"Carnival Of Sorts (Boxcars)" as written by and Peter Buck Bill Berry....
There's a secret, stigma, reaping wheel
Diminish, a carnival of sorts
Chronic town, poster torn, reaping wheel
Stranger, stranger to these parts

Gentlemen don't get caught, cages under cage
Gentlemen don't get caught

Box cars are pulling out of town
Box cars are pulling out of town
Box cars are pulling out of town

There's a secret, stigma, reaping wheel
Diminish, a carnival of sorts
Chronic town, poster torn, reaping wheel
Stranger, stranger

Gentlemen don't get caught, cages under cage
Gentlemen don't get caught

Box cars are pulling out of town
Box cars are pulling out of town
Box cars are pulling out of town

Cages under, cages under, cages under cage
Cages under, cages under, cages under cage

Gentlemen don't get caught, cages under cage
Gentlemen don't get caught

Box cars are pulling out of town
Box cars are pulling out of town
Box cars are pulling out of town

There's a secret, stigma, reaping wheel
Stranger, stranger to these parts
Chronic town, poster torn, reaping wheel
Diminish, stranger

Gentlemen don't get caught, cages under cage
Gentlemen don't get caught

Box cars are pulling out of town
Box cars are pulling out of town
Box cars are pulling out of town

Boxcars are pulling, carnival of sorts
Out of town, out of town


Lyrics submitted by rieve

"Carnival of Sorts (Boxcars)" as written by Peter Buck Bill Berry

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

Carnival Of Sorts (Boxcars) song meanings
Add your thoughts

18 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +3
    General CommentOk, my take on this one is different from all of those, and it seems kind of bizarre, but it works for me. First of all, is it really "reaping wheel", and not "repeat reel"?

    I think it's about a movie place, a dirty movie place. It's out of town, because "gentlemen don't get caught". You're going somewhere you won't get caught. "Cages under a cage" are viewing rooms within the larger building, little booths where you go in and view a "repeat reel". I mean, this isn't high-budget 70's stuff, I'm thinking the early days, when they were called "blue movies", and I imagine like a 5 minute clip, that's on loop.

    "Secret stigma" is obvious, "poster torn" is just because the place is cheap and shoddy. "Stranger to these parts" is because the place is just in town for a while, and then moves on.

    When it moves, we get to: "Boxcar is pulling a carnival of sorts out of town". The idea is that sometimes, the train brings in a carnival, and takes it away two weeks later. The singer wryly notes as the porn shop gets packed up and moved on, that it too is a carnival, of sorts.

    I have no idea why he says "diminish".

    ----------------------------

    I don't know if this is what anyone ever meant by this song, or if the scene I'm seeing is even realistic in this universe, but it's what I hear. I love R.E.M.; those guys have given us so much.
    GTonyon July 20, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General Commentevil circus fucks up a town then moves on to the next
    rieveon May 01, 2003   Link
  • +2
    General Comment
    The Holocaust...think about it.
    obvious1on September 21, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI thought a lot about the lyrics for this song for quite some time. So mysterious. It finally came to me one day when I was cutting the grass in the back yard,,,

    The song is about hobo's. Vagrants, vagrancy.

    "Gentlemen, don't get caught" don't get caught and thrown into the clink.

    "Boxcars are moving (out of town)" obvious

    "Stranger, stranger to these parts" Fellows not from 'round here.

    "Reaping Reel" AKA falling off of the train and getting crunched by the train wheel. Reaping = dead. Reels are round like wheels. Reel = Wheel.

    "Carnival of sorts" clans of hobo's are much like carnivals. Loose bands of gentlemen traveling about almost without aim. A carnival of sorts traveling place to place. Hobo's tend to be male.

    Beyond this premise I think it has something to do with a close encounter with a vagrant. Maybe even sexual in nature.
    zerookson July 04, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General Commentdig the freaky calliope intro
    pumkinhedon June 22, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentDon't wade into the carnival backwaters or the sinister alligators will get ya!

    City-folk you're in a dangerous part of town. This ain't no place for a gentleman to venture into.
    the_associateon December 20, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is my favorite song from the Chronic Town EP. Great stuff.
    ----------------------
    freewebs.com/…
    Jakeberton December 29, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti always thought it was "turning out of town"
    clashcityrocker9on May 25, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentfirst, another rem song concerning trains (driver 8, high speed train) next, just a feeling of being left behind or trapped in an empty place (the carnival leaving, the torn carnival poster, being caged, dont get caught, boxcars leaving). other then that, i dunno, just a great song. always thought it was "repeat wheel", kinda bummed that its not cause its a cool play on words (wheels naturally repeating their positions)
    kakashi18018on July 03, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti always think of a circus when i hear this song
    Zwinky1on July 12, 2007   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

Back to top
explain