BET YOU THOUGHT I HAD FALLEN OFF THE FACE OF THE EARTH!
This island has become An ocean and my boat’s too small The waves are crashing in And I can’t save this sinking ship I sent out signal flares But no one out there seems to care Now the voice inside my head Is the only thing that I have left
[This is the second song in which I examine the theme of literary conceit through imagery of a ship at sea (see an analysis of Brand New’s “Play Crack the Sky” here). I believe that the song operates on a literal and metaphorical level—the narrator experiences the literal sinking of his ship, while his subconscious, emotional self drowns in a figurative manifestation of its guilt. Senses Fail singer Buddy Nielsen chooses an interesting transition to open “Lost and Found”—the change of an “island” to an “ocean.” Although both words denote loneliness (isolation in an island, and seclusion in vastness in an ocean), Nielsen chooses not to reveal the metaphysical basis of this song; as far as the listener is concerned, this story is still a narrative. Nielsen then contrasts his view of himself (represented by the boat that’s “too small”) with the immensity of the ocean. The sinking ship is metaphor for a still-unnamed conflict, as the narrator is beaten while he’s already down (“the waves are crashing in”), and he desperately tries to attain external help (“I sent out signal flares”). At this point, the narrator relinquishes all worldliness, and introduces his subconscious (“the voice inside my head”) as the only essence of his being that he still can grasp.]
This is the part where I’ll admit I’m getting what I deserve And now I’m lost at sea I’m drowning in what I won’t be I’m haunted by the sound (Sweet sound of my last breath)
[Transition to the narrator’s conscious as the primary speaker in the story. Interesting use of antithesis to highlight the sharp contrast between the idea of “drowning” (i.e., immersed in too much of something) with “in what I won’t be” (i.e., the absence of character traits that makes the narrator feel guilt). Nielsen follows with another paradoxical statement that the narrator is haunted (therefore still alive) by the “sweet sound of my last breath” (his own death).]
Twenty days at sea My skin is blistered from the heat I can beg and I can plead But what I get is never what I need
Whoa whoa I’m going down I’m going down Whoa whoa I’m going down I’m going down
[Transition back to the literal, the narrator in person suffering at sea. However, before returning to the chorus, Nielsen employs another sharp contrast by antithesis, which was previously reserved for the rhetoric of the narrator’s subconscious—“What I get is never what I need.” After the chorus repeats, Nielsen has blended the two aspects—his literal being and figurative guilt—of the narrator together. Because they are intrinsically interwoven, the downfall of one is the downfall of the other. Both the narrator’s ship is sinking in the literal sense, while in the figurative sense he is paying atonement for his character flaws.]
Who do you carry that torch for, my young man? Do you believe in anything? Or do you carry it around just to burn things down?
[In keeping with the themes of the loss of faith, and subsequent search for it, “The Archer’s Bows Have Broken” observes the fine line drawn between religion and politics. Singer Jesse Lacey begins by directly addressing his audience—a new generation of youths shaped greatly by a harsh and fear-drive political climate. In doing so, he introduces a figurative idiom of initiating a crusade, “Who do you carry a torch for, my young man?” then creates a jarring juxtaposition by presenting imagery of fires and burning, giving it a palpable, physical and literal grounding.]
Meet me tonight on the turnpike my darling, Where we believe in everything. If we sweat all these debts then we’re sure to drown, So let’s strap ourselves up to this engine now With our God who we found laying under the back seat.
[This stanza once again speaks to this disillusioned youth that can relate to the downfall of the American economy and the War on Terror as its defining historical events. Imagery of the “turnpike” and strapping “ourselves up to this engine” represent the tremendous speed with which the world continues to move forward—as it threatens to leave this generation shattered in its wake. Although not created in today’s economy, the hyperbole “If we sweat all these debts, then we’re sure to drown” definitely relates to the current state of America’s fiscal affairs—debts so large that they are simply unfathomable to the common man, who thereby disregards this major societal problem, and defers it to an ineffectual government. The idea that “God” is found “laying under the back seat” may be a reference to the supposed religious affiliations of major politicians who claim their great “Mandates of Heaven” yet seemingly equivocate and act contrarily to their spiritual tenets.]
What did you learn tonight? While shouting so loud, you barely joyous, broken thing. You are a voice that never sings, is what i say. You are freezing over hell You are bringing on that end you do so well And you can only blame yourself, is what is say.
[Once again, Lacey shifts in focus to addressing individually his specified audience. By setting a solid contrast between creating noise and creating meaningful noise, i.e., “You’re shouting so loud” versus “You’re a voice that never sings,” Lacey indicates that this generation creates a lot of noise—a simple fact of the world’s current intersection of places that used to be worlds apart through social media, but at the same time it fails to make an appropriate impact, and consequently is “bringing on the end,” and can “only blame yourself.”]
Oh, order your daughters to ignore me Think that will sort me? And sweep me under the rug? While you’re beating with a book Everyone that book tells you to love.
[Here, Lacey rails against censoring powers—record labels that don’t want what he himself wants to write; an older generation that discourages his music; a society that prefers homogenization through the mainstream. By once again using hyperbole and and giving physicality to an idiom, “sweep me under the rug,” Lacey presents himself as an infinitesimally small voice shouting out for change. The final line definitely relates to the hypocrisy of politicians, through its repetition of the word “book,” who subscribe to religion.]
There is an ember in the heart of this kiln And it’s burning hot with love. Burning out my center till there’s nothing but dust Then rolling me with care into your cigarette 'Cause the God i believe in never worked on a campaign trail.
[This relates to the physical imagery of fire earlier initiated through the idea of carrying the torch. Once again relating to Lacey’s feelings of being a tiny voice lost amid an ocean of noise, he describes the fire within him strongly as “an ember in the heart of the kiln” and “burning hot with love.” However, as strong as these emotions are, they are also destroying him from within—“burning out my center till there’s nothing but dust.” The last couplet oozes vitriol—that if society allows Lacey’s metaphorical light burn out, it will ultimately work to kill society: a figurative cigarette for society, so to speak. After skirting metaphorically around the matter, Lacey directly makes an ad hominem attack against those who claim to be God-fearing men of principle, that “the God I believe in never worked on a campaign trail.”]
Feels like we could escape, And I don’t mind throwing away this filthy silver song, If you try running a maze of your lies, It’s too hard to save if you’ve thrown out everyone.
[Once again speaking to how today’s youths are misguided an lost, Lacey ends with an extended metaphor for each individual being trapped within “a maze of lies.” The first line exudes optimism for change—“feels like we could escape”— but on the condition that he joins his voice with Lacey’s to build up a voice demanding change in the world. Otherwise, if each man and woman stands alone by his own principles (“thrown out everyone”), he or she will, like Lacey, be a disparate voice lost in a sea of sounds seeking to silence him or her.]
Love of mine Someday you will die But I’ll be close behind I’ll follow you into the dark No blinding light or tunnels to gates of white Just our hands clasped so tight Waiting for the hint of the spark
[In “I Will Follow You into the Dark,” singer Ben Gibbard discusses a loss of faith into religion, especially through the emphasis of death being symbolically represented by darkness and blackness, as opposed to traditional imagery of lightness and whiteness. Gibbard rejects traditional symbols of religious “heaven” in the first stanza—especially the “blinding light” and “tunnels to gates of white.”]
If heaven and hell decide that they both are satisfied Illuminate the NOs on their vacancy signs If there’s no one beside you when your soul embarks Then I’ll follow you into the dark
[Gibbard initiates an extended metaphor that serves to reduce the importance of both heaven and hell through the personification (If heaven and helldecide) that gives them the appearance of being distinctly human. The figurative language also likens the two to cheap motels with “No Vacancy” signs, and though through his rejection of these tenets there may be no place in either heaven or hell in the afterlife, Gibbard has spiritually accepted his fate. In doing so, he resigns himself to an eternal sense of darkness, waiting for his love—the only object in which he has placed his faith—to provide a “hint of a spark.”]
In catholic school, as vicious as Roman rule I got my knuckles bruised by a lady in black And I held my tongue as she told me, “Son fear is the heart of love” So I never went back
[Through this brief anecdote, Gibbard describes an important occurrence that relates to his upbringing and faith. In doing so, he also exhibits the reasoning why he refuses to submit himself to the traditional end goal of heaven—and consequently the fear of hell. The first line provides an interesting contrast—that “Roman rule” was the force that ruthlessly persecuted early Christianity as heresy, but in many ways both Christianity and the Roman rule were brutal in their views and traditions. “Bruised knuckles” work as an instance of synecdoche where the part represents Gibbard’s sentiments as a whole—his belief system rattled by the corporal punishment he found at school—doled out by a “lady in black,” presumably a nun. The turning point of his viewpoint occurs when the “lady in black” informs him that “fear is the heart of love”— that the path to heaven was marked by the principle of being God-fearing, which is quickly refuted with a jarringly short statement—“So I never went back.”]
You and me Have seen everything to see From Bangkok to Calgary And the soles of your shoes Are all worn down, the time for sleep is now But it’s nothing to cry about ‘cause we’ll hold each other soon In the blackest of rooms
[Gibbard then proceeds to make peace with his love—that they can both accept death, in the words of The Tales of Beetle the Bard, “as an old friend.” Once again, synecdoche through the “worn down soles of your shoes” represents their lives as a whole—fulfilling and meaningful, further qualified by the subsequent statement that “it’s nothing to cry about.” Once again, Gibbard reiterates his system of beliefs—essentially to be with those he loves in an eternal darkness, “the blackest of rooms.”]
"It’s just this idea that what if somebody dies and we’re just floating, just stumbling around in infinite darkness, and I’m just trying to find some kind of spiritual kind of peace with myself, and the world."
Hey hey hey! Mr. Hangman Go get your rope Your daughters weren’t careful I fear that I am a slippery slope Now even if I lay my head down at night After a day I got perfectly right She won’t know She won’t know She won’t know…
[Many interpretations have been attributed as to the meaning of this song—a man exiting a marriage coupled with an abortion or singer Jesse Lacey addressing his relationship with former girlfriend Sherri DuPree (whose middle name is Kay) come to mind. However, in keeping with the idea that “Limousine (MS Rebridge)" and the story of Katie Flynn is thematically highly important and a pivotal moment to the meaning of The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, it is my feeling that, as the track that follows “Limousine (MS Rebridge),” “You Won’t Know” is an epilogue to the story that continues to explore the manifestations of Martin Heidgen’s state of mind and the manifestations of his guilt. The opening line introduces one of the two important uses of apostrophe to invoke death, “Mr. Hangman,” as a physical being who will “go get your rope.” The somewhat euphemistic metaphor likening the narrator, Heidgen, to “a SLIPpery SLOPe,” in its alliteration shows his attempt to reconcile his actions to be less severe in his mind. However, this attempt is thwarted, exemplified by the fact that the following lines, “Now even if I lay my head down at night/After a day I got perfectly right/She won’t know,” that anything but that is true, and he is still overwhelmed by the loss of life at his hands. Once again, the concept of sleep being an exercise for those of clear conscience is explored when contrasted with the narrator’s insomnia.]
So pray little Kay, love is just God on a good day And you can’t blame your mother She’s trying not to see you as her worst mistake And I wish that I could tell you right now (…I love you) But it looks like I won’t be around So you won’t know You won’t know You won’t know You won’t know…
[This stanza brings in the second key apostrophe, where Heidgen addresses the deceased Katie as if both she and death are present with him as he battles his demons. The assonance and alliteration of the opening line—“So prAY little KAY, love is just God on a Good dAY"—is a soothingly sad lament, almost as if Heidgen is trying to console the dead. The next couplet relates well to the beginning of "Limousine (MS Rebridge)"—"K, here’s your ride," and the ensuing emotions of regret experienced by Katie’s mother, as well as the final words of "Limousine (MS Rebridge)," where Katie speaks gratefulness that she will never "lose my baby in the crowd," or bring her into this unjust world. Heidgen’s expression, "I wish that I could tell you right now (…I love you)" shows him embracing death, and leaving Katie both physically and spiritually ("So you won’t know") because of his uncertainty as to what the afterlife will bring for him.]
So believe in me, believe them You think I’ll let you down Well I won’t They can fire everything they’ve got And when you think I’m sunk I will float on and die I am fine to put your gun to my life And know I’m scared it won’t fire right You won’t know You won’t know You won’t know…
[The repetition of “believe” and confusing nature of the beginning of this stanza highlight the narrator’s lack of confidence in what to believe, leading to the confrontational question, “You think I’ll let you down?” The narrator is engaging in self-motivation to convince himself that the only way that he can rectify his sins is to die by his own hand. Others may wish him dead (“They can fire everything they got”) but Heidgen has resolved to only die by his own doing (“I am fine to put your gun to my life”), then further exemplified by his sentiments that his fears are not of death, but that this metaphorical gun “won’t fire right.” Once again, like in “Sudden Death in Carolina,” the imagery of guns and triggers are meant to denote control, which is no longer in the narrator’s hands.]
