"Expo '86" as written by Christopher Walla and Benjamin Gibbard....
Sometimes I think this cycle never ends
We slide from top to bottom and we turn and climb again
And it seems by the time that I have figured what it's worth
The squeaking of our skin against the steel has gotten worse

But if I move my place in line I'll lose
And I have waited, the anticipation's got me glued

I am waiting for something to go wrong
I am waiting for familiar resolve

Sometimes it seems that I don't have the skills to recollect
The twists and turns of plots that took us from lovers to friends
I'm thinking I should take that volume back up off the shelf
And crack it's weary spine and read to help remind myself

But if I move my place in line I'll lose
And I have waited, the anticipation's got me glued

I am waiting for something to wrong
I am waiting for familiar resolve
I am waiting for another repeat
Another diet fed by crippling defeat
And I am waiting for that sense of relief
I am waiting for you to flee the scene
As if you held in your hand the smoking gun
And on the floor lay the one you said you loved

And it's strange
They are basically the same
So I don't ask names anymore

Sometimes I think this cycle never ends
We slide from top to bottom and we turn and climb again
And it seems by the time that I have figured what it's worth
The squeaking of our skin against the steel has gotten worse

The squeaking of our skin against the steel has gotten worse
The squeaking of our skin against the steel has gotten worse


Lyrics submitted by heartattack, edited by eyobri

"Expo '86" as written by Christopher Walla Benjamin Gibbard

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Expo '86 song meanings
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91 Comments

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  • +2
    General CommentTo me, this is about a relationship that becomes a cycle.. the pair run into a problem and fight and break up, but always know they'll keep coming back to each other. The guy is tired of going of the pain and sees it's all turning apathetic with the amount of work they have to put into it ("..by the time that I have figured what it's worth, the squeaking of our skin against the steel has gotten worse").

    And the "Sometimes it seems that I don't have the skills to recollect" verse really gets me. I feel like I could have written this song...
    solitarystaron April 30, 2004   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationI had to make an account just for this comment.

    The first verse is pretty simple, its describing a repeating process that the character in the song cant escape.

    But these two lines give more meaning to the situation:
    "But if I move my place in line, I'll lose
    And I have waited, the anticipation's got me glued"
    The character has been waiting for something, for a long time, and the anticipation has kept him waiting, mindlessly.
    But the song isnt about a failing relationship, as many people have claimed, it details the character who's out of a relationship, but still loves or cares about the other person, who has moved on.

    The character is waiting for the other person's present relationship to go wrong, for it to end and for the person to be single, with a warped and fantasy-esque scenario of the person fleeing the scene after killing their current lover. The warped fantasy is a perfect model of the thoughts of someone with unrequited love, and it seems to have been missed by most people.

    "I am waiting for something to wrong
    I am waiting for familiar resolve
    I am waiting for another repeat
    Another diet fed by crippling defeat
    And I am waiting for that sense of relief
    I am waiting for you to flee the scene
    As if you held in your hand the smoking gun
    And on the floor lay the one you said you loved"

    And it's strange
    They are basically the same
    So I don't ask names anymore"

    To the character in the song, all of the person's lovers are the same to them; another problem they have to wait for to disappear.

    But maybe I'm just warped enough myself to interpret it this way.
    jackshearton July 31, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI must be the only person on the entire site who doesn't think its about a guy in a failing relationship.

    I think it is about someone who has many quick fling-romances. Not serious relationships, but more than just dating.

    It seems like with each partner, neither of them seem like it would be a long term commitment, more so them getting into a relationship because of the initial lust period and then later on down the track realizing it was too fast and that they're just better as friends.

    'Sometimes I think it cycle never ends' is the repetition of these various relationships.

    'By the time that I figure what its worth, the squeaking of our skin agaisnt the steel has gotten worse' makes me think of sex. How by this point, the relationships always seem to be sexually based because other interest is lost.

    'If I move my place in line, ill lose' is how the partner finds them as disposable and possibly also oftenly flings like them.

    'I am waiting for something to go wrong. I am waiting for familiar resolve' the relationship failing in a way, and the resolve is a break up.

    'Sometimes it seems that I don't have the skills to recollect, it twists and turns a plot that turned us from lovers to friends' forgetting what made them lose attraction to eachother.

    'Im thinking I should take that volume back up off the shelf, and crack its weiry spine on me to helop remind myself' but knowing it happens everytime.

    'And if you held in your hand the smoking gun, and on the floor lay the one you said you loved' is how the operative words are 'you SAID you loved' as if the relationships were partly fake and they just say love because that's what you do in relationships.

    'And its strange, but they are basically the same, so I don't ask names anymore' clearly because all the relationships are all the same, it doesn't matter who its with because the person will be gone after a while.

    I really hope someone reads this as half the comments are from 2004, and I specifically created an account to post my opinion since no one else shared the same view.
    mousepotatoon February 01, 2009   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI agree with the mousepotato person,
    The song defiantly conjures up images of many failing relationships. Whether it be though shallowness, objectivity or superficialness.

    I think that its his realising of the superficialness of the relationships is articulated in the line;
    “They are basically the same
    So I don't ask names anymore”
    Saying that he realises that all his relationships in the end, are about sex, so he doesn’t even bother with the precursor of pretending to care about the other person.

    But yes,
    I agree with mousepotato,
    You sound like a very beautiful, intelligent and insightful person.

    CatHaton February 03, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentAnyone else ever associate this with the Beatle's "Helter Skelter?"

    "when I get to the bottom I go back to the top of the slide" - an ex of mine posted this as his status when our relationship seemed like it was going nowhere, repeating the same problems.

    and then I wanted to post Deathcab's sadder version of those same lyrics.

    Sometimes I think this cycle never ends
    We slide from top to bottom and we turn and climb again
    And it seems by the time that I have figured what it's worth
    The squeaking of our skin against the steel has gotten worse
    weakerthan17on June 23, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song is so beautiful, i cant believe no one has commented on it yet.
    "i am waiting for you to flee the scene as if you held in your hand the smoking gun and on the floor lay the one you said you loved."
    that says the whole song right there, to me.
    <3.
    Forbidden Fruiton April 11, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti am waiting for something to go wrong.
    i am waiting for familiar resolve.
    I love that part!!!
    taylor8285on April 17, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song is simply about life's struggles.
    fish eat steelon April 29, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI don't get "the squeeking of our skin against the steel" other than that this is my favorite off Transatlanticism the best part is "and it's strange...
    AmericanSuperHeroson May 10, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"the squeeking of our skin against the steel" is metaphoric to "them" goin up and down a slide... They climb to the top only to slip and slide back down to the bottom.

    I never really got this song at all. I just heared the greatness of the beats, bass, and fumbling guitar. It was when I was actually going through these feelings that I finally found out what this song was about, and began to relate. The song is of a relationship, of course, where the woman has just gotten out of a serious relationship (maybe she was dumped, or maybe something unforseen happened?) She is torn between two hearts, and has found a void to fill. They met one night, fell in love that week only for her to still have those feelings for the other. She's obviously honest, as they turn from lovers to friends, and he's worried of losing his place in line. I think Ben Gibbard puts a personal note as he states "and it's strange they are basically the same so i don't ask names anymore" as he's on the road all the time and doesn't know whats really goin on.
    blacktigermusic.comon May 19, 2004   Link

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