This song is a brilliant study of alienation. The whole lyric is shot through with paranoia and loneliness. I love it that somebody can sound this fucking cool, whilst still admitting, in a punk-hearted way, to moments of total self-doubt, of wondering where the fuck your place is and who the hell these people are, all these people around you.
Mixed by Maurice Fulton, its incredibly persuasive rhythm lends weight to the lyric "Don't wanna be nobody's burden / So I just hit the dancefloor". Early in the song, vocalist Nic Offer tries losing himself in the club, to forget that nagging feeling that something isn't right. He knows as much as anybody else that he can't fix it that way, but there's nothing else to do but dance, maybe build up some momentum, get somewhere, at least do something, because conversation just isn't happening. So listen to the music. Get fucked. Obliterate that feeling, go sensory overload instead.
All of a sudden, you can at least look at your situation with unsurpassable savvy and wit. Wryly, you can purr "Does anybody here speak Englissssh?". But under the influence and in the end, you get frazzled. The psychedelic nightmare of playing with the idea of stepping into the void, toying with the concept of destroying yourself, making the choice, then suddenly finding yourself past the point of no return, screaming incoherently, impotently at and for nothing... Nobody was listening and now you can't even speak yourself. "I could kill for a good conversation".
All the fear, anger, ambition, pain and wit of a young, wired and under-appreciated intelligence are at work in this song, spinning it different ways. Crucially, it shows signs of the strength to carry on beyond this point, this huge question mark moment. We all face those moments, day in, day out, with varying degrees of intensity. If we can face them with the style of !!!, we will overcome them. !!! (chk chk chk) can do anything from here on in.
It's not even the best song on the LP, by the way. Oh, and a good friend of mine described 'Hello? Is This Thing On?' as "the record The Clash would have made if they'd carried on past Combat Rock".