You’re never going to feel as full as you felt So let’s go outside and we’ll play William Tell Take your time drawing a bead I’ll stand as still as you need 'Cause you're so good at talking smack You heart attack But you’re the apple of my eye anyway My smiling face that’s on my head is on a silver plate.
[Once again the narrator’s tone is apologetic and calming in his alliteration and assonance “You’re never going to Feel as Full as you Felt,” and although he is addressing Katie, he is also describing his own state of mind due to the crippling sense of remorse that permeates his conscience. Lacey then introduces a complex metaphor through his apostrophe of Katie, as the two resign themselves to “play William Tell.” William Tell, a Swiss folk hero, was forced to successfully make an “apple-shot”—to shoot an apple of the head of his son, otherwise both would be executed, which he accomplished. Hardly a game, as Heidgen euphemistically references the act as playing William Tell, this shows his resignation and acceptance of whatever death brings him, now that he has placed this metaphorical weapon of fate in the hands of Katie. The other meaning could be that they will literally play “William Tell Overture” from Gioachino Rossini’s “William Tell,” which is appropriately segmented into four distinct parts: “Prelude, Dawn” is representative of the better days in Heidgen’s life; “The Storm” is his descent into alcoholism and moral depravity, which culminates in intensity to the freeway car crash; “Ranz des Vaches” is the quiet after the storm, where he is forced to reconcile his very existence; and “Finale” is the epic and triumphant, in his eyes, march to death that will remedy his ills. “You’re the apple of my eye, anyway” returns to both the “apple-shot,” as well as the idiom that links well to Heidgen’s invocation of Katie in “Limousine (MS Rebridge)” as a “beauty supreme.” The inverted syntax of the final line gives the pretense of happiness yet is jarringly just the opposite—this line bears a striking resemblance to Jennifer’s line in “Limousine (MS Rebridge), “Her head in my hands and smiling.” Almost as if Heidgen now subscribes to Hammurabi’s Code of justice, he wishes to pay for his crimes appropriately with regard to what Katie suffered. The fact that his head is “on a plate” may acknowledge his realization that this now-present apparition of the dead still harbors resentment to the life that she will never have.]
So they say, They say in heaven There’s no husbands and wives On the day that I show up They’ll be completely out Of their forgiveness supplies And I can’t use the telephone To tell you that I’m dead and gone So you won’t know You won’t know You won’t know Yeah, You won’t know…
[There is biblical backing that there are neither husbands nor wives in heaven. In “Limousine (MS Rebridge),” Jennifer bitterly remarks, “We have found your man/He’s drinking up/He’s all-American, and he’ll drive,” to describe that this is the man that will be forever linked to Katie, and she will never be a bride. Heidgen acknowledges his wrongs, as well as the fact that, in another instance of him giving physical weight to something otherworldly/spiritual (“forgiveness supplies”), there may not be a heaven for him after death. He also rues the fact that although his death may be the only thing that brings closure to Katie’s, she may never know because he will never reach her. Once again, the narrator can only think in worldly terms, “I can’t use the telephone,” which returns to the seemingly disparate ending to Jennifer’s speech in “Limousine (MS Rebridge)” that mourns “Her signal was interrupted/My baby’s frequency not strong enough.” As with the two previous stanzas (for the third time), the narrator ends with three repetitions of “You won’t know,” which is symbolic with regards to the “Rule of Three”—that whatever positive or negative energy one puts into the world is thrice reciprocated upon him, and now Heidgen is appropriately suffering for his transgressions.]
K, here’s your ride Get your petals out and lay them in the aisle Pretend you are God, and grow And that it’s your own day to wed We have found your man He is drinking up He’s all-American, and he’ll drive He has volunteered with grace to end your life We’ll tidy up It’s sad to hold, but leave your shell to us You explode, you firefly, you tiny boat with oars Feather oars The world tilts back and pours and pours And so, you satellite, you tidal wave You’re a big surprise And I have one more night to be your mother Her signal was interrupted My baby’s frequency not strong enough Her head in my hands and smiling K, we will miss you but in time you’ll get set up And we will write
[This is arguably Brand New’s most powerful song. First, some background information: On July 2, 2005, flower girl Katie Flynn, 7, was returning with her family from her aunt’s wedding in Long Island, when a drunk driver, Martin Heidgen, smashed headfirst into the Flynns’ limousine while driving the wrong way on the highway. Both the chauffeur and Katie were killed instantly, and other family members sustained injuries ranging from minor to critical. The full story can be found here. Singer Jesse Lacey truly showcases his strengths as both a lyricist and narrator, switching in narrative voice between Jennifer Flynn, Katie Flynn, and Martin Heidgen, and also controlling the tempo and intensity of the song. In the first stanza, Lacey assumes the voice of Jennifer Flynn, Katie’s mother. The words are rife with euphemisms and lull the audience into a sense of security, which makes sense because she is basically addressing her dead daughter. The alliteration of “Pretend you are God and Grow/and that it is your day to wed” is used to gently lament the fact that Katie’s life is cut tragically short, and she will never enjoy these experiences. There is biting sarcasm and irony in the line “We have found your man/He is drinking up” that Heidgen, not a future husband, will be the man with whom Katie is eternally connected. “He’s all-American” exhibits criticism of the social climate and the culture of alcoholism that is the cause of deaths related to drinking and driving. Another euphemistic reference to Heidgen, that he has “volunteered with grace to end your life” starkly contrasts (hopefully) Heidgen’s lack of malicious intent that ended in tragedy regardless. “We’ll tidy up/It’s sad to hold, but leave your shell to us” is another euphemistic couplet that references the grisly details of the accident—where Jennifer held Katie’s disembodied head until rescue workers came. Essentially, she is hoping that Katie’s soul has moved on despite the irreparable damage done to her physical body. The metaphor comparing Katie to “a firefly” is quite simply, perfect. Fireflies are fleeting images of summer, and the time in which Katie could shine her youthful light upon the world was cut horribly short. The imagery of sailing evokes the ideas of Greek mythology where a soul would have to cross the River Styx to reach the afterlife, and sailing off into the sunset to meet death. Gruesomely, “the world tilts back and pours and pours” through its repetition of “pours” might exemplify the bloodiness of the scene. The references to “satellite,” “tidal wave,” and “big surprise” may be used to indicate that Katie will have a bigger impact on the world than she could have ever possibly imagined. The stanza is brought to a haunting close with “I have one more night to be your mother.” Following this, the musical and lyrical climax occurs as Lacey gets his loudest. The description of Katie using words such as “signal” and “frequency” seems out of place, but links well with the previous metaphor linking the child to a satellite, perpetually gazing down upon the Earth, yet ultimately severed from it. ”Her head in my hands smiling” out of context seems so innocuous, but is truly a horrific image when the fact of the matter is that it is only Katie’s head. Another comforting couplet spoken by Jennifer, whose words contrast with Lacey’s screaming, imagines Katie in a better place, and serves as a method of self-comforting.]
Hey, you beauty supreme Yeah, you were right about me But can I get myself out from underneath This guilt that will crush me In the choir, I saw our sad Messiah He was bored and tired of my laments He said, “I died for you one time, but never again” Well I love you so much, but do me a favor baby and don’t reply 'Cause I can dish it out, but I can't take it 1234567
[The intensity of the song climaxes, and the narrator shifts to Martin Heidgen. Despite reports from the court stating that Heidgen “showed no emotion,” Lacey imagines the convicted man to be undergoing an intense internal struggle, and in many ways assumes Heidgen’s conflict, literally with the Devil and God raging inside of him, only on a broader scale. Lacey gives palpable weight and physicality to this pervasive sense of guilt, “the guilt that will crush me.” The alliteration of the line “I Saw our Sad MeSSiah” lulls the listener in, and indicates how easily people have become jaded and subsequently given in to their vices. Thematically, Heidgen (and Lacey) addressing Jesus fits thematically with the album, in the loss of, and consequent search for, faith. Specifically, Jesus rejects his sacrifice for humanity seeing what happened to Katie, but Lacey uses this as a overarching criticism of a largely broken society as a whole, in which this sad instance is only a microcosm. The final two lines are sung in repetition, except each time after the first, the word “well” is replaced sequentially with the numbers one through seven, and could be spoken by either Martin—that he could complete his actions, but can’t bear (or even fathom) the consequences. Another theory, courtesy of Japes, holds that the entire section that I attributed to Martin is, in fact, being spoken by a remorseful Devil figure who is even upset by taking such a young life. However, this does not explain the speech directed towards “Our Messiah” because Jesus died for the sins of humanity. The count to seven has many symbolic meanings— Katie’s age, the seven deadly sins (as a broader denouncement of society), and completeness/perfection (as in the seven days it took God to come full circle, like in death, and construct the world).]
I’ll never have to buy adjacent plots of earth We’ll never have to rot together underneath dirt I’ll never have to lose my baby in the crowd I should be laughing right now.
[Ironically, in death, these four short lines embody the voice of Katie as grateful for the events that transpired. Essentially, she serves as a conduit for Lacey to say that this is no world to raise a child, and, in her life ending, she will never know or understand a variety of other pains and sufferings that plague people as they grow and age. As explored earlier, Jennifer is imagining Katie’s wedding day that will never arrive, conversely Katie will never have to experience losing a spouse, euphemistically referenced as buying “adjacent plots of earth,” then explicated somewhat harshly—and literally— in the next line as rotting “together underneath dirt.” She will never have to worry about the moral decay that consumed her doing the same to her own child, who would be lost “in the crowd,” i.e., fallen prey to a culture of depravity, and consequently she “should be laughing right now.”]
also, i really enjoy reading your interpretations, I definitely had the same idea but you really broke it down and dissected every lyric to it's full potential. this really helps me understand more and just love Brand New even more now. thank you sooooo much
Good to Know That If I Ever Need Attention All I Have to Do Is Die
Am I correct to defend the fist that holds this pen? It’s ink that lies, the pen, the page, the paper I live, I learn you will always take what I have earned And so aid my end while I believe I’m winning.
[Interesting word choice to utilize the phrase, “the fist that holds this pen”— as if metaphorically Jesse Lacey’s words are his best, and most potent, weapon to, as he later puts it, “Speak my mind whenever I feel slighted/I am hellbent on exacting all of my revenge.” The initially slow pacing of the song provides senses of tension and unease that build to the explosion of the chorus. In using the alliterative effect, the listener is almost lulled into Lacey’s cold, calculating words before his tone shifts and his emotions truly flow. Examples of this alliteration are seen in the phrases, “the Pen, the Page, the Paper”; “I Live, I Learn, you wiLL aLways”; “anD so aiD my enD.” This song resonates in content to “I Will Play My Game Beneath the Spin Light" in the sense that Lacey is questioning his self worth, and his purpose in a life that he deems meaningless, but "Good to Know" also serves as a pointed indictment of an oppressive music industry that seeks to stifle his creativity. The use of the rhetorical question and the subsequent personification that "it’s the inkthat lies, the pen, the page, the paper" sounds with a sense of bitterness in its caustic sarcasm that is summarized in the end of the stanza— "aid my end while I believe I’m winning."
Our friends speak out in our defense Pay ten deaf ears for two months rent We burn the gallows they erect And cut the nooses they tie for our necks.
[When coupled with the intial line, “Am I correct to defend the fist that holds this pen?” the first line of this stanza evokes the imagery of a trial of the band for attacking the conformity of the musical scene that is, ahem, largely already heard—deja entendu. There arises a sincere conflict because of this that is highlighted by the utilization of synecdoche— ten deaf ears is personified (to be “paid”) and are used as a part to represent the whole of record labels and their associated personalities. The band can either essentially “sell out” (and thereby “pay” these “deaf ears”) and continue to live life in the present manner, or otherwise risk (by hyperbole) a death sentence to its musical career. However, there is also irony present in the final lines of both the two first stanzas—by stating “aid my end while I believe I’m winning” and “we burn the gallows they erect/and cut the nooses they tie for our necks” Lacey gives the appearance that the band has a decision to make—either to give in or not— but by indicating that he knows the system can be defeated, the only way to go is to keep making music his way.]
You constantly make it impossible to make conversation We’re comatose but audible But I liked it the farther I get out We passed it off, but it’s all on us Well common conversation, it took everything I got And I liked it the farther I get out
[By switching to addressing an undetermined “you,” an ad hominem attack is utilized against essentially anyone who seeks to extinguish originality in favor of banality and the status quo. The chorus is very much so an outpouring of feelings, a torrent of words that fights against the tide of the forces that are attempting to prevent Brand New from making something that is truly jamais entendu—never heard. “We’re comatose but audible” certainly appearing paradoxical, is the focal point of Lacey’s argument, that there is no artistry in the creation of his compositions if it is dictated by the willpower of another, and in there lies sense in the nonsense of the contradiction— to be heard you have to be a mindless vegetable of the system. This idea is immediately qualified by the following line that “I liked it the farther I get out.” Next, there is assumption of blame that “we passed it off, but it’s all on us”—that following this relentless dogma of resignation was a self-destructive act to both the band and anyone around it.]
