Interlude II – The Poetic Exploration of Balance and Existence

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for alt-J's Interlude II at
Article Contents:
  1. Music Video
  2. Lyrics
  3. Song Meaning
  4. The Odyssey of an Everywoman
  5. Decoding the Numerical Symphony
  6. A Chorus of Universal Longing
  7. Embracing the Symphony of Life
  8. The Ripeness and Ruin: The Song’s Hidden Meaning


She-she-she-she only ev-ev-ev-ev-ever
walks to-to count-count her steps
Eighteen-teen strides and she stops to
abide by the law that she herself has set
That eighteen steps is one complete set,
and before the next nine right and nine left
She looks up-up at the blue and whispers to all of the above:
Don’t let me drown, don’t breathe alone,
no kicks, no pangs, no broken bones
Never let me sink, always feel at home,
no sticks, no shanks, and no stones
Never leave it too late, always enjoy the
taste of the great-great-great grey world of hearts
As all dogs everywhere bark-bark-bark-bark, it’s worth knowing
Like all good fruit the balance of life is in the ripe and ruin

Full Lyrics

Within the musical tapestry of alt-J’s discography, ‘Interlude II’ emerges as a hauntingly beautiful piece that cradles the existential worries of the human condition. To the untrained ear, this song from their debut album ‘An Awesome Wave’ might appear to be a mere intermission, yet deeper contemplation reveals layers of profound meaning.

The sparse, lingering notes accompanied by cryptic lyrics invite us into a contemplative space, entreating us to ponder alongside the protagonist. This analysis endeavors to peel back the layers of ‘Interlude II’, delving into the existential depth and emotional resonance that nestles within its seemingly innocuous title.

The Odyssey of an Everywoman

At its core, ‘Interlude II’ is a portrait of routine and ritual as it tells the tale of a woman whose life is bound by self-imposed counts and measures. Her journey is intimate and emblematic, with the numbers playing a significant role, hinting at the search for control in a world that often feels arbitrary and chaotic.

Alt-J paints a character that resonates with all of us; she is Everywoman – a figure trying to make sense of her path, seeking solace in patterns amidst the cacophony of existence. The mundane act of counting steps gives structure to her life, symbolizing the human inclination to find order in disorder.

Decoding the Numerical Symphony

The numbers mentioned in the song are laced with symbolism. ‘Eighteen steps’ likely points to the Hebrew word for life, ‘chai,’ which also has the numerical value of 18. The song seems to contemplate the cycle of life and the rituals we adhere to, as if suggesting that these steps are what give our lives direction and purpose.

With ‘nine right and nine left,’ there is a balance, a perfect symmetry that speaks to the search for equilibrium. This duality could be interpreted as a reflection of the human quest to find harmony between opposing forces, such as right and wrong, life and death, or joy and sorrow.

A Chorus of Universal Longing

The plea to the heavens ‘Don’t let me drown, don’t breathe alone’ strikes a chord with the primal fear of isolation and the yearning for companionship. It’s a call for help – a desire to be bolstered in moments when the waters of life rise threateningly high.

These words are a prayer for resilience (‘no kicks, no pangs, no broken bones’) and a hope that amidst life’s trials, there remains a sense of belonging (‘always feel at home’). There’s a beauty in the despair and defiance against the desolation that might otherwise engulf us.

Embracing the Symphony of Life

Our protagonist encourages savoring existence (‘always enjoy the taste of the great-great-great grey world of hearts’), an exhortation to relish life in its entire spectrum – the good and the bad, the clear and the complex. It acknowledges the blend of hues that paint our days, embracing the dull alongside the vivid.

The song’s narrative champions the notion that there is worth – ‘worth knowing’ – in the noise, the mundane, and the simplicity of life. It is a recognition of the beauty of balance and that everything, including the bark of ‘all dogs everywhere,’ has its place in this grand symphony of existence.

The Ripeness and Ruin: The Song’s Hidden Meaning

Perhaps the most enigmatic and evocative of lyrics is the reference to ‘all good fruit.’ Here, alt-J contours not just the dualities but the diverse stages of life and actions – ripe with potential or spoiled into ruin, thus hinting at the theme of choice and consequence.

Interpreted, this line binds the song’s exploration of balance, suggesting that a life well-lived is one that is aware of timing – knowing when to act (‘ripe’) and when to accept the natural course of things (‘ruin’). It speaks to a wisdom of life, a consideration of the transient nature of all things.

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