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The opening track from Neutral Milk Hotel’s sophomore album ”In the Aeroplane Over the Sea”. It is followed by “The King of Carrot Flowers, Pts. Two and Three.” The introductory lines portray a youthful imagination, as a child you can pretend to be any character you chose. The ‘tower’ tarot card is representative of an ill omen, foreshadowing the coming verses. Rattlesnakes, relative to Christianity, are viewed as deathly evil so it’s interesting to deem them ‘holy.’ “When you were young you were the king of carrot flowers”, in the context of the Tarot (see: “The Fool”) is a contradiction. The king in tarot cards represents mastery of whatever type of card it is, and carrot flowers are carrots that grew real old. How can someone young be the master of growing old? They then built a Tower (which in tarot cards actually represents danger, crisis, destruction, and liberation) on that lie which of course tumbles when people realize the lie they’re telling. The “holy rattlesnakes” can refer to the snakes used in snake-handling by some Pentecostal churches, although the idea of ‘holy’ rattlesnakes can also be found in America’s indigenous religions. To their imagination the lightning in the sky was similar to a serpent and was therefore considered holy. As is the case with most of Jeff Mangum’s lyrics, we are left without a definitive explanation. We have, however, learned that Mangum’s parents did have a unstable relationship, and, on one occasion, his mother stabbed his father with a fork, who then threw the garbage can across the floor. Considering this, Mangum may be personifying two distinct parts of his personality. Whether this is body and soul, innocence and wisdom, or any other pairing, we will not know. It is also possible that Mangum is placing this story in an alternate setting, in which two step-sibling’s parents are arguing. There’s a stark juxtaposition here between the negative (violence and hatred) and the much more positive (love and sexuality) functions of the body, which is a common theme throughout the album. (See, specifically, “Oh Comely” for other examples). The distinction between just “mom” and the more endearing and loving (and in modern times, sexual) “daddy” is a reference to Anne’s preference for her father Otto while she felt cold and even hostile to her mother. It’s possible that the image of “mom” stabbing “daddy” with a fork comes from Infinite Jest, in which this is one of numerous examples of casual acts of domestic violence that David Foster Wallace describes to create an overall picture of dysfunctional families. This is a reference to scenes in "The Diary of a Young Girl" where Anne explores her body and her sexuality, accompanied or not by Peter. Beautifully articulated, the two share a sexual relationship that exceeds a physical touch and transcends to their souls harmonizing into one. Also, tying it together with the ode to Anne Frank that rolls through the album, this line could simply represent Jeff reading Anne’s diary. Sinking into her soul (the book) and reading her secrets, where no one ever goes most times. The parents continue to loathe themselves and their relationship, with alcoholism and suicide being central to their unfulfilled lives. The song is full of love and disdain, contradicting one another in each verse.

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