Fair to Midland: “Musical Chairs” from Arrows and Anchors

Fair to Midland’s lyrics traditionally leaned so far to the cryptic side that I seldom made any kind of emotional connection to it, even as I connected deeply to their music.

Fortunately, this lead single from their new album Arrows and Anchors is a departure from that tradition between us.  Hooky and infectious, the glottal “ai-ai-ai” at the opening and the soaring choruses stuck with me from the very first time I heard it, which was at their gig in St. Paul earlier this year.


The band’s guitarist Cliff Campbell is on record saying that this song is about uncertainty of life — but the beauty of ambiguous lyrics is that it leaves room for so much more interpretation, for the audience to make up their own meanings and connect to a song.  With many religious allusions sprinkled throughout, I make out a cautionary tale about blindly accepting conventions, living a thoughtless life.

You should be counting your blessings
From the sky, your eagle eyes found a great blind faith
I could be kicking the bucket
But, you should know, I never had very good aim

If I worship the ground that he walks on
And it winds up that he has two left feet
Will he be walking on water?
Cause, you should know, we never liked to get our feet wet

The right of way is a wild goose chase

It makes you wonder
If shooting for stars is like darts in the dark
It makes you wonder
If the beaten path is the promised land

I can so relate to the sense of questioning, wondering if I am following the right path, the right leader.  Most large institutions are guilty of making over-simplified and assumption-ridden blanket statements about our needs, and it always makes me uneasy about belonging, because I have so much more than what they say I do.  We don’t want to be reduced to mere caricatures.  Each of us has a story to tell, a life like no other, with deeply individual sense of what makes us who we are.  But if we stay safe, if we don’t shoot for stars, then we are guilty of letting them reduce us.  The real question lies here: it may feel like it, but is shooting for stars really like darts in the dark?  Or is the beaten path really the promised land?  Which takes more courage — taking a chance in sights unseen, or walking on neat and well-lit roads?


Yes, it may look futile, it may even be so.

But blessed are those who dare to be different.