Music at Mars Hill: Owning Your Past in "Simple Math"

Music at Mars Hill is a weekly column by Luke Larsen that seeks to find God amidst the newest trends in both mainstream music and independent music.

This week we will be taking a look at the magnificent new music video by Manchester Orchestra for their single, “Simple Math”. The song comes off their recent album that came out a few weeks ago of the same name and finds the band insisting that music videos can still hold some kind of artistic merit. Although the song has some deep lyrical meanings of its own, the video takes the song in a totally new direction.

The video starts out with lead singer Andy Hull falling asleep behind the wheel before almost crashing into a deer standing in the middle of an empty forest freeway. As he veers off the road and his car spins and crashes off the road, we are taken on a journey through Hull’s life flashing before his eyes. Seemingly centering around relationships with both his father and a high school love, we are taken through a variety of scenes in Hull’s life. But because the scenes are taking place while Hull is in the midst of crashing his car, the memories are constantly bleeding into one another and being interrupted violently.

To accomplish all this, the video successfully uses a variety of stylistic camera techniques and visual references that are reminiscent of films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Inception (things blowing up in slow motion, lack of gravity, etc). Throughout all the scenes though, the omnipresent image of the deer lurks over each situation, symbolizing Hull’s guilt and shame.

The twist of the video, which occurs in the bridge of the song, finds Hull being carried away to a hospital room. As he sits in the seemingly ordinary hospital room, his father walks in and hands him a glass of water. When the water in the glass starts to behave as if it were in a spinning car, Hull realizes he is still in another memory or dream (yet another nod to Inception). Thrown back into the driver’s seat of his car now with a determined look on his face and his father sitting next to him in the passenger seat, he finds redemption and owns up to the guilt and the shame in his life.

This growing up and “owning up” to problems in your past is a major theme in the new album, according to Hull. In one recent interview, Hull says that “where I had spent some time on other records blaming God, or blaming other people, this is sort of like, ya know, time to be a man”. This music video is a great reminder that we have all have pasts: relationships, childhoods, guilt, shame, mistakes. We are all walking around in our lives with heaps of emotional baggage from our pasts that inform a lot of what we do. To me, the narrative presented in the music video for “Simple Math” was a hard-hitting reminder that our pasts are things that we have to own and not let own us.

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