Once said always said I will hold the past over your head I’ll speak my mind whenever I feel slighted I am hellbent on extracting all of my revenge So take heart, sweetheart Or I will take it from you
[“Once said, always said” sounds a whole lot like the principle of deja vu or deja entendu, especially in its repetitive use of “said,” essentially all the music out there is already seen, already heard. Although the initial chorus may have been the climax in its power and raw passion, the falling action, in its return to the cold, calculating tone, is equally moving in its resolution to always honor the truth and the way that things should be done—“I’ll speak my mind whenever I feel slighted/I am hellbent on extracting all of my revenge”— pretty badass. The final couplet is as good as any to represent Lacey’s sentiments—to his loves, the world, etc.— and is chillingly acerbic. “Take heart, sweetheart, or I will take it from you”— once again the use of repetition (in this instance, “heart”) seems innocuous enough, but is another biting criticism—that this is the way the band will be, and nothing will change that.]
I slip concealed back to the keep Concede to do the work for free We prey as wolves among the sheep And slit the necks of soldiers while they sleep.
[A dictionary search of the word “keep” as a noun unveils the meaning to be “the innermost and strongest structure or central tower of a medieval castle.” This somewhat violent metaphor and double-entendre once again wraps up nicely Lacey’s perception of the situation. On the surface, the initial couplet “I slip concealed back to the keep/Concede to do the work for free” is like the untitled narrator in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man slipping back into anonymity that proves to ultimately not be a social hindrance. By returning to his roots, he realizes that making meaningful music was the primary concern, as money was, and never should have been, the ultimate object. However, the secondary, more morbid interpretation is that, figuratively, Lacey is stealing away, under the radar because of his refusal to accommodate “the mold,” to kill those who encourage the demise of meaningful music in the place they believe themselves to be safest— for free, of course. This of course relates to the idiom to be “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” an apparently harmless individual who nonetheless provides great danger to the system. Lacey is a wolf, sly and strong, and out for the blood of the sheep, innocent, and hopelessly fettered to its pack mentality. Lacey contrasts this with the end line, likening these people to “soldiers,” a distinct departure from being “sheep.” However, this may be to exhibit that these record label bosses submit to a certain degree of universal compliance, yet will also fight vigorously to defend the present state of affairs.]
They call holidays an option for a reason I hear you’re coming back to life just for the fourth I’ve been catching all your ghosts for every season I pray to God you won’t come back here anymore.
[Many thematic parallels have been drawn between Manchester Orchestra’s I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child and Brand New’s The Devil and God Are Raging Inside of Me. Both deal with internal struggles between good and evil, as well as the philosophical and spiritual search for God. In this song, I see singer Andy Hull questioning God, a divine “father” over the absence of his actual father. Holidays, often times for celebrating both familial ties and important religious events in history, serve as an ideal vehicle for Hull to exemplify the role that his biological father failed to play in his life. “I hear you’re coming back to life just for the fourth” struck me as a double-entendre—his father is present in body but not mind for Hull on the Fourth of July (or possibly Thanksgiving— the fourth Thursday in November), but, in a parallel to his existence he is “a day late, and a dollar short.” Whereas according to the Bible, Jesus arose on the third day from the dead, Hull’s father only manages to stir “for the fourth.” The next couplet introduces the recurring theme of Hull’s search for his father—in his loss for a physical figure, he feels abandoned by the religious one.]
Do you pray with him, too? They should deliver all my blessings in small brown paper handbags near the porch I wished I’d known that you were bleeding while I sat and watched you reading with the lord I read with him, too.
[The circular nature of these lines, ending the first line and last line with “too” provides a poetic example of Hull’s failing search for a father that ultimately goes nowhere, and returns him to where he started. There appears to be a degree of bitterness to exemplify Hull’s relationship—his use of a euphemism for alcohol, “blessings in small brown paper handbags,” adds to the questioning nature of the preceding line with regards to his father’s faith— “Do you pray with him, too?” However, the couplet that follows eases off the undertones of resentment upon the later realization, denoted by Hull’s transition to a jarring verb of the pluperfect tense (“I wished I’d”), that his father was suffering as well, despite being oblivious to his son’s plight.]
When you look at me I’ll be digesting your legs 'Cause I can hardly see What’s in front of me these days And those days, too.
[The idea from the previous lines continues here—Hull’s verb use (“I can hardly see”) is in the present tense, but he is also referencing visions of the immediate time, as well as the past, indicating that because of this overarching sense of uncertainty, he is stuck in a spiritual rut. “I’ll be digesting your legs” is perhaps the most enigmatic line of the entire song, even by Hull’s standards. In keeping with the religious context of the song, this could mean that Hull has taken the Communion (in the Catholic Church via transubstantiation becoming the Body of Christ, i.e., his “legs”) but is not truly sure where his faith lies. Eucharist is literally meant to be “soul food;” nourishment that supplements a believer’s spiritual growth, which was stunted by Hull’s father. However, other listeners maintain that this line is simply a non-sequitur on Hull’s part that stems from a bizarre dream that he had (and oddly felt compelled to incorporate into a song) as explained by him during live sets.]
I’ve got to take what I’m making And turn it into something I’ve got to take what i’m making And turn it into something For you I’ve got to break what I’m making And turn it into something I’ve got to break what I’m making And turn it into something For you.
[The powerful climax of the song addresses both fathers. I believe the repetition and parallel syntax of “I’ve got to take what I’m making/And turn it into something” refers to God, and that despite Hull’s disillusionment, he needs to show resolve through his faith and turn this into something positive. However, this is sharply contrasted by his address to his father, “I’ve got to break what I’m making/And turn it into something”— that he needs emotional severance from the toxic and unrequited relationship with his worldly paternal figure in order to live the physical, spiritual, and emotional life that he seeks.]
God, where have you been? God, oh God, where have you been? God, my God, my God, where have you been?
[The untying of the events that built up to this moment once again highlight Hull’s despondency, as purported by the actions of his father, and the consequent inaction on God’s part by way of rectifying his suffering.]
On the porch she will sit Light another cigarette And take a sip of anything that makes it right. She’s outside trying to hide from the fight just inside Where her mom and her dad destroy each other And on the phone she will call Every boy, yeah, one and all. They will touch her in all the right places.
[Singer Andy Hull initiates the exposition of his narrative with the introduction of his nameless female character. Because the woman lacks a definite identity, her story is applicable on a broad level, while also serving to further the tragedy of the story. The euphemistic nature of this beginning, highlighted by the reference to various forms of alcohol as “anything that makes it right” denotes that this, sadly, is not a unique occurrence. However, the persistent use of the future tense for verbs throughout the song may indicate that, when coupled with the undistinguished heroine, although the situation that people like her are in is dire, the right help may save their lives. The assonance of the -ide sound “she’s outside trying to hide from the fight just inside" is discordant in the strong nature of its sounds when repeated and serves to both highlight the beginning of this breakdown, as well as the distinct feelings of exclusion vs. inclusion and alienation vs. acceptance. The inverted syntax, used twice in this stanza ("On the porch she will sit" and "On the phone she will call") both qualify the confusing backwardness of this woman’s life, which calls into question whether "every boy" really does "touch her in all the right places."]
And in her room, she will slide Down the bed and try to fly And she will fall once again for the feeling And as he grabs her brown hair She is faking That the feeling he gives her is real As the floor underneath the bed is Breaking She will finish what she starts with “I love you.”
[This stanza brings rising action, along with the first imagery of flight, evoking the ideas of freedom and escapism. Similarly, imagery is detailed that the woman is hopelessly propped up by this emotional high, yet to her dismay, her world is beginning to unfurl and fall apart. Her hope that being “touched in all the right places” will ease her emotional turmoil is in vain, as she finds herself “faking that the feeling he gives her is real.” Like many works of literature, sleep and the bed are representative of things that bring peace to those who are comfortable with themselves and their lives. But to those who feel guilty or uncomfortable with their identities, sleep and the bed provide just the opposite.]
So from her head to her toes Nervous hands and runny nose All of this just for one night of feeling And in her ears she will hear All the things that hide her fears Of dying young and making plans for the future.
[The action continues to rise, as this section is rife with synecdoche as the disparate elements of this woman’s body call into question the meaning of her existence. “Nervous hands and runny nose” are representative of the fear and uncertainty, and the tears that the weight the emotional toll takes upon her. The assonance of the -ear sound— “And in her ears she will hear all the things that hide her fears” rolls effortlessly, exemplifying how quickly everything falls apart for her, leading right into the subsequent, almost paradoxical statement, that her fear is “of dying young and making plans for the future,” while it seems that one cannot have the first without losing the second.]
And all the marks on her arms Symbolize a fractured heart And all the boys that were smart Left her alone So from the roof she will fly 15 feet down the side Of the house where she once was happy
[The climax of the story is reached. Once again, the part represents a specific whole through Hull’s selection of detail, this time “the marks on her arms” representing the “fractured heart.” I think the following couplet is almost bitingly sarcastic, and simultaneously a plea for help— the right person in this woman’s life could have changed everything yet seemingly “all the boys that were smart left her alone.” This idea returns to the continuing use of the future tense, that this woman does not need an concrete identity because she is a mold that is distressingly prevalent throughout society, and it takes one positive relationship to save pull her away from the edge. The inverted syntax once again highlights the twisted nature of the woman’s action, accentuated by the euphemism to “fly” rather than to “fall,” but in many ways this was the only way to attain ultimate freedom.]
Yes it’s true she’s aware That she is breaking And it’s true, she can’t do anything Well in her blue underwear She is thinking how In Jesus’ precious name She got here Well it’s sad but it’s true She is ending But for now, she will pray for some wings On a black cadillac she is landing hard Yet her parents’ biggest worry is the car.
[The repetition and parallel structure that cascades in a series of realizations (highlighted by the phrase “it’s true”) serve show a bitter sense of irony and regret. I found the irony to be most jarring in the couplet that as the woman is falling, she somewhat humorously notes that “it’s true, she can’t do anything well in her blue underwear. The falling action literally involves her falling, and is overwhelmed by the sense of regret that causes her to truly “pray for some wings” that will, this time around, save her life, rather than providing an outlet for escape through ending it, but it’s already too late. The denouement occurs abruptly and once again stressed by its inverted syntax. Hull powerfully ends the narrative with a powerful and viciously caustic couplet that in this broken home, “her parents’ biggest worry is the car.”]
Hey, I thoroughly enjoy your explorations of the Brand New songs - fantastic reading - so keep up the good work! I was wondering whether you would write something similar for Manchester Orchestra? I place them on the same par as Brand New - would love to read your insight into songs such as Where Have you Been? and I can Barely Breathe - Thanks :)
Surely, and thanks for the feedback! The next piece I am working on actually is “Girl with Broken Wings” by Manchester Orchestra, and I will try to work on either “Where Have You Been?” or “I Can Barely Breathe” next.
We saw the western coast I saw the hospital Nurse the shoreline like a wound Reports of lovers’ trysts Were neither clear nor descript We kept it safe and slow The quiet things that no one ever knows
[Brand New singer Jesse Lacey has undeniably strong ties to his hometown of Levittown, New York. By creating a contrasting setting for his protagonist and his lover on “the western coast,” he initiates the sense of a want to keep from the prying eyes of friends and family. Similar to the use of a story to demonstrate an idea as in “Me vs. Maradona vs. Elvis,” I believe that Lacey utilizes a very specific story to illustrate general feelings of a loss of love in a romance. The personification that the hospitalnurses the shoreline like a wound simultaneously makes sense yet is jarring in its unexpected nature. The fact that this hospital is nurturing the shoreline— the narrator’s place of escape— “like a wound” indicates that this relationship is volatile. “Reports of lovers’ trysts”— the views of those that the narrator seeks to keep this relationship hidden from is subsequently contrasted by a sense of relief that they were “neither clear nor descript.” “Tryst” is perhaps the best possible word to indicate this secret meeting between lovers that strove to maintain their status as “a quiet thing that no one ever knows.” Whether this hospital is possibly being visited by the veiled couple for either an abortion or a birth of a child is open to interpretation.]
So keep the blood in your head And keep your feet on the ground If today’s the day it gets tired Then today’s the day we drop out Gave up my body and bed All for an empty hotel Wasting my words on lower cases and capitals.
[The reasoning of the narrator to follow through with this relationship comes afterwards. The repetition of “keep” indicates a sense of control and the need to stay grounded. In a conciliatory manner, he agrees with himself that “if today’s the day it gets tired/then today’s the day we drop out,” but with so much sacrifice already made— “gave up my body and bed” (i.e., a sense of home and security) “all for an empty hotel”— a life on the move out of the eye of unwanted scrutiny, which he cannot bring himself to talk with his lover about. Therefore he is “wasting my words on lower cases and capitals,” or putting his feelings in writing instead of direct contact.]
