If I could open my arms
And span the length of the isle of Manhattan
I'd bring it to where you are
Making a lake of the East River and Hudson

If I could open my mouth
Wide enough for a marching band to march out
They would make your name sing
And bend through allies and bounce off all the buildings

I wish we could open our eyes
To see in all directions at the same
Oh what a beautiful view
If you were never aware of what was around you

And it is true what you said
That I live like a hermit in my own head
But when the sun shines again
I'll pull the curtains and blinds to let the light in

Sorrow drips into your heart through a pin hole
Just like a faucet that leaks and there is comfort in the sound
But while you debate half empty and half full
It slowly rises, your love is gonna drown

Your love is gonna drown



Lyrics submitted by Si_duffers

"Marching Bands of Manhattan" as written by Benjamin Gibbard

Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing

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Marching Bands of Manhattan song meanings
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  • +4
    General Comment:This song is about depression and the narrator's wish to bring someone that he cares about out of it.

    I will use "friend" to reference this person, but really it could be any person the narrator cares about from a lover to a colleague, "He" is gender neutral here.

    "If I could open my arms
    And span the length of the isle of Manhattan
    I'd bring it to where you are
    Making a lake of the East River and Hudson"

    -You won't fully understand this verse until you spend some time wandering around Manhattan (New York City). Manhattan is in short a nexus of human activity, full of entertainment and life. Bringing Manhattan to his friend is the narrator's metaphor for showing his friend all spice in life that there is to experience.

    "And if I could open my mouth
    Wide enough for a marching band to march out
    They would make your name sing
    And bend through alleys and bounce off all the buildings"

    -A common cause of depression is not being recognized by others for one's virtues. The narrator wants for his friend to know that there are people out there that appreciate him.

    "I wish we could open our eyes
    To see in all directions at the same time
    Oh, what a beautiful view
    If you were never aware of what was around you"

    -"Open your eyes and look at the world around you", the narrator says to his friend. "All directions" and "what was around you" is opposed to what his friend has been staring at; it is a metaphorical opposite to the inward-looking tunnel vision that characterizes a depressive mindset.

    "And it is true what you say
    That I live like a hermit in my own head
    But when the sun shines again
    I'll pull the curtains and blinds to let the light in"

    -"A hermit in my own head" is reference to one's introspective tendencies. The narrator is empathizing with his friend's inward-looking tendencies, but draws a difference in the next two lines. "But when the sun shines again / I'll pull the curtains and blinds to let the light in" -- sunshine and light is metaphor for life's opportunities and good moments that the narrator welcomes into his life. This is opposed to 'closing the curtains' that his friend has supposedly been doing thereby shutting out the potentially positive aspects of his life.

    "Sorrow drips into your heart through a pinhole
    Just like a faucet that leaks and there is comfort in the sound
    But while you debate half empty or half full
    It slowly rises, your love is going to drown"

    -The narrator is telling his friend that so long as he wallows in his depression, it will slowly drown out his "love". "Love" as it is used here is not romantic attraction -- it's the things one loves - the things that get his friend motivated and excited - the things he cares about. "Sorrow drips into your heart" and "like a faucet that leaks" are metaphors for the gradual loss of loved things as the narrator's friend let's his life and opportunities pass by while in his depressed state. "While you debate half empty or half full" is a shot at the self-defeating and rather meaningless rationalization and self-analysis his friend mulls around thinking about, when what really needs to do is live his life.

    Truly a beautiful song. It took me a while to fully grasp and appreciate the lyrics. I was first introduced to the song about two years ago, and it wasn't until I experienced a depression of my own, visited Manhattan, and re-listened to this song recently that it occurred to me what it's all about. What's fascinating about this piece is that even without fully understanding the lyrics, the music evokes powerful feelings that strongly relate to to the lyrical interpretation. I highly recommend listening to the Vitamin String Quartet's cover of this song off of the album "Ghost: The String Quartet Tribute to Death Cab for Cutie" if you want to simply appreciate the musicality of the song.

    Hopefully this interpretation makes the song that much more meaningful for you.
    Frznfyeron April 08, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General Comment:This is my interpretation.

    If I could open my arms
    And span the length of the isle of Manhattan
    I'd bring it to where you are
    Making a lake of the East River and Hudson
    (I think this is more of a personal reference that means something to the band and who it was written for but possibly it's saying they love this person enough to move mountains for them.)

    And if I could open my mouth
    Wide enough for a marching band to march out
    They would make your name sing
    And bend through alleys and bounce off all the buildings
    (This is saying that they love this person so much that they want to shout it out to the world how amazing they think they are. A name is a powerful thing and always has been and he wants to glorify theirs to the world.)

    I wish we could open our eyes
    To see in all directions at the same time
    Oh, what a beautiful view
    If you were never aware of what was around you
    (To me this is saying we need to open ourselves to all different points of view and not wear blinders. The second part makes me think of "ignorance is bliss." They're saying the world is a beautiful place until you take a closer look.)

