Flobots – Handlebars

It’s quite possible that I’m the very last person in the entire world to have heard this song. My wife pointed it out to me yesterday (we had Radio 1 on for a change), and it’s stuck in my head. An earworm or Ohrwurm, if you will.

With 9.3+ million views on YouTube of the official video from Universal Music, it’s clearly popular enough that it doesn’t need me highlighting it, but I thought you might enjoy it.

Sadly, that official clip from Universal prevents embeds (grrr), so let’s try this one

(Apologies if/when that gets removed).

I like the video, I like the style (though it’s hard not to compare his rapping unfavourably with Eminem) and I like the tone. Some of the lyrics could do with tightening up (“I can split the atom of a molecule. Of a molecule. Of a molecule”?)

It’s Eminem meets the JCB Song meets Green Day. Or something.

Edit: it did get removed. Here’s the new link.


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  1. There’s a quality to this – the lazy delivery at the start, the warm sorta-shoegazy backing – which feels like a really, really popped-out, rocked-up version of some of the stuff cLOUDDEAD did. Which is cool – cLOUDDEAD were/are kind of amazing.

    Here’s “Dead Dogs Two”:

    Comment by Andrew Walkingshaw — September 24, 2008 #

  2. Last but one ;)

    Comment by Andrew Carr — September 25, 2008 #

  3. It’s okay.

    You should check out “The Young Blood Brass Band” for similar stuff but MUCH, MUCH better.

    Comment by James Thomas — September 25, 2008 #

  4. A bit of a household favourite this one. We had it on the radio on a late night trip back from home. After it had finished I thought predlet 1.0 had gone too sleep, bet all through the next song I heard a faint sleepy voice from her in the back saying “i can ride my bike with no handlebars, not handlebars”

    Comment by epredator — September 28, 2008 #

  5. I was impressed with the subtlety of this song. Perhaps my interpretation is too complex, but I hope I’m near enough to what the author/s were trying to achieve. For me handlebars is about human nature, starting from the childish competition, of riding your bike with no handlebars to adolescent competition of tying a knot in a cherry stem (presumably with one’s tongue). It rapidly progresses with adult competition, technological achievement, the power of media, leadership, responsibility, or lack of, and ends with monopoly, autocracy, and holocaust before finishing up with the childish competition of riding your bike with no handlebars. I certainly get the feeling that “Handlebars” is talking about choice and its affect on human desire to compete.

    Comment by Christian — October 2, 2008 #

  6. Thank you. I’ve been meaning to write something fairly similar, but was too lazy.

    The song excites me, because it clearly explores development, competition, power, control and free will. Your interpretation of it is an interesting one. I agree with most of it, though I do wonder if the echo back to ‘handlebars’ at the end is more about leaving the listener with a chilling/poignant echo of how it all began.

    Comment by Roo — October 2, 2008 #

  7. Handle bars to me is somewhat an echo to previous dictators in the past. Its a very clever song, which is taunting yet powerful. I get the impression of a man learning the simple tricks in life and building his way through politics, until he gets to the part when he goes power crazy. He has turned into a dictator, and right at the end of teh song, the echo of ‘i can ride my bike with no handlebars’ ends the song with a glimpse of the power he has built up in comparison to his small beginnings.

    Brilliant song.

    Comment by Pip — October 11, 2008 #

  8. To me handlebars is the song of the year, There had to be a hidden hand behind this song, its too profound. The video adds immensly to its power. I never realised at first the other person on the bike is the dictator, they’re friends. At first I thought it was the same person. They go off in opposite directions and the story begins, you follow what the street man sees then you follow what the business man sees, the singer lets you know of the differences between the worlds but one thing that runs throughout the whole song is… boastfulness, boasting about this and that, I can do this, I can do that, and it climaxes in boasting to be able to end the whole world in a holocaust. I wonder what Jewish people would take from that. This is the only song on there album I like, its a one off, the rest sound like mike shinoa, blackeyed peas, emimen and that cake band, its commercial, and the handlebars part was used in a commercial before the song release. Its another product of the beast system boasting.

    Comment by al london — October 24, 2008 #

  9. Nobody seems to be talking about the two paths. The song follows the character who takes (I think) the corporate path, while his friend follows the dove path, and they know they won’t meet again. As the character the song follows progresses more and more, he begins to destroy the dove motifs.

    Comment by kyb — October 24, 2008 #

  10. Just listened to this again, and it still makes the repeated “in a holocaust” at the end still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

    Also, lovely acoustic interpretation here.

    Comment by Roo — April 18, 2009 #

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