I contemplate the day we wed Your friends are boring me to death Your veil is ruined in the rain By then it’s you I can do you without There’s nothing new to talk about And though our kids are blessed Their parents let them shoulder all the blame
[In this stream of consciousness, the narrator considers “the day we wed,” possibly out of wedlock or otherwise simply as an extension of the situation. The fact that “your friends are boring me to death” indicates an inability for the relationship to work in the long-term and foreshadowing towards its failure. The hypothetical marriage occurring on a stormy day reflects the nature of marriage. Through the alliterative effect of the line “veil is Ruined in the Rain,” indicates the ease in which everything has fallen apart. The rain ruining the veil, which is traditionally white and used in wedding ceremonies to signify both spiritual and physical virginity, qualifies the sense of lost innocence that perhaps fueled this connection between lovers that is now being tested by the tempest. The narrator at this point has recognized this irreconcilable fact that the affair is doomed— “there’s nothing new to talk about.” However, the true tragedy lies in the protagonists recognition that the ultimate victims of this split will be neither him nor his lover, but his children whom he is bringing into the world. There is an interesting switch in the subject from the personal “our kids” to the impersonal “their parents” (as opposed to “we let them shoulder all the blame”). This may denote that, unfortunately, this is not a unique situation, but the truth of many relationships spurred on by pure passion.]
I lie for only you. And I lie well….hallelu
[This is the powerful, and very haunting, climax of the song. The dual meaning of “lie,” that the narrator physically lies (with his body) for the lover and the narrator lies to his lover about the future of this relationship is furthered immediately by the repetition of “lie”— “I lie well.” The fact that the entire word “hallelujah” (meaning “God be praised” or an exclamation of rejoicing) is never completely said reflects the fact that faith and hope has been lost between the two.]
I just wanted to say that I loved your interpretation of "Capital H" by Motion City Soundtrack. I think you've definitely picked up on one of the running themes of Justin's lyrics. I just wanted to add that "The Weakends" supports your argument brilliantly.
As years go crashing by,
I think of all I've pondered,
So many minutes squandered,
So many things undone.
I've tried to figure out
How many lives I've wasted
Waiting for the perfect time to start.
Thank you very much; I also agree completely with your analysis of “The Weakends.”
I am really hoping to catch Motion City Soundtrack on the 4 Albums. 2 Nights. 7 Cities. Tour in the next month or two.
We’ve planted a seed, an ever-growing wonder to a beautiful tree. Grow. Each branch outstretched and different from the last. Where the old have broken, some easier than the last. The right ones have grown in to fill in the gaps. And all are equal in love and trust. And all are a part of something so much bigger than this. Through the trials our tongues are tied, to trying times, so many unsaid lines.
[This song strikes at the essence of We Came as Romans’ songwriting— essentially positive metalcore purported by the dual vocals between the unclean (David Stephens) and the clean (Kyle Pavone). The metaphor comparing the band to a tree is literary conceit that becomes a recurring theme throughout the song. The “seed” is symbolic of new beginnings and life as a whole, and that in something small— a dream, a hope, an aspiration— something can grow greatly. Branches are the members of the band itself, attached to the trunk, yet distinct entities. The imagery that each branch is “outstretched and different from the last” evokes the imagery of grasping hands and arms, and the fact that the band is trying to reach out to its fans in a figurative sense. The “old [branches]” that have “broken, some easier than the last” are representative of both members and fans alike who have since departed, perhaps they did not realize this overarching belief, but We Came as Romans accepts this metaphorical pruning of the tree as a necessary part in becoming who they envision themselves to be. The next line serves to reiterate this sentiment, that essentially “everything happens for a reason,” and that in the absence of these people, new ones have entered the lives of the band for the better.]
Our lives were over at so many moments (so many moments) And now they’re all just beginning (just beginning) I have never been so consumed and I have never loved it more. To be devoted to letting all see what it is to live in the love of others. To live in the love of my brothers. And spilling back all that anyone has ever spilled for me. To show that to those who have never seen. Four years ago we planted a seed. Found that foundation that we need. Strived for the perfect balance, to show love and show compassion. And our vision for this world will not die when we are dead. (When we are dead) My future started with the first note I ever played. The first note that was ever sang. When we started living with purpose and writing with meaning. This is what we were made for. Every day I live this future.
[The second half of the song shifts away from the emphasis being placed on the imagery of the tree itself, but rather to the idea that, as poet Mark Strand put it, “the future is always beginning now.” Brotherhood is a theme often explored by the band, perhaps most memorably in its couplet from the song “Intentions”:
We are nothing without brotherhood
And brotherhood is nothing without your brothers.
This idea of union among the band members, and then on the next level to the fans is intense and gives the band the urge to emphasize “living with purpose and writing with meaning.” The idea of death is one that the band embraces fearlessly, as it believes that in both giving and receiving love from each other and from the fans, each will live on eternally through the mark made by the music.]
So quiet. Another wasted night. The television steals the conversation. Exhale. Another wasted breath. Again it goes unnoticed.
[This song in many ways is a ballad to the failing relationship, or perhaps to a relationship that has recently become one-sided and filled with unrequited love. Chris Carrabba’s use of very short, choppy phrases add to the jarring effect of the lyrics as a whole, that he is quite literally breaking up. The personification that the “televisionsteals the conversation" serves to open a running theme throughout the song that Carrabba utilizes to blame everything but his love for the failing of this relationship, and can also be seen to give human characteristics to inanimate objects because this relationship is so devoid of meaningful interaction.]
Please tell me you’re just feeling tired, ‘Cause if it’s more than that I feel that I might break. Out of touch. Out of time. Please send me anything but signals that are mixed, ‘Cause I can’t read your rolling eyes. Out of touch. Are we out of time?
[The repetition of “out of” followed by things this relationship is lacking serves to highlight its inadequacies. There is a jarring (and somewhat unexpected) antithesis between “Please send me” and “anything but,” which truly indicates the ambivalence that Carrabba, and a perpetuation of the running theme that there is a lack of a sense of blame placed upon his lover. In many ways, “rolling eyes,” fall under the use of synecdoche— that this one feature (the part) represents the whole, and the sentiments of the unpitying mistress.]
Closed lipped. Another goodnight kiss, Is robbed of all its passion. Your grip. Another time is slack, It leaves me feeling empty.
[Carrabba can feel the palpable shift of this relationship to a platonic one, or one that will simply cease to exist. Once again, the use of a passive verb in the phrase “another goodnight kiss, is robbed of all its passion” is lacking a basic accusatory nature, indicating that Carrabba still has the intention to work out his problems; it is not an aggressive attack upon his lover, such as for instance saying, “You rob the goodnight kiss of all its passion.” The resumption of short, choppy phrases and a pacifist’s approach towards a potentially volatile situation continue in the last couplet.]
Please tell me you’re just feeling tired, ‘Cause if it’s more than that I feel that I might break. Out of touch. Out of time. Please send me anything but signals that are mixed, ‘Cause I can’t read your rolling eyes. Out of touch. Are we out of time? I’ll wait until tomorrow. Maybe you’ll feel better then, Maybe we’ll be better then. So what’s another day, When I can’t bear these nights of thoughts of going on without you? This mood of yours is temporary. It seems worth the wait to see you smile again. Out of the corner of my eye Won’t be the only way you’re looking at me then. So quiet. Another wasted night, The television steals the conversation. Exhale. Another wasted breath, Again it goes unnoticed.
[This section qualifies the beginnings of a shift in Carrabba’s feelings— the repetition and parallel construction of sentences beginning with “maybe” are a failed attempt at self-assurance that is ultimately apophasis, further proven by the following (seemingly confident) line, “This mood of yours is temporary.” The verse ending with exactly the same words lends itself to the circular nature of the song, and that Carrabba, the jilted lover, is inevitably stuck in this rut that he cannot bring himself out of, as he is still deeply enamored with his love.]
Please don’t be technology 'Cause I can't turn off your love like some cold machine Don’t feed me scraps from your bed And I won’t be the stray coming back just to be fed Don’t be waves Come to seal my fate, marine Just pretend That you want me And be my bait*
[*There is a decent split of differing opinions as to whether the lyrics in the last line are “be my babe” or “be my bait.” Thematically, and historically with regards to Lacey’s writing, I believe “bait” is the more fitting choice. I just honestly cannot see singer Jesse Lacey utilizing pet names, especially in a song. Through a great deal of metaphorical language, Lacey is making a rant against a passionless relationship. The early use of figurative language is diverse, but linked in it that it produces Petrarchan Conceit— the struggle of unrequited love against an “unpitying but idolized mistress.” It makes sense, then, that imagery of subordination— “I won’t be the stray coming back just to be fed”— and powerlessness— “don’t be waves/come to seal my fate, marine” (i.e., man against the massive power of nature) highlight this disparity. If the words are “be my bait,” then this is fitting as another reference to John Donne’s work of metaphysical conceit, “The Bait.” The other being in “Untitled 6,” which is discussed more in-depth here.]
Don’t be that note I can’t hold Don’t be that joke that I told and told till it got old Don’t be that hand around my throat so I can’t breathe You say you’re my friend, but why won’t you be my family? Well, if you breed Just don’t tell me Be my bait Be my serene Tell me you know what I mean You’ve set on me but you are not the sun And you will not listen.
[In many ways, there is a shift in tone away from idolatry to frustration and anger, reiterated by the parallel construction of commands beginning with “Don’t be that,” followed with three metaphors for what his unloving love interest is: “a note that I can’t hold,” “a joke that I told and told,” and “a hand around my throat.” The comparison between the lover and the “hand around my throat” is synecdoche, whereas “the hand” represents the whole essence of the lover and the relationship— a suffocating force. The likening of this relationship to a trite joke is almost jarring in irony that Lacey is perceptive to the almost cruel humor apparent in this one-way love. ”You say you’re my friend, but why won’t you be my family” strikes at the heart of the matter— a spurned offer at a more serious relationship. Now, perhaps the strongest line is “You’ve set on me, but you are not the sun.” This powerful statement, in the tradition of Shakespeare, is a true double-entendre. The first interpretation is that “set” means chosen, that she has decided that Lacey will be hers, but following this epiphany, he no longer wants any part of this. The second interpretation likens this lover to a false sun, that she has “set,” or gone down in his eyes, but is “not the sun,” i.e., not the center of Lacey’s universe any longer.]
From Brand New’s album of demos, “Fight Off Your Demons” (2006)
Well I wrote your name and burned it, To see the color of the flame, And it burned out the whole spectrum as if you were everything, I’m just burned gold, A normal flame, I am not anything.
[Unlike singer Jesse Lacey’s often-explored theme of bitterness towards past relationships, “Untitled 1” is surprisingly modest (even self-deprecating) and honest towards the fact that in age, things change. Burning and fire are constant themes in the song, and the first couplet initiates an elegant apophasis. It becomes apparent that Lacey did not metaphorically burn his love’s name just “to see the color of the flame,” but as a purgation of times long gone. Immediately after the imagery of fire continues by comparing her to a flame that burns with “the whole spectrum as if you were everything,” that she meant the world to him, while he simply felt ordinary. Whereas her flame was a brilliant fire, Lacey’s metaphor that he himself is just “a normal flame” (which is also a double-entendre with flame meaning both a lover and intense emotion) likens him to a flickering heat that is quickly burning out.]
And all that I remember is the feeling of waking up, When we were kids you were the sun to which my eyes would not adjust, When we were kids i was a fountain you could never drink enough, Then came all the boys who swept you up, Played careless with your heart, And every night there was a new girl sitting beside me in my car, Something dies when you grow older, But you do the best you can, I am glad, I am glad, You found a good man.
[Sleep is also a lyrical theme often explored by Lacey, especially in the sense that to retire peacefully at night, one has to be comfortable with his own character. In “Millstone” Lacey sings
I used to know the name of every person I’d kissed, Now I’ve made this bed and I can’t fall asleep in it.
Now, however, it appears that Lacey has accepted his life and what it has brought him. This conciliatory nature is furthered by more imagery of his love with strong light, warmth, and the nurturing nature of the sun, which he essentially wants to gaze at and take in, but cannot “adjust.” By contrast, Lacey links himself metaphorically to the cool opposite of fire (evoking the ideas of yin and yang and opposites attract), water, and a fountain to which his lover often returned but ultimately could not satisfy. The death of the innocence in youth is almost a tragedy itself through the passage of time; Lacey laments how other men entered her life and his became dominated by a parade of women and meaningless relationships. The ending is sung with a raw honesty that doesn’t exude any malicious undertones or sentiments of harsh resentment, only acceptance of the fact that things move on, and in many ways this is indicative of the maturation of Lacey’s songwriting and Brand New as a band.]
Last night I swallowed liquor and a lighter, And this morning I threw up fire. But it’s nothing new, I’ve been piecing it together and it’s got something to do, With every look thrown like a knife across a crowded room, And every slow and quiet car ride I spent drinking in the backseat, Every stupid melody to every stupid song, And every stupid word that everybody’s hanging on.
