"Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" as written by Win Butler, Regine Chassagne, Tim Kingsbury, Richard R Parry and William Butler....
I woke up with the power out,
Not really something to shout about.
Ice has covered up my parents hands
Don't have any dreams don't have any plans.

I went out into the night,
I went out to find some light.
Kids are swingin' from the power lines,
Nobody's home, so nobody minds.

I woke up on the darkest night,
Neighbors all were shoutin' that they found the light.
(We found the light)
Shadows jumpin' all over my walls
Some of them big, some of them small.

I went out into the night.
I went out to pick a fight with anyone.
Light a candle for the kids,
Jesus Christ don't keep it hid!

Ice has covered up my parents hands
Don't have any dreams don't have any plans.
Growin' up in some strange storm,
Nobody's cold, nobody's warm.

I went out into the night,
I went out to find some light.
Kids are dyin' out in the snow,
Look at them go, look at them go!

And the power's out in the heart of man,
Take it from your heart put in your hand.

What's the plan?

Is it a dream? Is it a lie?
I think I'll let you decide.
Just light a candle for the kids,
Jesus Christ don't keep it hid!

Cause nothin's hid, from us kids!
You ain't foolin' nobody with the lights out!

And the power's out in the heart of man,
Take it from your heart put in your hand.
And there's something wrong in the heart of man,
You take it from your heart and put it in your hand!

Where'd you go?


Lyrics submitted by drinkmilk

"Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" as written by Win Butler, Regine Chassagne, Tim Kingsbury, Richard R Parry, William Butler

Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing

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Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) song meanings
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  • +4
    General CommentThis is probably my favorite song of the year. I see this song as written in the circumstance of the singer's Dad having died, literally or no. Like as though his Dad had a heart attack (power's out in the heart of man), and now he's 6 feet under (ice has covered up... hands). Now that he's gone, the kids have free reign (swinging from power lines), and the singer is in the position of decision, of choice. He grew up "in some strange storm / nobody's cold, nobody's warm" and now he sees, in the context of his grief (don't have any dreams / plans; went out to pick a fight with anyone), that the light is where it's at.

    The 3rd set of 4 lines is like the picture of the neighbors dancing to the cop's lights at the end of Laika, but for me here it reads like the night his Dad died, and the ambulance lights came shining through the windows (throwing shadows). The shadows of his past? But it's also where he locates the source of light as outside the house with the neighbors, then later as within (take it from your hearts).

    So if the light is where it's at, and he didn't get it as a kid, then he needs to 'light a candle for the kids' now and not 'keep it hid' like his Dad did. Cause they're 'dying out in the snow (of Tunnels?). "Take it from your heart / put it in your hands" is the most immediate call for love I've seen maybe ever; it's breathtaking. "What's (his) plan?" To tell us to make up our minds and shine the f*$%ing light, now. And not f&%* it up like his Dad did, who he deserves to be angry with (you ain't fooling nobody with the lights out.)

    I think the music explodes in spots that underline the greatest injustices of the song. People hiding the light from kids; kids dying out in the snow; and where it's personal, "you ain't fooling nobody with the lights out!" Which can then take on a kind of ironic double meaning. If he's saying this to the Dad of the past, in the past, then it's straight anger. If he's saying it to a dead man, then he's acknowledging that his dad has only died physically, and perhaps that this physical death can't fool the singer from the spiritual truth of his Dad's continuing life.

    Such an excellent use of metaphor! This band should be enshrined! Such great stuff!
    wileyyoon January 06, 2005   Link
  • +3
    General CommentIt's about these group of kids waking up with no adults around or any other form of supervision. Think about it...ask yourself...what would you wanna do if there wasn't any form of authority? You'd wanna pick a fight...with anyone. The kids are out of control ("...swingin' from the power lines...") and the singer is trying to find and restore any semblance of civilization back to the group while there is absolutely chaos going on: kids are dying, others are influenced by greed ("Jesus Christ, don't keep it hid!"). They're being stripped of any innocence and civility and are forced to start over again. And the singer realizes how animalistic and barbaric humanity is beyond the veil, when humanity is stripped down to the bare-bone ("theres something wrong in the heart of man").
    sweet_adelineon June 23, 2005   Link
  • +3
    General CommentIt's common knowledge that Arcade Fire named the album on which this song appears Funeral because they had lost several close relations during the recording. But I think those losses sparked a more general contemplation of the contribution of the older generations and how they both affected and were affected by the passage of time in the twentieth century. The Arcade Fire often uses their music to make sociopolitical statements, and nowhere is this more evident than in the "Neighborhood" series, in which each song seems to reference a different time period in modern history.