    And it is true what you say
    That I live like a hermit in my own head
    But when the sun shines again
    I'll pull the curtains and blinds to let the light in
    (I think this is talking about how he hides inside himself and he realizes that he does but when the world, his world, has sun shining on it/something good and happy happening in it he'll come back out of himself. Who doesn't want to hide from the bad in life?)

    Sorrow drips into your heart through a pinhole
    Just like a faucet that leaks and there is comfort in the sound
    But while you debate half empty or half full
    It slowly rises, your love is going to drown
    (I think this is saying it's inevitable for sorrow to slowly slip into all of our lives from time to time and sometimes we get lost in it and let it become a comfortable constant in our life. But if we dwell on it it will slowly consume the happiness we have.)
    rain88on February 12, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General Comment:Sorrow drips into your heart through a pinhole
    just like a faucet that leaks and there is comfort in the sound
    but while you debate half empty or half full
    it slowly rises your love is gonna drown

    i think this entire stanza sums up what this song is basically about, although i'm not quite sure why the song is titled such.

    basically i think it's talking about how when you're feeling really sad or even slightly depressed, you'll tend to want to immerse yourself in that sadness, or wallow in the misery of the situation. it may be because it can make you feel better cos no one else can understand what you're going thru other than you. (hence, "there is comfort in the sound" of the sorrow leaking into your heart)

    and while you're busy deconstructing the reasons for your unhappiness and wallowing in the sadness, you'll gradually close yourself off to the people who love you. and you'll also end up closing yourself up from your loved ones. hence, gradually, "you're love is gonna drown."

    and i think the stanza below supports that as well:
    I wish we could open our eyes
    to see in all directions at the same time

    Oh what a beautiful view
    if you were never aware of what was around you
    and it is true what you say
    that I live like a hermit in my own head
    jadedgypsyon October 04, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Comment:this song is awesome. i like how it starts out soft and slow then progressively gets faster and louder.. i like the transitions and i think his voice sounds especially good in this song.. this song makes me wanna jam out in my car
    createthefutureon February 10, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General Comment:If I could open my arms
    And span the length of the isle of Manhattan
    I'd bring it to where you are
    Making a lake of the East River and Hudson
    (he is saying that if he could he would give you everything he loves if possible)

    And if I could open my mouth
    Wide enough for a marching band to march out
    They would make your name sing
    And bend through alleys and bounce off all the buildings
    (he is saying that he would sing your name with a marching band and make the name heard everywhere)

    I wish we could open our eyes
    To see in all directions at the same time
    Oh, what a beautiful view
    If you were never aware of what was around you
    (we need to see everything instead of just our own point of view, it would be more beautiful)

    And it is true what you say
    That I live like a hermit in my own head
    But when the sun shines again
    I'll pull the curtains and blinds to let the light in
    (he keeps his thoughts to himself but when given the chance, next time, he wants to let it all out, let the sunshine blind him)

    Sorrow drips into your heart through a pinhole
    Just like a faucet that leaks and there is comfort in the sound
    But while you debate half empty or half full
    It slowly rises, your love is going to drown
    (sorrow will grow on you, it comes through a pinhole and leaks and grows into you, but while you debate whether you are happy or not, it slowly rises, the sadness is going to drown your love if you aren't careful. happiness is just a state of mind, you have to BE happy whether you feel like it or not)
    fisheatsteelon May 12, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General Comment:I love love love this song. I think this is probably one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard.

    Anyway, to me the song represents a human condition where we tend to dwell on our sorrows and problems instead of acting upon it because it's easier that way. And we often become comfortable being depressed and lost in our thoughts and sorrows - i.e. what has evolved into "emo-ness" in modern society. And while we debate our emotions and plan for how we are going to view the world ("half empty and half full") our "love" , something that is an underlying reason for existence, is gradually going to drown and we become stagnant in our lives.

    To me the first verses of the song is not about a specific relationship or message for a specific someone, but rather about another human condition where we often plan and dream about what we wish to achieve but never set out to do it. The key words for me in the verses are ifs and wishes - i.e. "If I could open my arms" "I wish we could open our eyes". When I hear these lines I imagine some really melodramatic guy whose life is full of ifs and dreams but lives "like a hermit in his own head". To me I think this makes more sense seeing the album is called "Plans" - life is full of planning and dreams and wishes and we wish to "see in all directions at the same time" but in reality we find more comfort in sorrow and dwelling on our problems.

    I don't know, I might be looking too much into this but it's a beautiful song nevertheless :)
    siztOmonon November 15, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Comment:beautiful
    foreversendon July 27, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Comment:Great song. I love the metaphores that they use in their music. brilliant and familiar. Can't wait for the rest of the album!
    pandakaton August 02, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Comment:great opening song for the new album.
    NHLavalancheon August 05, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Comment:It's pretty good. I think what's annoying me about this album is that its not a very natural transition from Transatlanticism and more importantly the older albums.. The remnents I find of the sounds from those albums are slightly off and it just feels like this album is firing on 5 cylinders.. It's good, and songs are growing on me, but it doesn't feel natural.
    eucilon August 08, 2005   Link

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