[Clever alliterative play on words, that the consumption of “liquor and a lighter” leads to throwing “up fire.” This reference to fire could be a negative aspect of its use in literature; the liquor and subsequent fire are metaphorically linked to singer Jesse Lacey’s failing relationship, burning consuming everything in their path. Through the quick personification of a volley of looks “thrown like a knife across a crowded room,” Lacey reveals the venom present in the interaction with regards to this affair. Lacey also introduces a degree of self-loathing through the repetition of “stupid,” and that he dislikes that ultimately his issues are what his fans are listening to.]
What difference does this difference in age make? I know how it ends… she’ll kill me quick. Call 911, I’m already dead but, Someone should be caught and held responsible, For this bloody mess
[Antithesis highlighted initially by the repetition of “difference,” then sharply contrasted with the phrase “I know how it ends, she’ll kill me quick.” Lacey is stating through his experience that whether there is a notable age gap or not, he ends up hurt. “I’m already dead” is a device of telling the story (that he is dead, but is still narrating) that he employs once again in “Play Crack the Sky.” ”Call 911” introduces the extended metaphor that runs throughout the rest of the song that essentially this love is both killing him and his soul.]
Last night I fell asleep next to a liar, And I woke up with a shiner, And it’s all that I remember from a night spent lying on my back with a view, of a stone white ceiling and the back of your head, And this quiet dark bed feels like the middle of nowhere, And we beat each other up just like we always do, When I’m talking to myself I’d always rather be talking to you.
[Lacey waking “up with a shiner” further exemplifies the spiritual (or perhaps even physical) damage that this relationship takes upon him. This is a bit of an antithesis that for Lacey, “it’s all that I remember,” yet he goes on to rattle off lucid details from his memory— this is a similar technique to his narrative in “Me vs. Maradona vs. Elvis,” where gives the appearance of a drunken stupor yet is extremely perceptive and attentive to subtle minutiae. It is interesting that he does not see (selective memory?) his beau’s face, only a old “stone white ceiling and the back of your head.” Lacey admits there is a notable predicament: “we beat each other up just like we always do,” but he cannot escape, cannot tear himself away; he would “always rather be talking to you.”]
What difference does this difference in age make? I know how it ends… she’ll kill me quick. Call 911, I’m already dead but, Someone should be caught and held responsible, For this bloody mess. Call homicide, take the case to court, 'Cause her lips taste like a loaded gun, I’m her number one chalk outline on the floor.
[The metaphor of Lacey’s emotional murder at the hands of his lover continues. The simile that her “lips taste like a loaded gun” is practically metaphysical conceit because they seem so drastically unrelated. This may be representative of, as Taking Back Sunday (mortal enemies, I know! Perhaps no longer…) guitarist John Nolan in an enlightening ReadJunk interview explained, of control. Taking Back Sunday has been known to largely use the imagery of guns and triggers to show the power struggle present in emotional feuds. Another great metaphor follows with a jarring sense of irony that Lacey could even be “her number one chalk outline,” suggesting that perhaps she is a cheater and acts the same to all the men with whom she interacts.]
They hung her from the bridge on Monday, The gathering turned to a mob out on the lawn, They dropped her body in the river, School and work returned to normal before long, (Before long… and no one will mention any of this again). Call 911, I’m already dead but, Someone should be caught and held responsible, For this bloody mess. Call homicide, take the case to court, 'Cause her lips taste like a loaded gun, I’m her number one chalk outline on the floor.
[As Lacey is already dead as the narrator of this song, it makes sense that someone else deals her the death sentence for her crimes against the human soul in this song. An ambiguous “they” may be intentionally lacking defining characteristics, and representative of society as a whole that looks down (or maybe better said, Lacey hopes looks down) on women with such personalities. This symbolic death of his lover, and consequently his destructive relationship may indicate an epiphany for Lacey that he cannot dwell in the past that has caused him great hardships, exemplified by the simple fact that despite this horrific execution occurring much to the general public’s delight- “the gathering turned to a mob out on the lawn,”- there was no cataclysmic end to the world when he and his beloved broke off, but instead life simply went on- “school and work returned to normal before long.”]
I’ll be back tomorrow, I’ll be back in the ballroom swinging, I’ll be back with my superman action and I’m off to save the world. Silly me, I left a message with no return number For my boys in blue in case of an emergency, In case the shit goes down. I’ll be back tomorrow, I’ll be back in the ballroom swinging, I’ll be back with my superman action and I’m off to save the world, I’ll be back tomorrow, I’ll be back in the ballroom swinging, I’ll be back with a capital h, it stands for “hero,” and the hero is me I’ll be back tomorrow I’ll be back at a quarter to eleven I’m half drunk and I can’t see straight, a hero zero with a capital z (That’s me) Singing songs from the balcony as the city crumbles, Under the powers of an evil doctor rocket science monster with capabilities to destroy the entire universe.
[“Capital H” is one of my favorite songs off of I Am The Movie, and I believe it to reflect a consistent sentiment of singer Justin Pierre throughout most of Motion City Soundtrack’s work- the ineptitude to take action when it counts the most. The use and repetition through the parallel syntax with the phrase “I’ll be back” represents the grandest plans and designs that Pierre has for himself and his life. This use of the future tense really reflects Robert Burns’ quote, immortalized in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men:
The best laid schemes of Mice and Men
Oft go awry.
There is a hope and a dream in Pierre’s mind that he can live up to his idolatry of Superman (an idea brought back in a popular culture reference to the destruction of the his home world of Krypton in “Her Words Destroyed My Planet”), yet in reality he is hopelessly ineffectual and cannot bring himself to carry any of his plans into fruition. Perhaps best stated by Pierre himself in “Her Words Destroyed My Planet”:
But the words you served destroyed my planet
I’ll stall before I start,
I’ll stall before I start, anything at all.
Humorously enough, the first line in the present tense, of what Pierre has actually managed to accomplish after he set out with the best intentions is “I’m half drunk/I can’t see straight/A hero zero with a capital z.” The last revelation of new words from Pierre in the song is the tongue-twister of a consequence (rife with hyperbole, which is in many ways a trademark of Pierre’s song writing) stemming from his inaction: “the city crumbles/under the powers of an evil doctor rocket science monster with capabilities to destroy the entire universe.” The fact that Pierre is “singing songs from the balcony” evoked the imagery in my mind that resonated with the legend of the Roman Emperor Nero, who allegedly played the lyre and sang as the city of Rome burned, perhaps by the very arson initiated with his own hands. Similar sentiments from MCS of a moderate degree of self-loathing with respects to an inability to change:
But I just hate to say goodbye/To all the metaphors and lies/That have taken me years to come up with— “Attractive Today”
You’re the laziness of afternoon— “Hold Me Down”
She was right to take off/Before she was consumed— “Resolution”
They say I’m great at first/But then the magic fades/Into an awful hue of dismal views/And pessimistic attitudes— “Stand Too Close”
Because I am so visceral/yet deeply inept— “L.G. Fuad”]
From Brand New’s album of demos, “Fight Off Your Demons” (2006)
I, I am feeling like a veteran, Uncompensated for the blood I’ve left to pool on foreign grounds, And I, sometimes reach to rub at aching legs, But they’ve been dust for over a decade, And you’re the limb I’ve lost but somehow I still feel it.
[To me, this verse metaphorically resonates with Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic’s anti-war biography, Born on the Fourth of July, but many other accounts of the disillusion apparent in men disabled through combat exist. Whereas Kovic blindly served America due to his inherent love for his country, was paralyzed from the waist down, and was largely thrown to the wayside by his love, his country, Lacey is metaphorically comparing love to war, and that his former love has taken a palpable piece of him in leaving. The fact that Lacey feels that he has spilled his blood “on foreign grounds” may indicate just how little he actually knew about his love.]
Until I awake, We just hope that you made it, We hope that you’re celebrating, With people you miss, And burning like a beacon, Guiding our ship around this hellish shoal, I’m happy to admit that maybe I am a little depressed, ‘Cause I’m missing you to death.
[This is an interesting shift in the subject of the song, that “we just hope that you made it, we hope that you’re celebrating.” Perhaps, in a minimally conceited way, Lacey is stating that the well-being of the band relies upon his mental and lyrical acuity. This, and the following lines, resemble the construction of Brand New’s “Play Crack the Sky,” where Lacey states (very similarly),
But the wrong will strand you, oome off course while you sleep Sweep your boat out to sea or dashed to bits on the reef
The vessel groans, the ocean pressures its frame To the port I see the lighthouse through the sleet and the rain.
Now, despite how little Lacey would like to admit it, he likens his love interest to “a beacon, serving as a guiding light for the vessel that is his life through “this hellish shoal,” or rough patch in his life. This statement is not without a slight air of contempt, though, as this same beacon is “burning.” Use of a stark contrast and antithesis in the last couplet, that “I am happy to admit, that maybe I’m a little depressed/’Cause I’m missing you to death.” This is a prime example of literary apophasis, that simply by the fact that Lacey has taken the effort to construct these phrases of emotional angst, and consequently acknowledge them, he reveals that this is a significant emotional event in his life that is on his mind.]
And now, it’s only records of my memory, Some little thing you gave posthumously, The details all dragged out, To think, of all the paintings we would be without, If Van Gogh had gone and died face down from loss of blood the night he went and hacked his ear off. Until I awake, We just hope that you made it, We hope that you’re celebrating, With people you miss, And burning like a beacon, Guiding our ship around this hellish shoal, I’m happy to admit that maybe I am a little depressed, ‘Cause I’m missing you to death. Until I awake, We just hope that you made it, We hope you’re as decorated, As the day that you left, And burning like a beacon, Guiding our ship around this hellish shoal, I’m happy to admit that maybe I am a little depressed, ‘Cause i’m missing you to death.
[Intriguing apostrophe and personification of his love that is metaphorically dead, yet still giving out “records of my memory…posthumously.” Legend has it that artist Vincent Van Gogh, wallowing in loneliness, cut off his own left ear, gave it to a prostitute in a brothel, then proceeded to go home to rest, where he almost bled to death. This name-drop could be anything from Lacey’s admiration of Van Gogh’s boldness, a metaphor linking to earlier sentiments that he feels that he has spilled his own blood for this relationship, or a criticism of such radical behavior, because he feels that his best work lies ahead of him, and this sense of heartbreak will emerge as a vehicle to take him to that point. In the last stanza, the usual couplet from the chorus, “We hope that you’re celebrating/with people you miss” has been replaced with “We hope you’re as decorated/as the day that you left.” The former seems almost paradoxical in nature- if you’re celebrating with the people you miss, are you really missing them at all?- while the latter may be an attack upon this very sentiment- that Lacey understands that his love has changed (for the worse, in his opinion), yet all he wishes for is that his relationship could be returned to the way that it previously was.]
If home is where the heart is, why do I feel so fucking heartless? The crumbling skyline cuts a vicious horizon, sinking its teeth into the cold September sky. Decaying towers of steel reach with crooked spires for the heavens, like bones of the hollow chest of this town, torn wide for the scavengers. Mother mercy, take my hand. Follow me through this forsaken land. Father time, return what’s mine. The innocence you stole from these eyes. Because I just feel numb. For the vision burning before me is one of former glory. An icon cast in the light of freer times, now writhes in a bed of lies. Hope doesn’t live here. Love doesn’t live here anymore. Mother mercy, take my hand. Follow me through this forsaken land. Father time, return what’s mine. The innocence you stole from these eyes. Because I just feel numb.
[Parkway Drive’s fourth album, “Deep Blue,” is, as singer Winston McCall explained here, largely a narrative about a man who “wakes up and realises that his life is a lie and nothing he believes in is real. So he tries to find the truth within himself and his journey takes him to the bottom of the ocean and back again,” only to find that a dominating sense of loneliness and exclusion is prevalent everywhere. Hailing from the sleepy Australian surf town of Byron Bay, imagery of the ocean and water is a practical constant throughout all of Parkway Drive’s albums. McCall begins with a clever play on words- “If home is where the heart is, why do I feel so fucking heartless?” At this point in the narrative, the hero has realized that all of his flaws have followed him to the depths of the sea, and consequently he has returned to the surface. By taking the antithesis of this common, conventional phrase, “If home is where the heart is,” McCall indicates that as the protagonist has no heart, he consequently has no home, and will not fit in the world, no matter how far he travels, no matter how many miles he buries himself below the sea. The vivid and violent imagery, and consequent personification of the unnamed city of vice and evil- a definite antagonist in its own right- serves to represent the moral degradation of society as a whole. The bleak and hopeless scene is almost beautifully poetic, as “the crumbling skylinecuts a vicious horizon, sinking its teeth into the cold September sky" and "decaying towers of steelreach.” And, much in the tradition of “Carrion,” a song that likens McCall to the rotting carcass due to his broken heart, now this city is being compared metaphorically to the vile flesh, a cesspool for the vultures and ravenous parasites- humans- that are utterly devoid of any principles.
