When you run, digger, runner
Listener, thief, you carry it all with you
Today I woke up uncertain
And you know that gives me the fits
So I left this land of fungible convictions
Because it seemed like the pits
And when I say, "conviction" I mean it's something to abjure
And when I say "uncertain" I mean to doubt I'll not turn out a caricature
So I set off in search of my forebears
Coz my forbearance was in need
But the only job I could get in dear old blighty
Was working on the railway between selby and leeds
So I took a ferry to belfast, where I had cause to think:
They wanted none of my arm-chair convictions
But nobody seemed to mind when I was putting on the drinks!
And you didn't think they could hate you, now did you?
You didn't think they could hate you, now did you?
You didn't think they could hate you, now did you?
Ah, but they hate you, and they hate you 'coz you're guilty
So...I stayed out all night in Ibixa
By way of San Sebastian, where they said
'Yanque, you better watch what you're saying, unless you're sayin'
It in Basque or in Catalan!"
So all the way east to novi-sad
Where narry a bridge was to be seen
But mother Russia, she laid her pontoons on down
So I crossed over, if you know what I mean...
Then on the road to damascus, yes
The scales, they fell from my eyes
And the simplest lesson I learned at the mount of olices: everybody lies
And the french foreign legion
You know they did their best - but I never believed in t.e.
Lawrence, so how the hell could I believe in beau gest?
And you didn't think they could hate you, now did you?
You didnt think they could hate you, now did you?
You didnt think they could hate you, now did you?
Ah, but they hate you, and they hate you 'coz you're guilty
So...I spent a night in Kigali in a five diamond hotel
Where maybe someday, they'll do the wa-tutsi down in hutu hell
And I fell in with a merchant marine who promised to take me home
But when I woke up beaten and bloodied
I couldn't tell if it was Jersey or Sierra Leone!
And you didn't think they could hate you, now did you?
You didn't think they could hate you, now did you?
You didn't think they could have you, now did you?
Ah, but they hate you, and they hate you coz you're guilty...
And the knocking in my head, just like the knocking at my door
And maybe it was me or maybe it was my brother
But either me or me and him went down to the bar
Where I got seven powersin me for to give me the cure
But when seven powers failed to spin me
I had to get me seven more
And when I say, "me" I mean my brain
And when I say "give me the cure" I mean to kill the pain
And when I say "kill the pain" I meant to get the devil out
And when I say "devil" I mean the manifestation of doubt!
And you didnt think they could hate you
Now did you you didn't think they could hate you, now did you?
You didn't think they could hate you, now did you?
Ah, but they hate you, make no mistake - they hate you...


Lyrics submitted by knifefight

The Ballad Of The Sin Eater song meanings
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24 Comments

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  • +1
    General CommentGoing on the earlier observation that "Sin Eater" refers to someone who takes the sins of other onto himself, I have to disagree with the "anti-American" interpretation and instead say this song is about Ted Leo's struggle with religion, specifically Christianity, and how supposedly religious people do such terrible things. For one thing, "Sin Eater" seems to me a reference to Jesus, who claimed to sacrifice himself for the sins of mankind. Pretty straightforward.

    So, the song traces Ted's spiritual journey. He starts feeling "uncertain," so he leaves home and travels the world, and sees places marred by religious or ethnic strife: Ireland (the Troubles), Serbia/Yugoslavia (ethnic cleansing), the Basque Country (terrorism), Rwanda (genocide), Sierra Leone (blood diamonds). He can't understand how the atrocities could have happened in self-professed Christian places.

    The French Foreign Legion's tenets include brotherhood among its members regardless of religion or background, but Ted can't believe that this is possible.

    Finally, Ted drinks a bunch of whiskey to try and forget what he's seen and also to try and remove the doubt and uncertainty he's feeling.

    I think the chorus is saying that Jesus never expected people to hate him, but now people do because of the things done in his name. When the scales fell from Paul's eyes in Damascus, they revealed to him Jesus as savior; when the same happened to Ted, he only saw that "everybody lies."
    benjam326on September 30, 2007   Link
  • +1
    Song Meaningwell, here's my attempt to thoroughly explain *all* the cultural/historical references he makes in this song, if anyone might find it useful:


    butterfliesandbears.wordpress.com/2009/06/05/they-hate-you-cause-youre-guilty-%E2%80%93-part-one/

    sadakoliveson June 11, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentFrom what I can, it's about an American who goes to Europe to 'find himself' or just see the world, and finds that it's not quite as friendly as he imagined.
    Lerxson May 29, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentRight, right, that makes sense and all, but what is being said in the background toward the end of the song? the giggling, its kinda cool...my favorite line is "But mother Russia, she laid her pontoons on down So I crossed over, if you know what I mean..." also, "But when I woke up beaten and bloodied
    I couldn't tell if it was Jersey or Sierra Leone!".
    If you get lucky enougth to see him live, request this song, its great live.
    runningincircleson June 30, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song is called "the ballad of the sin eater" not father.
    Mopnuggeton July 06, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI feel there's an anti-American sentiment in there too. The state of America causing him to leave his homeland for Europe and the chorus line reflecting the general sentiment of Europeans towards Americans in very recent times. His recounting of his European experience is showing that these European places aren't perfect and may not have the correct opinion.

    I may be way off the mark though.
    ma0smon September 18, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentTed's friends with members of the Sin Eaters--an actual band! I'm not about to make assumptions on their genre so as not to piss off any sin eater fans.
    But, if I may say so, one of the most exciting moments of my life was when I got to play tambourine for this song, as it was played live! Ted handed me the tambourine! *sigh*
    GeeMoon September 21, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI thought the Sin Eaters were the project Ted started with his brother (or some family member) that were reknowned for explosive live performances but never released any studio recordings before breaking up and Ted recruiting The Pharmacists...
    ma0smon September 30, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think the whole anti-American definitely works here. Lerxs interpretation seems to be right on. My friend Keith got to play tambourine during this song too...he was in shock for days.
    diverhanson November 10, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentGOD I CAN NOT WAIT TO SEE THIS SONG LIVE. I hear that if you don't properly brace yourself, the percussive onslaught breaks your spine and rattles your fillings loose.

    I'm seeing Ted Leo in thirteen days!
    bizarr3on February 07, 2005   Link

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