lustrous thing/A wondrous thing”)

The liner notes:

The first track, “Love...Is It the Answer?!”, was the last to be added to this setlist. I decided the mix needed a prologue, something short and catchy to establish the theme before the listener is launched into the eight-minute odyssey of “Touch.”

My inclusion of Daft Punk’s collaboration with Paul Williams was inspired by Cecil’s existential crisis in episode five and fanfics in which he’s an avatar or anthropomorphic personification of dubious corporeality. I think that when Cecil first sees Carlos, the outside world goes into slow motion while this plays in his head, and he suddenly knows he has a heart because he’s lost it to the beautiful scientist. (Unless it’s all just a wonderful dream — “You’ve almost convinced me I’m real...”) I get a kick out of how the lyrics contain a callback to the preceding song — “If love is the answer you’ll hold, hold on” — and, with the plaint “I need something more,” lead into...

Devo’s “Uncontrollable Urge” — in this case, Cecil’s irresistible impulse to literally broadcast his affections. Oy. At least “When You’re Near Me I Have Difficulty Breathing” sounds like it could be addressed specifically to Carlos, and hey, it’s a step up from “Neat!” (Plus, jellyfish!) But it’s still not an actual “I love you” — that comes in the achingly sincere “Mind Contorted.”

The next four songs trace our favorite scientist’s line of thought from the moment the Apache Tracker saves him from the city under the Desert Flower Bowling Alley and Arcade Fun Complex, to his rendezvous with Cecil in the Arby’s parking lot. First, giddy astonishment that “I’m Alive,” followed by the realization (perhaps spurred by hearing Cecil mourning him on the air) that while everything else in Night Vale is open to question ("Is it the good turtle soup, or merely the mock?"), he has definitely found “At Long Last Love.” After marveling over how he “Never Knew Love” could be like this, Carlos tells Cecil that this time, he is most assuredly calling for personal reasons: “All I Care About Is You”.

Now we jump ahead to the first time Cecil and Carlos spend the night together. After a romantic stroll through “Dreamland,” or what locals would refer to as the Night Vale Harbor and Waterfront Recreation if it had ever existed, they take Carlos’s hybrid car (which makes a pleasant whirring sound, like the one you can hear in “The Little Hoopschrauber [...]”) back to Cecil’s, where...well. Whatever else happens, I’m sure “The Dream Operator” ensures they have a pleasant night’s rest.

Finally, the epilogue: a paean to the hardest working organ, “The Human Heart.”