Other instances of personification:
“Mother mercy, take my hand”
“Father time, return what’s mine”
“A visionburning…an iconcast…now writhes in a bed of lies”
“Hopedoesn’t live here”
“Lovedoesn’t live here, anymore”
"An icon…now writhes in a bed of lies" reflects McCall’s sentiments in "Idols and Anchors, in which he screams,
There’s no hope for the weak
Your heroes have died
that any paragon of decency has fallen, and in its place stands the vacuous landscape of today’s world. Because this environment is metaphorically dead to McCall, the copious amount of personification is necessary to breathe life into the realm. Because any sense of humanity has been lost upon the narrator, the surroundings take on a being of their own.]
So wake up, run your lips across your fingers until you find Some scent of yourself that you can hold up high To remind yourself that you didn’t die On a day that was so crappy, whole and happy you’re alive
[Interesting construction in the first line; normally one would run fingers across his lips, instead of vice-versa. Personification of a defining scent that “you can hold up high" adds to the triumphant feel of the fact that "you didn’t die." The last line is also intriguing in construction- it begins by addressing the subject of the song, who is suicidal, but then at the end rapidly switches to the sentiment of Jeff Mangum. A note about "on a day that was so…whole"- a Latin teacher of mine once asserted that a complete (or whole) life is not achieved until death, thereby bringing existence full circle from essentially cradle to grave.]
You seem so bruised And it’s beautiful as it’s reflecting off from you as it shines You’re in the bathroom carving holiday designs into yourself Hoping no one will find you, but they found you And they took you And you somehow survived
[This verse reflects in many ways the title of the song. Peaches are known to be a fruit that are easily bruised, and peaches are a metaphor for the subject of the song, who is mentally compromised and depressed. This may be a veiled criticism of society, whereas bruised fruit is unacceptable and thrown away, but Mangum can see past the shallow exterior of a fundamentally flawed being, and what he sees is beautiful. This statement is qualified by the imagery of light, that this sense of allurement is “reflecting off from you as it shines.” A health teacher asked the students what they thought the time when most people died was. The morning, Mondays, dinner-time were common responses, and all seemed valid, but in fact the answer was the winter holidays, explained by the Daily Mail here. During the holiday season, there is an immense amount of societal pressure to enjoy one’s self, and at least plaster up the sleek veneer of happiness and contentment with one’s position in life. This in turn, fuels incredible amounts of stress that push many people over the edge, to suicide, to heart attacks, to fatal car accidents. “Carving holiday designs into yourself” is a euphemism for this phenomenon, when in reality, the subject is losing blood to self-inflicted wounds.
So wake up, and if the holidays don’t hollow out your eyes Then press yourself against whatever You find to be beautiful and trembling with life Because I’m so happy you didn’t die
[Perhaps whoever this song is written about is in reality comatose, but has survived the suicide attempt. This verse is in the future tense, and introduces a hypothetical situation, in which Mangum implores this person to avoid the holiday syndrome, and simply attempt to find small pockets of beauty apparent every day in the world that make life simply worth living, reverberated by a powerful final line, “Because I’m so happy you didn’t die.”]
From Brand New’s album of demos, “Fight Off Your Demons” (2006)
Well I lost my taste for the company of airports and cars We flew through the year and Avoided the dust and rock. We stood in the way of the tank till we bored and stopped So never show doubt in your hand Till you know what they got
[Introductory first line utilizes personification, that Lacey draws “company” from “airports and cars,” setting a theme of pervasive loneliness and heartbreak. “We flew through they year” reflects the earlier reference to an airport, and “avoided the dust and rock” may be an analog for Paul Weller’s original source- “Dust & Rocks” in which he sings,
It’s a lonely life, as bits of dust and rocks When you shake it off - it is all you have
"We stood in the way of the tank" resonates with the Chinese students’ protests of 1989 in Tiananmen Square, immortalized by the picture of the Tank Man standing defiantly in the way of the military procession. This is ultimately an ironic statement, because Lacey is stating that he is chronically plagued by disaffection and apathy. Whereas the protesters were passionate, there is a sharp contrast between standing "in the way of the tank" and ceasing to do so because he "bored and stopped." This leads up to the final couplet, which really serves to highlight Lacey’s feelings of alienation and emotional withdrawal, that one should not "show doubt in your hand, till you know what they got." This may be the personification as doubt as something palpable that Lacey can grasp, or the metaphorical sense that your secrets and feelings are hidden in a hand, like in a card game.]
Touch me or don’t, Just let me know, Where you’ve been.
[There is a noticeable ambivalence in these words- “touch me, or don’t,” that really qualify this state of emotions that have escaped Lacey. It is presumable that his love interest has left, or has been off without him, and he cannot even muster the fortitude to care about his situation.]
Well drop me a line with a hook and some raw bleeding bait (one, two, three, four) Well I’m uncaught and still swimming alone in the lake (five, six, seven, eight) Shimmering under the moon made of anger and hate I was the one who was always repeating it Shimmering like a penny out of reach in the subway grate (Shimmering like a coin kept safe away, You’ll never listen to anything) Touch me or don’t Just let me know, Where you’ve been Leave it alone, I’m sure there’s someone who knows Where you’ve been
[This verse resembles the poetry of the father of metaphysical conceit, John Donne, especially in “The Bait,” which can be read here. “The Bait” through its conceit, is essentially an extended metaphor that likens men to foolish fish that are attracted to the enticing bait, women, and will do anything to get it, which is ultimately a self-destructive act. Whereas Donne was at one time quite the womanizer, it makes sense for him to have his vision easily clouded, yet also to have become misogynistic and mistrustful at a later age. However, it appears Lacey is aware of the peril that the bait presents for him; it is described in a manner that is not in the least bit enticing, “a line with a hook and some raw, bleeding bait.” There may be even a bit of an indignant retort in “Well, I’m uncaught,” but this is quickly followed by a consequent sense of loneliness as he is “still swimming alone in the lake.” The empty lake may serve to signify that his love interest has charmed and captured the hearts of many other men, and consequently left Lacey by himself. Whereas “The Bait” lulls its reader into a sense of comfort through its warm imagery, Lacey sets the setting to be in the darkness “under the moon made of anger and hate.” Lacey’s metaphor likening him to “a penny out of reach in the subway gate” may reflect his incredibly lowered sense of self-worth and self-esteem, yet also a sliver of hope that he still shines in someone’s eyes, despite the fact that no one has extended the effort to hold him and take him back. The last couplet rings very sarcastically and passive-aggressively, that Lacey is “sure that here is someone who knows where you’ve been,” but isn’t making the effort to rectify his faults and his ways, signifying emotional defeat and resignation.]
With one or two I get used to the room We go slow when we first make our moves By five or six bring you out to the car Number nine with my head on the bar And it’s sad but true Out of cash and IOUs
[In an interesting interview with MTV (via VH1), Brand New singer Jesse Lacey likened the title of this song and its purpose to his fear of an inevitable fall from grace on the horizon, in the tradition of superstars Diego Maradona, the Argentine football legend, and Elvis Presley, the “King of Rock and Roll.” This song is much more effective than one simply about falling from grace or a generic fall from grace, because it chooses a very specific instance (perhaps drawing inspiration from Lacey’s experience), and uses it to illustrate, through action, a potential fall from grace. The tense of all verbs in the song is in either the present or the future, so this may indicate that Lacey is imagining a possibility in the many ways he could begin his descent into becoming washed up. It might not be the appropriate label of a literary term, but the ellipsis used in this first stanza- that essentially the word or phrases that represent alcohol have been extricated- give a euphemistic sense of Lacey’s situation. The use of numbers indicates how many drinks he has had, and his progression into further drunkenness and recklessness. The last line really reflects Lacey’s fears, “out of cash, and IOUs,” that alcohol and drugs will both bankrupt him, and his standing in the eyes of others.]
I got desperate desires and unadmirable plans My tongue will taste of gin and malicious intent Bring you back to the bar, get you out of the cold A sober straight face gets you out of your clothes And they’re scared, that we know All the crimes they’ll commit Who they’ll kiss before they get home
[The alliterative effect of “I got Desperate Desires and unaDmirable plans” flows fluently, and serves to qualify Lacey as the smooth-talker that he asserts himself to be. Powerful use of zeugma/syllepsis- a literary device that someone/something possesses both a physical object and a metaphorical object- which is difficult to employ successfully, but the line “my tongue will taste of gin and malicious intent” drips with brutal honesty. Once again, the alliteration apparent in “a Sober Straight faCe” moves slowly and smoothly. I read another intriguing theory, that this encounter between the guy and the girl is actually complex literary conceit of Lacey’s that likens him and the band to the girl, and the oppressive music industry to the guy taking advantage. If any lines in this song serve to support this theory, it is “and they’re scared, that we know/all the crimes, they’ll commit/who they’ll kiss before they get home.” The music industry is aware of how they are wringing Lacey dry, but at the same time are aware- and afraid- that Lacey may have caught on, and that they would just as quickly betray him, represented by the “crimes they’ll commit” and “who they’ll kiss before they get home.”]
I will lie awake And lie for fun and fake the way I hold you Let you fall for every empty word I say
[A play on words, with the double-entendre concerning the different definitions of the word “lie.” This is a chorus rife with alliteration that truly has a melodic quality that Lacey employs in his seduction- “I Will lie aWake/and lie for Fun and Fake the Way I hold you/let you Fall For every empty Word I say.”]
Barely conscious in the door where you stand Your eyes are fighting sleep while your mouth makes your demand You laugh at every word trying hard to be cute I almost feel sorry for what I’m gonna do And your hair smells of smoke Who will cast the first stone? You can sin or spend the night all alone
[Inverted syntax emphasizes what is important to Lacey, that she is “barely conscious.” Personification of her facial features, that “your eyesare fighting sleep, while your mouthmakes your demands" highlight an internal conflict of the girl’s mind and body. Perhaps Lacey’s perceptive observations are meant to indicate that he, in fact, is not drunk at all, and is simply taking advantage of a drunk girl- "I almost feel sorry for what I’m gonna do." Fascinatingly enough, "cast the first stone" alludes to the Biblical passage John 8:1-11, in which a crowd of men found a woman guilty of adultery (punishable by being stoned to death), and brought her to Jesus to demand that this law be put into action. To this, Jesus responded, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." And one by one, the men dropped their stones and left; Jesus forgave, but did not excuse, the prostitute of her sins. Lacey is stating that because he is immersed in sin, he is in no position to pass judgment on the girl he is taking advantage of, and consequently this promotes his inevitable fall from grace, leading to the powerful alliterative end to the stanza, "you can Sin or Spend the night ALl ALone.”]
Brass buttons on your coat hold the cold In the shape of a heart that they cut out of stone You’re using all your looks that you’ve thrown from the start If you let me have my way I swear I’ll tear you apart ‘cause it’s all you can be, you’re a drunk, and you’re scared It’s ladies night, all the girls drink for free I will lie awake And lie for fun and fake the way I hold you Let you fall for every empty word I say I will lie awake And lie for fun and fake the way I hold you Let you fall for every empty word I say I will lie awake And lie for fun and fake the way I hold you Let you fall for every empty word I say
[Use of personification that the “brass buttons on your coat hold the cold.” The next line may be a line referring to the Greek mythology of Ovid in the Metamorphoses, in which the hero Deucalion repopulates the Earth after a cataclysmic flood by turning rocks into people, which fits nicely with the theme that Lacey is emotionally numbed, stone-hearted, and cold towards the girl. This has bred a degree of self-loathing and regret in Lacey’s heart, that “if you let me have my way, I swear I’ll tear you apart.” The last line before the chorus repeats three times is open to interpretations, but “it’s ladies night; all the girls drink for free” undoubtedly brings the story full circle to its origins at the bar. It is also an interesting contrast between “ladies” and “girls”- although it may “ladies night,” the women at the bar, especially the girl of Lacey’s desire, are ultimately immature and waiting to be taken advantage of. The deliberate ambiguity as to what happens at the end may indicate that Lacey is not morally degraded and washed up enough to finish the story, or the chorus is used as circumlocution that he did ultimately rob himself of his sense of pride and honor.]
A lot of HRs got pretty badly smashed up, a few had to be tagged and bagged… Nothing screams as high as a feral with a PIE round burning in his gut. The HR pukes had a real problem with that. They were all volunteers, all sticking to this code that human life, any human’s life, was worth trying to save. I guess history sorta backed them up now, you know, seeing all those people that they managed to rehabilitate, all the ones we just woulda shot on sight. (Brooks 318)
From the section of Max Brook’s World War Z entitled “Total War,” the American forces enact a daring plan to go on the offensive and to take back the United States territories east of the Rockies. Todd Wainio is a soldier who made the momentous journey from New Mexico to New York. Wainio describes the horrors beyond the expected zombies that hungrily waited for the United States armed forces, invoking fear in the reader over the definite human nature of some of the enemies that the soldiers had to face. Consequently, Brooks uses this passage to illustrate the immense disparity between the soldiers who suffered the greatest psychological trauma and loss of humanity—those on the front lines who had to combat traditional zombiesand a plethora of new enemies—and the human resources workers—those trying to save the ferals.
