I have to laud this album for how much variety there is in the musical stylings of this album. Over the course of these 8 tracks, there have been so many different sounds and instruments employed. It really helps the album stick and prevents the common problem a lot of albums have where a number of the songs feel as if they’re blending together. I may not be a particularly big fan of the way this track sounds (purely from a preference perspective), but I appreciate the sound it does make.
So, this song is… Interesting. I’ve seen weirder examples of personification than a Gramophone, but it’s nonetheless unique.
Compared to earlier entries, this song feels straightforward, but I’m almost certain there has to be more to this song than a romance of sorts between a record player and a girl. I take from the text that the Gramophone has always been sentient to an extent. The fact the second stanza explains that the Gramophone plays without a record inside of it informs me that this Gramophone is alive, more directly than the mention of it being “strange-shaped”. What does change about it, however, starts when falls in love with the girl. He grows arms in place of the cranes used to turn a record player. He used them to have a more intimate connection with the girl, one where he could physically hold her. I’m not sure what this is supposed to represent. Is it, perhaps, an illustration of how we try to be something we’re not in order to please others? I don’t think so, because the only thing remaining of the Gramophone in the end is the arms. Is the fact that the main character of this song is a Gramophone indicative of a message in which we learn that love is more important than appearances? That seems like a message that’s too broad and one that ends up diminishing the significance of the rest of the song.
Next, the pair sings together. The Gramophone’s attempt to imitate the girl’s “beautiful tone” results in a “bellows-like sound.” I can’t tell if this is supposed to be unattractive, or uniquely different in a cute way. They went on a journey encompassing ten years, though I wouldn’t be surprised if “journey” was just another word for their life together. A new character is then introduced in the form of the minstrel. Is this another metaphor or a way of showing us the time period? The latter is unlikely, I suppose, because the Gramophone better establishes a time. Despite this, the time period has yet to be significant to this song. In any case, the minstrel sings of their journey, and a screeching iron accompanies him. The sound evidentially resounds regardless. I wonder if maybe after all these years, the Gramophone is strating to lose it’s luster, yet still has the confidence to sing.
The next portion of the song drops a bomb. Their journey ends here, likely another reference to life ending, or death, and the next line says that the dearest one (a phrase used to refer to the girl in the first stanza), can no longer move or sing, another likely reference to death. The Gramophone reacts in anguish, committing suicide, leaving nothing but the arms it grew in response to meeting the girl. These arms collect the memories the two had together, likely just meaning it became a symbol for the meaningful yet tragic life they shared together, as well as their dream. I find this mention of a dream rather surprising, since I don’t really see any sign of a long-term ambition or hope here in this song. Perhaps their dream was just the mundane hope of staying together? Is the war a literal war, or is it possibly illustrating how conflict drove the two apart or a reference to circumstances beyond their control?
Like track 7, this song is told in the third person perspective. It’ll be interesting to see if this trend keeps up in future songs. I also wonder what happened to the minstrel in this piece.
The artwork here tells little. We don’t even get a visual representation of the minstrel. It’s just the girl and gramophone with his arms together. The background isn’t even descript. I will say that the girl is dressed in a way that tells me she’s probably a commoner in terms of social status. Her clothes look slightly baggy, so maybe she’s poor? Perhaps the war they mention is one she was forced to be drafted in? Maybe I’m looking too far into this.
My older brother had an interesting interpretation of portions of this song. First of all, he explained to me that there’s actually a Japanese legend about Gramophones in which after one survives for 100 years, it becomes self-aware. Whether that directly plays into the song’s story, I’m not sure, but it does explain the choice of a Gramophone as an image. In addition, if the legend does apply, it might relate to how the Gramophone suddenly grows arms when it previously had none, though this is slightly brought into question by how the thing seems to be alive at the beginning, what with it playing music without a record inside.
Then, in the later portions of the song, he explained the deliberate use of war as the reason for the end of the journey might actually be social commentary of sorts, a commentary on the industrialized nature of Japanese warfare post-Japan’s industrial revolution. This being a war might be where the minsterl’s song is accompined by “screeching iron”, it’s a sign of bad things to come. That factories are preparing for war. The war, a tramautizing, all-consuming experience, takes away the girl and the gramophone’s hopes and dreams, as the girl (who, in his interpretation, doesn’t necesarrily die), can no longer see the good in the world and no longer has the strength to see. The Gramophone, once a beautiful intstrument, is used for scrap metal by industries who no longer care whether something was once beautiful. They only care for using it to further their cause, thus showing how even precious things were thrown away in favor of progress in this tumultous part of Japanese history. He wasn’t sure about what the arms represent,though.