This place is a prison
And these people aren't your friends
Inhaling thrills through $20 bills
And the tumblers are drained
And then flooded again and again

There are guards at the on-ramps
Armed to the teeth
And you may case the grounds
From the Cascades to Puget Sound
But you are not permitted to leave

I know there's a big world out there
Like the one that I saw on the screen
In my living room late last night
It was almost too bright to see

And I know that it's not a party
If it happens every night
Pretending there's glamour and candelabra
When you're drinking by candlelight

What does it take to get a drink in this place?
What does it take, how long must I wait?


Lyrics submitted by rjbucs28, edited by straightconcrete

This Place Is a Prison song meanings
Add your thoughts

114 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +3
    General CommentI think this one is pretty obvious. It's the singer's distaste at the emptiness and lack of meaning in life. He's hollowed out by people's inability to have fun without being straight.

    'This place is a prison'
    Earth, life is a prison

    'And these people aren't your friends'
    How can people be your fiends if you're afraid to show your true self in front of them?

    'Inhaling thrills through $20 bills'
    Coke is normally snorted through rolled up money, since everyone caries a bill on them.

    'And the tumblers are drained
    And then flooded again and again'
    Whiskey is normally drunk from tumblers. They are emptied and filled repeatedly on a night out.


    'There are guards at the on-ramps
    Armed to the teeth
    And you may case the grounds
    From the Cascades to Puget Sound
    But you are not permitted to leave'
    Reinforcing the 'prison' metaphor here.

    'I know there's a big world out there
    Like the one I saw on the screen
    In my living room late last night
    It was almost too bright to see'
    This is metaphoric. He's saying how he can't believe that he lives on the same planet as those shown on TV. He seems detached from it all.

    'And I know that it's not a party
    If it happens every night'
    He knows the people who are out all the time have nothing to celebrate. They are just numbing existence.


    'What does it take to get a drink in this place?
    What does it take, how long must I wait?'
    Admitting defeat here. He's acknowledged the hollowness of this existence, but knows that he is just as much a part of it as everyone else. He knows his reasons for doing it, but continues anyway.
    ribena_wrathon August 22, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI agree with Title Track. For those of you who are on the East Coast let me give you a geography lesson about my home, WA. If you look on the map you see how there's a body of water intruding into the land from the northwest. That water is called the Puget Sound. The Cascades is the mountain range in the middle of the state going north and south. Because it blocks a lot of rain everything east of it get pretty dry. So just about all the big cities are between the Puget sound and Cascades. I think the song is about being stuck in the city life. A society wear glamour, partying, and overall vain things are valued. Friends are there for self interest, not genuine care. I think getting out of the city life metaphorically is what he is portraying, not leaving the city physically. Because he compares his dreams to TV, where most shows seem to take place in big cities, but can portray true relationships and values. He just wants something real. Something more. He's just a post-modern guy.
    Benjamminon April 12, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General Commentcome on, this is one of their best.........
    mockorange13on June 20, 2003   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI disagree Munchman2k. In the context of the whole song I'm pretty sure "inhailing thrills through 20 dollar bills" is a metaphor about how temporary happiness at parties is cheap and always leaves you wanting more, never satisfied or content.
    Benjamminon April 21, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General Commentit's not exactly being trapped in a place..it's being trapped in a meaningless life where everything has gone to its lowest points. "i know it's not a party if it happens every night" he knows that the daily routine is meaningless and out of love.
    ethsmatyon June 09, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentHmm what it sounds like in my head:
    I can relate a lot with this song, about how my whole life feels to be locked up at the prision of my mind. About how the poeple around me aren't my friends and they are just there either because they have to, or because they pity me... and how my "guards" called insecurity, fear and paranoia are always standing in front of me.

    "i know there's a big world out there like the
    one i saw on the screen
    in my living room late last night, it was
    almost too bright to see
    and i know that it's not a party if it happens
    every night
    pretending there's glamour and candelabra
    when you're drinking by candlelight "

    Also about how people live in their perfect shallow worlds... but how that actually serves them to be happy... which I think is the pretty much what we all want... for me, I can only watch from the distance that bright idealistic world...

    what does it take to get a drink in this place?
    brainvoidon November 25, 2004   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationLike everyone else assumes, I think it's obviously what the lyrics spell out: being stuck in an undesirable scene. On a deeper level, I noticed that this song is all verse and bridge... no chorus. So, from a musically metaphorical standpoint, it could illustrate a life like the lyrics describe ("it happens every night") of mediocracy without ever fulfilling potential (such as reaching a main chorus). The end is inconclusive and unremarkable, just like a life of empty relationships and substance use/abuse.
    I don't know if this was the intention in writing the song like this, but that's what it means to me beyond the lyrics. I really like this song; it reminds me of why I left the Pacific Northwest.
    newhaveniteon January 07, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI know there's a big world out there
    Like the one I saw on the screen
    In my living room late last night
    It was almost too bright to see

    <33333
    Juic33yfruiton May 17, 2010   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningTo anyone who has spent any time in a party scene, the meaning of this song is completely obvious.


    This place is a prison
    And these people aren't your friends
    Inhaling thrills through $20 bills
    And the tumblers are drained
    And then flooded again and again

    This is talking about using the combination of cocaine and alcohol. Many people who start out as drinkers will use coke to give themselves a boost and let them drink for much longer than they'd be able to normally. Many people who use coke as a party drug end up finding themselves associating more with the people who have coke(or will pay them for coke). Since people on coke are often completely self-absorbed and generally don't care about anyone else, it's fairly common for people to hate the people that they party with, but stay with them because of the drugs. (this combined with the physical addiction is the prison)

    There are guards at the on-ramps
    Armed to the teeth
    And you may case the grounds
    From the Cascades to Puget Sound
    But you are not permitted to leave

    An on-ramp is an entrance. What armed guards would be guarding the entrance to your party? Armed coke dealers. The rest is simply talking about the fact that although when you are partying, the exhilaration experienced is truly amazing... but the freedom is deceptive. You've actually only got complete freedom within fairly strict confines and the difficulty of breaking the physical and social habits of your lifestyle seem insurmountable.



    I know there's a big world out there
    Like the one I saw on the screen
    In my living room late last night
    It was almost too bright to see

    As with most addicts, he knows that most people don't live this way, but it seems *so* different and change is *so* difficult that it's impossible to imagine trying.




    And I know that it's not a party
    If it happens every night
    Pretending there's glamour and candelabra
    When you're drinking by candlelight

    In most of these coke party scenes, people will convince themselves that what they're actually glamorous and classy party people.... when in actually they're just coked up drunks.



    What does it take to get a drink in this place?
    What does it take, how long must I wait?

    Coke makes you impatient and self absorbed, and what's a party without a drink in your hand?
    chefjefeon June 08, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Commentpretty basic i'm guessing. either he talking to a friend or loved one or he's just commenting on people who become enthralled in a scene that is only harmful to them in the end. "inhaling thrills through 20 dollar bills" compares the party scene to a quick cocaine fix... "i know that it's not a party when it happens every night" further supports this... at the end when he's talking about getting a drink in this place, he's talking about the waste of time it is looking for substance in a superficial scene...

    just a guess.
    doubleohspoolon June 22, 2003   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