Todd Wainio epitomizes the typical soldier of World War Z—tough, resilient, simple, and demonstrates a certain discontent towards authority. This is evidenced by his common vernacular, such as the use of the words “shoulda” or “woulda.” Wainio is the voice of the common man, and is the manifestation of the discrepancy between the experiences of the soldiers and the well-protected human resources workers. His use of a euphemism for their deaths—that they had to be “tagged and bagged”—emphasizes his feelings of contempt towards them as authority figures that ultimately tampered with the military operations. The casual reference to the fact that these workers got “pretty badly smashed up” shows his ambivalence towards those that tried to help quislings, ferals and Last Men on Earth, and the numbing of the average soldier to the violent events and actions that surrounded him.
Inevitably in war, not necessarily one involving ravenous zombies, enemies are portrayed in a negative and dehumanizing way. Consequently, this justifies soldiers to fight as the “mold,” or stereotype, is then conveniently filled by individual experiences—the driving force of the warriors to keep fighting and to keep killing other human beings due to the dulling of the moral perception of the actions that they are taking. The same events take place in Todd Wainio’s account, as he loses his best friend by “a twelve-gauge in the face, probably set by a LaMOE who’d stopped breathing years before” (324) and many squad members to the psychological toil of warfare. The fact that such enemies, although essentially human, break the last thing society desperately clings to—endangered, precious relationships and cares for others—causes the soldiers’ perception that these ferals are monstrosities.
Although the Redeker Plan in all of its incarnations was an inhumane act, it ultimately became apparent that it was a necessary measure to ensure the survival of humanity. The sacrifice of human lives to save others through their abandonment to the zombies became an acceptable loss for society. However, some of these people, especially children, managed to survive, abandoned by their governments, their militaries, and their societies—these were the ferals. These humans have, as the word “feral” denotes, reverted to a wild state. The ferals are representative of the dark reality of the human conscience in the face of a crisis and an onerous decision for the sake of survival. Although the initial desertion of people to allow for the survival of others opened the door for a loss of humanity, the people, or more importantly the governments, that initially enacted the plans retained the opportunity to reclaim a sense of humanity by trying to save these ferals at a later time. If the first response to a feral by the common soldier—those directly employed by the governments responsible to resolve Redeker plans of the world— wholly evolved to violence rather than recognition of a sense of duty to save him, the dehumanizing effects of World War Z would have triumphed over mankind.
The humane way to kill an out-of-control feral that is equally, if not more dangerous than a zombie, would be a clean, efficient headshot as the PIE round was originally intended. Yet Wainio relishes in the agony of the scream, and his choice to shoot the feral “in his gut” undoubtedly maximizes Wainio’s satisfaction in his pain. In the mind of a soldier disillusioned by hatred and torturous memories, a violent response to adversity can be interpreted as a form of retribution that Wainio, representative of humanity, feels he must exact against all of the forces that have stripped him of his former existence. Ironically, these actions dehumanize all men like Wainio who take such courses of action by engaging in the murder of fellow humans. As average soldiers begin to lose their senses of moral priorities in the name of vengeance, they lose their emotional grounding in the security of their basic human nature.
The volunteers, by contrast, are not accustomed to the fury and chaos of combat. Untarnished largely by the psychological trauma of firsthand conflict with zombies and hostile humans, they are the pristine guardians of humanity itself. The inclusion of the detail that these human resources workers are in fact “volunteers” gives a sense of Wainio’s bewilderment as to why anyone would deliberately engage in such a dangerously selfless act, as well as an example of hope for human salvation. Each and every death of a human resources member is a distinct blow to the effort to maintain society’s humanity and willpower to try to aid fellow human beings. The reader is shown Wainio’s disposition when he refers to the human resources workers as “pukes.” By nature, Wainio holds an intense disdain for such people because of his personal experiences with those that they are trying to save. Another casual comment that the human resources workers “had a real problem with that [soldiers shooting ferals with PIE rounds]” shows Wainio’s lack of respect and confidence in their efforts—mistrust is evident in Wainio’s opinion of the human resources workers’ ability to rehabilitate the ferals. As Wainio admits that these workers “managed to rehabilitate” the ferals, his statement exhibits the fact that he initially doubted their abilities. His remarks reveal that Wainio is still wounded by the emotional scars inflicted upon him by the violent conflicts with ferals because he only half-heartedly admits that “history sorta backed them [the human resources workers] up.” The efforts of the workers provided for the survival of humanity in a great achievement of hope for the human race and for the restoration of a sense of normality in a society from which it had been stolen for too many years by World War Z. Wainio barely acknowledges this triumph—he epitomizes Jurgen Warbrunn’s closing assertion of the possibility that because of the emotional toll over the course of the events of World War Z that “no one on Earth survived this war” (340).
The novel inclusion of new enemies beyond the Rockies to oppose the American soldiers as they try to redeem the United States’ former existence adds a new dimension of horror to the story, especially the introduction of the all-too-human ferals. The soldiers cannot be faulted for the inexorable loss of humanity that accompanies first-hand conflict with the zombies and these new enemies. However, the story of the human resources workers becomes a source of optimism for the reader—mankind has a chance to salvage itself from the damnation of a loss of humanity and rebuild the world after a terrible global decimation.
One woman was halfway out the window when the bus tipped over. Something was in her arms, something clutched tightly to her. I tell myself that it wasn’t moving, or crying, that it was just a bundle of clothes… No one even looked, they just kept streaming by. Sometimes when I dream about that moment, I can’t tell the difference between them and the monkeys. (Brooks 131)
This passage, from World War Z by Max Brooks, is an excerpt of the account of Sardar Khan, the Indian Lance Corporal who is tasked with the immense responsibility of destroying the path that leads both the refugees and the zombies alike to the accepted military defensive choke point, the Himalayas. In the vivid scene of chaos that is produced by the masses of civilians attempting to reach safety, Brooks paints a fluid picture of abject terror in the reader. Simultaneously with this escape, Brooks utilizes the actions taken by hundreds of monkeys that accompany the people, trying to save their own lives to define a threat greater than the zombies themselves—the inherent loss of a sense of humanity that makes those who managed to escape nothing more than the mere ravenous zombies they so desperately sought to flee.
Firstly, the speaker, Sardar Khan, shares his name with the President of Afghanistan from 1973-1978. Sardar Khan, the president, overthrew his brother, the king of Afghanistan, and brought with him a sweeping political agenda, including progressive modernization of his country along with the rights of women in the Middle East. Thus may be the source of the emotional impact that Khan, the character, feels when he witnesses the actions taking place with the woman in the bus. The name “Sardar” in Indian culture is literally translated as “head” (ironically indicative of humanity’s greatest weapon against zombies and zombies’ greatest weak point), which is also interpreted as “leader.” Khan as a last name also means “leader,” and Sardar Khan is a leader of sorts, and being so means being grounded in and understanding human characteristics to keep the people on some sort of path towards a normalized world once again.
The bus is representative of humanity, clinging to the last throes of its former existence. Khan is surprised that the bus managed to tip over the edge on the treacherous mountain path despite the fact that it is not in motion. The statement that the bus is not moving symbolically represents the failure of advanced technology and labor-saving devices in the face of a crisis. Brooks explains that the “passengers were climbing out of the windows because the doors of the bus had been jammed by foot traffic” (Brooks 131). This line bears eerie resemblance to the common phrase of religious hope that “when God closes a door, somewhere he opens a window.” In this case, the deterioration of the human belief system is beginning, as the window, symbolically representative of the safety and definite separation between humanity within the confines of the bus—able to see clearly the surrounding chaos yet somewhat sheltered from it— becomes the only means of escape, and becomes the demise of the woman. Brooks could have used many verbs to describe the bus’ motion, from “fall” to “plummet,” yet he chooses “tipped,” indicative of the precarious position humanity holds— on the brink of its own sanity, and slowly pushed to the edge of survival, dragging down its passengers, and the very traits that characterize them, to a crushing death. As the woman is “halfway out the window,” directly in between a former sense of humanity and the current lack of it, it becomes a physical impossibility and only results in death; it is the duty of the people to leave the past behind, but not to lose the same past that has shaped them into who they are, an undoubtedly difficult task.
Khan tries to ward off the emotions of helplessness to aid the woman by referring to the bundle repeatedly as “something,” although he recognizes its definite humanity through it being “tightly clutched to her.” In the next sentence, Khan uses the present tense to indicate that when he tells himself that “it was just a bundle of clothes,” this is a recurring thought, a specifically haunting recollection. His use of the phrase “I tell myself that it wasn’t moving, or crying,” with its punctuation between the two verbs, affects the reader as he/she can picture in his/her mind’s eye this man painfully reclaiming his memory, pausing as the fragments of images come back together to make a cohesive whole.
Although affirmed in his still-apparent concern for others, Khan is horrified—as is the reader at this point—that the escaping people are so concerned with saving their own skins, trampling others underfoot and literally killing others to keep pushing ahead, that they neglect and consequently lose any semblance of humanity arising from the emotions of compassion and sympathy for their fellow human beings. Earlier in the passage, Brooks uses the word “streaming” to describe the motion of these people trying to escape, evoking the idea of the flow of water. The escape route is literally a river of bodies, confined to the banks of the hazardous cliffs on either side, and although the particles of the river change, their movements do not, and no one is willing to aid this woman and her young child, representative of new life, fertility, nurture, and hope. Humanity has the chance to reclaim these qualities in an instance by stopping for just a moment to save these two people, yet chooses to selfishly forge ahead at the behest of its own well-being, an ultimately self-destructive act.
Khan describing that “sometimes” when he dreams about that moment indicates that this is a recurring memory, omnipresent in his mind. “Dream” is an interesting verb choice because to dream is often thought of as opposite to having a nightmare, and the hellish scene that Khan describes would most certainly be a nightmare. Khan’s choice to use “dream” instead of a word such as “remember” or “envision” may indicate the emotional damage and toll the conflict had upon the human condition, creating an inevitable numbing of the soul to the macabre scenes of memory, where being able to produce any sort of thoughts during sleep constitutes dreaming.
Finally, Brooks leaves an unavoidable phrase for the reader to ponder before moving on to Khan’s next subject in the interview. Khan’s inability to differentiate “between them and the monkeys” represents the ultimate demise of humanity. The monkeys, seeking to escape and save themselves just as desperately as any human on the road, are the perfect creatures to create a comparison with the human condition. Humanity prides itself on its uniqueness, its collective willpower and its ability to work together to resolve greater issues. Humans like to think that monkeys and other apes— man’s closest ancestor—hold vast differences in personality, heart and soul. They are feral creatures, geared to their own survival and that alone, while humans are refined and reasonable. Yet here the greatest blow to humanity occurs, as the scene of Darwin’s survival of the fittest degenerates into the anarchy of a primordial jungle, and the dehumanizing effect of the conflict reduces humanity to the same status of any wild animal. As Khan finishes his narrative, he humorously refers to the topic once again, stating that “the monkey didn’t help matters any…his face appeared so serene, so intelligent, as if he truly understood the situation…but instead his little penis popped out and he peed in my face” (Brooks 136). Although Khan could try for the rest of eternity to reconcile humankind with apes, he realizes, along with the reader, that the unavoidable reality of the situation is that there is no substitute for the inherent characteristics of humanity, and to lose that is almost as unbearable a prospect as losing every human being to the legion of the walking dead.
Weep for yourself, my man You’ll never be what is in your heart Weep little lion man You’re not as brave as you were at the start Rate yourself and rake yourself Take all the courage you have left Wasted on fixing all the problems That you made in your own head
[In an interview, Mumford & Sons singer Marcus Mumford stated that the inspiration for “Little Lion Man” came from “a very personal story, so I won’t elaborate upon too much. Suffice to say, it was a situation in my life I wasn’t very happy with or proud of.” The narrator is Mumford himself, perhaps with the experience of time, and is chastising his past self and behaviors, which he now considers reprehensible. The self-loathing is evident through the repetition of “weep,” as to highlight that he may have been trying to evoke pity, but was only showing weakness. The almost mocking tone that “you’ll never be what is in your heart/weep little lion man” serves a contrasting image. The lion, traditionally in literature representative of pride, honor, strength, and wisdom (examples include Aslan in C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, The Cowardly Lion in Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, and Simba [in a role similar to Prince Hamlet in Shakespeare’s Hamlet] in Thomas Disch’s The Lion King) is sharply juxtaposed and surrounded by the words “little man.” This powerful jeer strikes a raw nerve, that Mumford considered himself strong, but in fact was truly weak, and that his status as a lion was only a sleek veneer of a man of diminutive character. Not only does Mumford criticize his weakness, but also his cerebral nature- “take all the courage you have left/wasted on fixing all the problems/that you made in your own head”- while he should have been confronting the basic nature of his faults, he was too busy thinking about them. In many ways, this is in the tradition of the character of Prince Hamlet, which is downplayed in The Lion King, but whose indecisiveness is a key factor in Shakespeare’s original play.]
But it was not your fault but mine And it was your heart on the line I really fucked it up this time Didn’t I, my dear?
