"The Overload" as written by Byrne, Eno, Frantz, Harrison, and Weymouth, from the Talking Heads album Remain in Light (1980)....
A terrible signal
Too weak to even recognize
A gentle collapsing
The removal of the insides

I'm touched by your pleas
I value these moments
We're order than we realize
...in someone's eyes

A frequent returning
And leaving unnoticed
A condition of mercy
A change in the weather

A view to remember
The center is missing
They question how the future lies
...in someone's eyes
The gentle collapsing
Of every surface
We travel on the quiet road
...the overload


Lyrics submitted by exact, edited by jesuscrisisCLE

"The Overload" as written by Chris Frantz David Byrne

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

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The Overload song meanings
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  • +2
    General CommentThis song is hard to interpret, but it seems sort of like someone has been slowly driven insane. The second verse baffles me, but the third sounds sort of like a list of symptoms, or things that could trigger a change in someone. In some ways, the song reminds me of the book Breakfast of Champions.
    Theyuchethon May 18, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentTo me this song can work at both the micro and macro level; it represents either the total destruction of one's identity at the individual level (the culmination of a host of similar themes discussed throughout the album), or the actual apocalypse of the modern world. The song details a sequence of symptoms and clues that lead to the collapsing, or the 'overload'.

    The key phrase to me is "they question how the future lies in someone's eyes". When questions of how the future will play out arise, we turn to our leaders and role models, putting our complete faith in others, unaware of the pitfalls that are bound to happen. It reminds me of the T.S. Eliot quote "the world ends.... not with a bang, but with a whimper." The end of the world, or even one man's death, would not be loud and furious, but quiet and unnoticed. It is a slow overload, like a pot of water boiling over.
    degree7on December 22, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General CommentDistinctly apocalyptic feel, which used to scare me away from this song a little. Now I feel like I have a more clear idea of what it's getting at. degree7's comparison to The Hollow Men is spot on. It's as if this song is part five of that particular poem, the last leg of the album, standing at the outer limits of knowledge, on its deathbed, but before its reached its time.
    "A view to remember
    The center is missing"
    When you compare this song to the earlier tracks like Crosseyed & Painless about a mania driven by an obsession with facts and logic, this song is like the subdued aftermath of the mania, in which the narrator reaches the state of ubiquity that comes after being denuded of everything but facts.
    "They question how the future lies
    ...in someone's eyes"
    In the end there's no truth except what our individual perspectives convince us is the truth (sounds like Seen And Not Seen doesn't it?). He's overloaded with this lucid worldview, it empties him, weakens his signal, causes a collapse, and sends him down a more quiet, less verbose road.

    As an anecdote, I feel like I was once on that quiet road, and I rejected this song. The lyrics didn't carry anything meaningful for me other than a particularly unfavorable perspective on the situation, I used to skip it. Maybe I hadn't drifted as far, maybe I had drifted farther, maybe I was just up my own asshole about the whole thing. But it's tone just always seemed to me melodramatic (while without any logical flaws), and shed an inappropriately negative light on a truly and utterly neutral phenomenon. But I guess that's what you have to expect by imposing words on a situation that nullifies words.
    zage513on February 26, 2014   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think "The Overload" has a much simpler explaination. Even though, I do like the tie-in with someone having a mental breakdown. Maybe the song has layers of different meanings.
    Nonetheless, I think the song is about the movie: Alien by Ripley Scott, which came out in May, 1979. (15 months before Talking Heads started recording in July, 1981. Which would have been a short enough time period for it to still be on some people's minds. Especially, David Byrne's self diagnosed Asperger's, obsessive mind.) The very first line of the song, almost explains it all. "A Terrible Signal
    Too Weak To Even Recognize"
    This could indicate the ship's computer, MOTHER, detecting a mysterious transmission, thought possibly to be a distress signal, from a nearby planetoid. But while on the Nostromo, Ripley determines that the transmission is not a distress signal but a warning. The line: "The Removal Of The Insides" expresses exacly what the "chestburster" does to its host body.
    The lines: "A Frequent Returning
    And Leaving Unnoticed
    A Condition Of Mercy
    A Change In The Weather" could express David's thoughts for How and Why the Alien came into being.
    One of the reasons Remain In Light is such a great, timeless album is because all the songs tie into each other. This song specifically sets a great contrast with the song: "Houses in Motion." Because that song is about the Hubble Space Telescope or similar satellite in my opinion. "Houses in Motion" takes on an almost tribal, ecstatic, "See only what's at the end of one's nose" blindingly optimistic tone, mood, and perspective of the early "Space Race" and space exploration in general. In the same context, "The Overload's" contrast shows the dark, creepy, sinister side of what mankind could discover in outer space. Or in Laurie Anderson's more concise words (A contemporary of David Byrne in space and time) "Big Science. little men."
    Wesley Lemonton April 15, 2016   Link
  • 0
    General Commentim not sure the meaning of this...anyone have a clue? everyone should check out phish's version of this whole album, they did it on halloween 96 and is available as live phish 15. they really capture the same ambience and darkness the original remain in light achieves.
    sean7711on August 25, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentQuite simply, this is the darkest of all Talking Heads songs. It has something of a Joy Division feel to it.
    tad482on November 11, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe song is about what David Byrne thought a Joy Division song would sound like, despite never hearing their music,
    dmbfantomason November 12, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI never realized how beautiful these lyrics were before. This song, like Born Under Punches, for me feels like it's trying to open one's mind and free oneself to a higher plane of existence (or something psychedelic like that...). I'm surprised that it actually does sound like a Joy Division song, despite the band having never heard their music. I love all the imagery in this song, these feelings that are created.
    EnduringChillon February 18, 2013   Link
  • 0
    Song ComparisonKinda reminds me of Apocalypse Now.
    Coffeewolf77on November 10, 2013   Link

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