    In this light, "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" is set in the North American economic boom of the '80s and '90s. Lots of people have noted that there was a blizzard in '98 that may have inspired this song, and it's an interesting coincidence that the end of the '90s was also the culmination of years of economic prosperity and the beginning of a downward turn in the stock market and, more broadly, in the fortunes of the Western world.

    This downturn happened suddenly and was a surprise to the generation just coming of age, who awoke to adulthood to find that the steady current of prosperity that had been feeding their parents' lifestyles had been cut off, much like an unexpected power outage. Due to the depressing economic and political climates, many young people felt disillusioned, their aspirations blocked ("Don't have any dreams, don't have any plans").

    The Golden Age at the end of the millennium was also a time during which the nuclear family came under intense scrutiny. "Latch-key kids" and "children of divorce" were said to be the fallout of families stressed by parents who worked too much and parented too little. The song refers to these kids who have been sacrificed on the economic altar as "swinging from the power lines" because "nobody's home, nobody minds." The parents are powerless, a cool, distant presence in the lives of their children as they come of age ("Ice has covered up my parents' hands").

    In a more general sense, "Neighborhood #3" addresses the growing alienation in the increasingly wired, media-driven time period that saw the death of the extended family and the freezing out of neighborhood communities. As we've become more numb to the world around us ("the power's out in the heart of man"), it's become harder for us to derive any real contentment or satisfaction in our lives ("nobody's cold, nobody's warm"), and the song even mocks our desperate search for meaning in mainstays like Christian fundamentalism at the turn of the century. It DID seem that around every corner, someone had "found the light," either spiritually or technologically, but in the age of relativism, there was (and is) no truth to be found.

    The end result, Arcade Fire laments, is that kids of the millennial generation have gotten the short end of the deal, cut adrift in the cold by a heartless society. The song ends with the poignant line, "Where did you go?", which could either be a deservedly accusatory question from these kids to the society that abandoned them or a haunting elegy for this "lost" young generation.

    Please see my comments on the other "Neighborhood" songs for more details on how this song cycle makes a sociopolitical statement.
    LyricallyInclinedon November 29, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI don't think this song is anything like Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime" because while both songs are about disenchatment with the suburban dream, the similarities end there.

    "Once in a Lifetime" describes suburban lifestyle as the result of a river, implying that it's where you end up when you just let life take you and don't make any kind of effort to see or understand where your life is going. Or something like that.

    I personally find "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" much more poignant and relevent and dramatic with respect to the contemporary state of suburbia, in which it has become this horrible behemoth in western society, whose center is cold and dead.

    In the early 90s we saw a large sweeping wave of apathy as a result of a generation raised in this now aged institution of society. Now, a decade later, we are seeing throes of anguish and confusion from a generation drowned by their own neighborhoods.

    There's a bit more to this song than just that though, that's just the beginning.
    DeBurgoon October 19, 2004   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI came here awhile ago, before anyone had commented on the meaning of the song... and I read the lyrics over a couple of times and tried really hard to understand the song but I couldn't figure it out. But a couple of days ago I was thinking of the line 'And the power's out in the heart of man, take it from your heart put in your hand' and then I got an idea. This song could be about the way mankind has it in their hearts, the power to change things and make things better, for example society, but nothing ever becomes of it. Everyone has the care/power in their hearts, but no one will put it in their hands and actually do it. (I don't know if I am explaining this clearly)... and to add on, because of the lack of fixing the world issues and making things better in peoples' communities, it's being passed on through generations.. the kind of attitude that is existing today, that nothing is ever done.. just leave all the work for someone else, pure laziness.. dump all the pressure on someone else's shoulders... people have that attitude today.. the attitude that nothing matters. Like with pollution, everyone takes this beautiful earth for granite… no one wants to take initiative and do positive things anymore… and that isn’t good because manners that are present now are being passed down to the next generations.

    Again with the hand thing ‘ice has covered up my parents hands’. It’s like the perspective of a teen in their generation noticing that the ice, which could be symbolizing the way that the older people in the world are overpowered by the new found attitudes that exist in the world… ‘don’t have any dreams, don’t have any plans’… from the perspective of the teen… admitting to not really having any ambition and aren’t worrying about it either, whatever happens will happen… just cruising through life hoping that the atmosphere around them will mould what they become… but the power is out for everyone, everyone is waking up in more ways than one. It’s a wake up call that life isn’t meant to be lived like this.

    “Growin' up in some strange storm, nobody's cold, nobody's warm.” That explains the way the kids/teens are growing up. “I went out to find some light….
    Kids are dyin' out in the snow”. Snow can turn to ice, just like what has happened to the parents’ hands… some individual is saying that they are witnessing the youth becoming much like the older generations, and that’s not good… because one after another, they’re icing over, becoming powerless.