[It is difficult whether to tell if this is the narrator, or Mumford in the past, speaking, but regardless a catharsis is occurring (or has occurred) in which he realizes/has realized the error in his ways. Although his behavior has been the death knell of his relationship, this very realization is the first step in altering his character, and consequently his future.]
Tremble for yourself, my man You know that you have seen this all before Tremble little lion man You’ll never settle any of your scores Your grace is wasted in your face Your boldness stands alone among the wreck Learn from your mother Or else spend your days biting your own neck But it was not your fault but mine And it was your heart on the line I really fucked it up this time Didn’t I, my dear?
[The narrator is imploring Mumford to change, once again. “You know that you have seen this all before” indicates that this is a repetition of events, and as long as he does not change, he will “never settle any of your scores.” The narrator is not proud of his past, and that his “grace is wasted in your face,” which was used for deception (perhaps even self-deception). The personification that “your boldnessstands" is powerful because of the strong action verb chosen; his relationship has entirely broken down, but he still entertains this absurd sense of pride. "Learn from your mother/or else spend your days biting your own neck" may serve to advance the metaphor that compares Mumford to a weak lion; lionesses carry their young cubs by clamping down on their necks, indicative of both Mumford’s childish nature, and inability to reflect his upbringing with regard to his relationships.]
The time has come for colds and overcoats We’re quiet on the ride We’re all just waiting to get home Another week away, my greatest fear I need the smell of summer I need its noises in my ears
[Much in the tradition of literature such as The Catcher in the Rye, Lacey sets up a distinct contrast between winter and summer, where winter is representative of the coldness that marks adulthood, maturity, and responsibility, while summer is representative of the warmth that denotes youthful innocence and freedom. Whereas Lacey is acutely aware of his predicament—he is an adult, and must support himself, yet this act of supporting himself is taking a significant toll on his soul—his “greatest fear” is that he will lose his intrinsic essence, and in many ways, the “smell of summer” within him. The similarity of the opening phrase, through its use of alliteration, “the time has come for COlds and overCOats blends together indiscriminately—representative of the repetitiveness and boring nature of adulthood. Lacey longs for summer and simpler days.]
If looks could really kill Then my profession would staring Please know we do this cause we care Not for the thrill Collect calls to home To tell them that I realize That everyone who lives will someday die and die alone
[If taken in a literal sense, the first two lines are intriguing—is Lacey making a morbid statement (that if his looks could kill, he would spend his time killing others, or is he making a desperate statement (that if the looks of his lover could kill, he would spend his time staring at her, and consequently killing himself)? Lacey is trying to assert that the reason that he creates his very music is not monetary, but to express his passions. However, the apophasis that this truly qualifies indicates that Lacey is in fact calling into question this assertion. “Everyone who lives will someday die, and die alone” resonates with one of the most haunting lines from Richard Kelly’s 2001 cult favorite, Donnie Darko, spoken by Roberta Sparrow, “Every living creature on Earth dies alone.” This could be the beginning of a catharsis where although Lacey may resent himself for what he views as “selling out” and going on tour, a permeating sense of loneliness will be pervasive wherever he goes, he can forgive himself for continuing to play. Lacey concedes that simpler days are long gone and he must live with his current existence.]
And we won’t let you in though we’re down and out No we won’t let you in, in You win, you win, you win
[This is an interesting attack upon the very audience that is listening to these words.To quote Travis McCoy of the Gym Class Heroes in his song “Nothing Boy vs. the Echo Factor,”
I could attack your character from Eighty different angles Cleverly explaining exactly how wack you are But why do that when it’s a well known fact You buying this CD is potentially feeding me
Lacey is stating that he wants to refuse his listeners entry into his heart and soul, because he draws inspiration from deeply personal and raw experiences.]
I wrote more postcards than hooks I read more maps than books Feel like every chance to leave is another chance I should’ve took Every minute is a mile I’ve never felt so hollow I’m an old abandoned church with broken pews and empty aisles My secrets for a buck Watch me as I cut myself wide open on this stage. Yes, I am paid to spill my guts I won’t see home till spring Oh, I would kill for the Atlantic but I am paid to make girls panic while I sing
[Powerful metaphor that Lacey is “an old abandoned church with broken pews and empty aisles”—that he has opened up himself and his problems to the world, and as a result feels “so hollow” because of the monetary gains he gains for doing so. The hyperbole that “every minute is a mile” (or maybe he’s literally traveling 60 miles per hour) serves to highlight how quickly he has distanced himself from his roots. The use of powerful action verbs, although in a metaphorical sense, create vivid imagery as, “I cutmyself wide open on this stage. Yes I am paid to spill my guts.” After realizing that his existence revolves around making “girls panic while I sing,” Lacey longs for summer and innocence once again.]
And we won’t let you in though we’re down and out No we won’t let you in and we won’t let you in We don’t want what isn’t ours We won’t let you in, in You win, you win, you win Oh… And the coastline is quiet While we’re quietly losing control And we’re silent but sure we invented the cure that will wash out my memories of her The harpoon is loaded, the cage is lowered the water is red like you
[Lacey’s longing for the past has been dominated by an intense desire for the smells and sounds of summer. However, ironically, the part that precedes the line “and the coastline is quiet” is in fact, quiet, but then amplifies in noise from there. Now through the jarring alliterative effect of the strong consonant sounds “the COastline is QUiet, while we’re QUietly losing COntrol,” the impression that something has been broken up is given- innocence has been irrevocably lost, and all Lacey can do is continue to play his music, or “cure,” to ease his heartbreak. The last three lines restate, to a certain degree, Archers of Loaf’s “Chumming the Ocean.” Overall, I struggled to find a consistent tone throughout the song, and often found myself questioning Lacey’s motives in the song—is he saying that he longs for home or that no place is home and loneliness will be prevalent everywhere? Also is Lacey accepting, rejecting, or conflicted about his role in songwriting? It is my conclusion that this song in many ways is a back-and-forth conflict where Lacey is both the protagonist and antagonist.]
Whenever I look back On the best days of my life I think I saw them all on T.V. I am so homesick now for Someone that I never knew I am so homesick now for Someplace I will never be
[Use of immediate irony; the stark contrast between “the best days of my life” and the fact that Sam Endicott only experienced these events vicariously through television is jarring. The next statements seem paradoxical and antithetical at first- the repetition of the phrase “I am so homesick now for” indicates how this ideal has been drilled into his head, and although in a literal sense this is illogical, in broader terms, Endicott is simply searching for something meaningful in life.]
Time won’t let me go Time won’t let me go If I could do it all again I’d go back and change everything But time won’t let me go
[Through repetition, Endicott truly hammers home a deep sense of regret as “time won’t let me go.” This also may be a slightly jarring and unexpected construction, because the common ideal is that “If I could do it all again, I wouldn’t change a thing,” but instead Endicott is acutely aware of his shortcomings.]
I never had a ‘Summer of 69’ Never had a Cherry Valance of my own All these precious moments You promised me would come in time So where was I when I missed mine?
[A musical allusion to Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ‘69” (1985) and a literary allusion to S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders (1967), which was made into a film in 1983. Endicott would have been 11 and 9, respectively, at the time of the release of each work. Both are, in essence, testaments to youthful innocence, coming-of-age, and pop culture, which Endicott only managed to experience second-hand. The reference to Cherry Valance as a love interest is an intriguing choice, because Valance- although aware of her social status- is ultimately an honest and an idealist in the power of human nature for good. This echoes in many ways Endicott’s sentiments in the song “The Ring Song,” in which he asks,
What if all, I want want in this world Turned out just to be an honest girl Turned out just to make of me an honest man?
In many ways, society states that the early years of life are rife with memorable experiences, and Endicott feels that he has been robbed of these very things both by society and his own mistakes.]
Time won’t let me go Time won’t let me go If you gave me back those years I’d do it all better I swear Time won’t let me go If I could go back once again I would change everything, yeah If I could go back once again I’d do it all so much better Time won’t let me go Time won’t let me go If I could do it all again I’d go back and change everything But you won’t ever let me go
[Amplifies and restates earlier sentiments established by Endicott that essentially his life is filled with mistakes and regrets that he is powerless to fix.]
Sent out an SOS call, it was a quarter past four in the morning When the storm broke our second anchor line Four months at sea, four months of calm seas To be pounded in the shallows off the tip of Montauk Point
[Immediately establishes literary conceit, whereas the ocean is a metaphor for singer Jesse Lacey’s relationship and love which were peaceful, but now are being sent into a state of upheaval by a storm, a woman. This is an instance where it is important to distinguish between Lacey, the author, and the narrator, his character. Simultaneously, while Lacey must face the antagonist both in himself and his love, the narrator, the protagonist, must oppose his antagonist, nature. The fact that “the storm broke our second anchor line” may indicate that this relationship has been at a breaking point for a prolonged time, and it is this abrupt storm that pushes it over the edge. “Four months at sea, four months of calm seas” could reflect the trials that touring with the band has on him, ultimately causing the irony that everything falls apart when he is so close to home. The reference to Montauk Point relates to Brand New’s origins in Levittown, Long Island, New York; Montauk Point is the easternmost extremity of the South Fork on Long Island.]
They call them rogues, they travel fast and alone One-hundred-foot faces of God’s good ocean gone wrong What they call love is risk, ‘cause you always get hit out of nowhere By some wave and end up on your own
[Use of the alliterative effect “God’s Good ocean Gone wronG" rolls off the tongue nicely. A shift to addressing "they" gives definition as to what was previously an unknown audience, and could be a mildly bitter reference to society as a whole: "what they call ‘love’ is a risk, ‘cause you always get hit out of nowhere” should emphases be placed on certain words.]
The hole in the hull defied the crew’s attempt to bail us out Flooded the engines and radio, half-buried bow
[This is Lacey’s first instance of personification, which is prevalent in the song, where the “hole in the hulldefied the crew’s attempt.”]
Your tongue is a rudder, it steers the whole ship Sends your words past your lips and keeps them safe behind your teeth But the wrong words will strand you, come off course while you sleep Sweep your boat out to sea or dashed to bits on the reef
[Great complex metaphor; although it seems at first like Lacey may be addressing his love, the phrase “will strand" establishes this as a hypothetical situation, and he is speaking to each individual in his audience personally. Lacey is stating that words are the most important aspect that drives a relationship; however, whereas he previously had a strong sense of what (and what not) to say- what is sent "past your lips" and what is kept "safe behind your teeth," respectively, now he has chosen the wrong words, and he is paying the price as the vessel of his relationship is in danger of destruction.]
The vessel groans, the ocean pressures its frame To the port I see the lighthouse through the sleet and the rain And I wish for one more day to give my love and repay debts The morning finds our bodies washed up thirty miles west
[Further use of personification where the “vesselgroans" and the "oceanpressures.” The lighthouse, a guiding force in storms for ships serves to highlight the stark contrast between the imminent danger and the safe harbor that seems so close, yet ultimately so far away. Unusual shift in the last phrase to the future, where the narrator is already dead (but still telling his story) coupled with the personification that the “morningfinds.”]
They say that the captain stays fast with the ship through still and storm But this ain’t the Dakota, and the water’s cold Won’t have to fight for long
[Highlights the narrator’s strong sense of honor by conceding defeat in the face of death, exemplified by his assertion that “the captain stays fast with the ship” and in the previous lines: “I wish for one more day to give my love and repay debts.” The contrast between the before and after of the relationship is highlighted through the alliterative effect of the phrase “through STill and STorm.” “The Dakota” may be a reference to the SS Dakota, a cargo ship that sunk off the coast of Yokohama, Japan after striking a reef. The vessel was so close to shore that no deaths occurred; in fact, all on board were evacuated before the ship had sunken entirely.]
(This is the end) This story’s old but it goes on and on until we disappear (This is the calm) Calm me and let me taste the salt you breathed while you were underneath (We are drowning) I am the one who haunts your dreams of mountains sunk below the sea (After the storm) I spoke the words but never gave a thought to what they all could mean (Rest in the deep) I know that this is what you want, a funeral keeps both of us apart (Washed up on the beach) You know that you are not alone, I need you like water in my lungs [repeats again]
(This is the end)
Never to see any other way
[Dramatic climax and conclusion, highlighted by the dual overlapping vocals. The contrast of time between the age of the tale- “this story’s old” with the fact that it “goes on and on” qualifies the fact that it is not unique or ephemeral, but a timeless occurrence of the human experience. “I spoke the words but never gave a thought to what they all could mean” ends the earlier metaphor relating words and relationships. There is a supreme sense of calm, followed by a final revelation- the narrator will always be with his love “You that you are not alone,” but immediately follows this with the abrasive antithesis that he “needs you like water in my lungs. This is the end.” The rapid succession of the lines of the song and the parenthetical statements serves to blend the fine line between Lacey and his narrator. The lack of a direct subject of the final line, as the sound of a door swinging shut plays, allows Lacey to apply the sentiments of his entire song to either himself, his love, or his audience, and he is stating that this will be a way of life that will be constantly, and mistakenly, made over and over again.]