    “Just light a candle for the kids, Jesus Christ don't keep it hid!” That line is like a frustrated prayer to shed some light, which will melt the snow, on the kids/youth so that they can take the power and make a change and put a stop to the pattern of negative attitudes being created, because they're the future, they are the only hope.

    I hope that I made my interpretation clear enough… and just some insight… I think this song is a hint for all of us to catch onto…
    xx_sunshineon July 05, 2005   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationI know that the accepted idea is that the song is about the '98 power outage...but just a few thoughts I have while listening to it.

    - Neighbors all were shouting that they found the light
    ("We found the light!")
    Shadows jumping all over my walls
    Some of them big, some of them small

    I feel the song overall is about the banality of life in many areas of the civilized world. How the "power" has gone out in our lives, and with it, our ambition and drive to better ourselves and find meaning. This lyric in particular seems to refer to the idea that most of the "Neighborhood" realizes this and are looking for something to hold on to. In times of hopelessness and darkness, a lot of people turn to religion. Now I'm not saying there is anything inherently wrong with that, but a lot of the time, it's used as a cop-out, a carrot on a stick, a blanket of ignorance so they don't have to really deal with the reality of their life. I can't help but read this part as some of the "Neighbors" saying that they found meaning again in religion...and when the "singer" sees it, it's nothing but shadows reflecting against a wall.

    This kind of reminds me Plato's Allegory of the Cave (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…).

    The people have known nothing but darkness with brief moments of shadow reflected on the walls. Because they need to find meaning in their banal existence, they attribute something deeper to the shadows.
    frothyhamon June 18, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentKids are swingin' from the power lines
    neighbors all were shoutin' that they found the light.
    Kids are dyin' out in the snow

    What this says to me is that kids were on the power lines and the parents turned the power on and the kids started dying. This could be a metaphor for basically anything. As someone else said, the other lyrics, such as ice has covered up my parents' hands, could imply apathy on the parents' parts for what they're doing. What this song says to me is that adults are screwing over the kids and ignoring it, or covering it up, and the kids know all about what's happening. Interpreted this way, everything in the song fits:

    I woke up with the power out,
    not really something to shout about.
    Ice has covered up my parents hands
    don't have any dreams don't have any plans.

    Interpretation: I woke up with no hope for us, no surprise there, parents don't care about us anymore, I have no dreams or plans.

    This part in particular is, I think, the most powerful in regards to the lack of hope and love for the kids:

    I went out into the night,
    I went out to find some light.
    Kids are dyin' out in the snow,
    look at them go, look at them go!

    And the power's out in the heart of man,
    take it from your heart put in your hand.

    Basically: I went out into the hopeless world, I went out to find some hope, all these kids have been left to die, watch them die, no one cares about them anymore, why doesn't anyone help them?

    But that's just my opinion.
    monkeysyodelon January 10, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentPower is out in the heart of man! How do you fix that problem?

    There is something wild about this song, like an emergency. It's something that you would feel after a funeral if the people didn't mourn as violently and enough as you feel they should have. I normally hear and think of this album as a post-funeral catharsis. As if you didn't mourn correctly in the week of mourning, so you must do it a year later. I saw in a interview that Winn Butler said once "My generation is desensitized." If you are desensitized, then your not able to respond as you should to very real things. Death is one of those things Americans aren't really sure how to respond to, or well, probably any person that ever lived. No person that ever lived knows how to respond to death.

    To hear Winn Butler yell and sing wildly in this song means something. I wonder if he is trying to show us how to deal with the real. I'm curious to know what that very deep roaring sound in this soug is as well. It sounds almost like a chainsaw, but I don't think that Arcade Fire are trying to say something destructive, I think it's the kind of noise that you hear in your head when something horrible happens. Like trying to yell after you get punched in the stomach. Or some kind of subterrianian pain that begins in your stomach. Like the way that thunder rumbles the earth.

    The power is out in the heart of man, the power is on in the cities and houses. Would turning off electricity help turn on the heart of man?
    Soundboyon November 29, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General Commentthe best out of the neighborhoods, in my opinion.
    ohsailorr_sailon May 13, 2009   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationWow, I'm surprised it took 4 pages of comments before someone mentioned Plato's Allegory of the Cave. I was hoping to be the first!

    Anyway, the bits you quoted above first made me think of the Allegory, but also the lines, “Light a candle for the kids, Jesus Christ, don’t keep it hid,” seem applicable as well. Having discovered the real light, he tries to show it to them. In the Allegory, Plato wonders if doing this would lead the cave dwellers to kill the light bearer. Interestingly, that’s exactly what happens with Jesus Christ.

    I guess what is also funny here is that the electric light in the song servers as a distraction like the shadows on the walls. When the lights are on in the house, they are off in the “hearts of man”.
    clovuson August 11, 2010   Link

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