I'm a breather mail receiver
And I don't know where I stand
Not since someone informed me
That my house was built on sand
And it's not the earth beneath me
It's just the concept of the land

And I'm standing on the corner
When the buildings they all fell
If you blink once you're a goner
Everything just goes pell-mell

It's a real hard sell
My conceptual hell
Not even good for kindling
When the buildings they all fell

I'm a breather mail receiver
Bottom feader just getting by
And you know it's all just par for the course
But you blame it on some non-existent force
Oh yeah, of course
You know you can't ride the concept of the horse
But still I try

In a cartoon desert landscape
With a pair of ACME jetskates
Focused on my destination
I seem to have forgot my station
Now it's time to face the nation

And I'm riding to meet you
On a brown gray speckled mare
But there's something that unnerves me
Like I'm riding on thin air
These few doubts disserve me
Thinking no one really cares
And I'm jumping over fences
On this obstacle course
But it seems I'm getting nowhere
On the concept of the horse

It's a real hard sell
My conceptual hell
Not even good for kindling
When the buildings they all fell

I'm a breather
Bottom feader
How many liters
Must I imbibe
And you know it's all just par for the course
But you blame it on some non-existent force
Oh yeah, of course
You know you can't ride the concept of the horse
But still I try


Lyrics submitted by j.enslow

Case in Point song meanings
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15 Comments

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  • +3
    General CommentInteresting comments here. I didn't really get religious references from the song at first. My first impression was that the song was about the impracticality (perhaps even futility) of excessive philosophical or theoretical thought. The song's narrator or protagonist is caught in a "conceptual hell," which I read as a world that is overwrought with thinking. He realizes that this thinking is "Not even good for kindling / When the buildings they all fell." In other words, philosophical rumination is not useful when real life tragedy or disaster (i.e. the falling of the buildings) strikes.

    Furthermore, unrestrained theoretical thought can prevent action. If one is removed from reality in a "conceptual hell," one becomes stagnant or stops moving forward. Hence the line "You can't ride the concept of the horse." The horse is practical, the concept is not. If you try to move forward using the concept, you will ultimately get nowhere.
    cvallone88on February 21, 2012   Link
  • +2
    General Commentsorry mthoodmark, but he was performing this song a couple years before 911 happened. I don't think it has anything to do with terrorism.

    It seams to make more sense to read religion into the lyrics, specifically Christianity.

    "I'm a breather mail receiver"
    He's like everybody else on this planet because we all breath, and most receive mail.

    "And I don't know where I stand"
    I don't know what to believe in, or where I am going; what my status is in God's eyes. This could be a statement about society in general.

    "Not since someone informed me That my house was built on sand"
    This is a biblical reference which is why I mentioned Christianity. The wise man built his house upon a rock, the foolish man built his house upon the sand. He's come to realize that the teachings he grew up on (the concept of the land) are now difficult for him to believe.

    The concept of the horse may be a reference to an aspect of Hinduism which sees the universe as a horse. Very difficult for Westerners to understand, which would be why he's getting nowhere.
    kenimatoron May 18, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI agree that this is a religious song, however I don't think it's hinduism. The concept of a horse refers to the definition of reality and concept in philosophy.
    "When a concept is empirical, its deduction is accomplished merely by pointing to instances of its objects. For example the deduction of the concept of a horse is accomplished by merely pointing out a horse. Since there are horses the concept is legitimate." - Kent

    I think Mr. bird is saying there is no god, as there is no empirical evidence. Props to him for quoting such in depth philosophy. He is amazing, I love this song.
    Birdeyeson February 04, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentJust a simple, and likely obvious thing to add to everyone's interpretations is that "a real hard sell" could also double as "cell" as in a jail cell in which he's confined in.
    His conceptual hell are the bars of his mind that he seems trapped behind because his reality doesn't seem to transcend into the real world. Therefor, it's impractical.
    Why?Eff.on August 22, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI didn't pick up on this until I read all the other peoples good comments here, but I am now feeling like there is something of an anti-essentialist meaning here as well as the anti-determinism the others have noted (ie our lives are not pre-determined by god's plan). Something about how reality as we know it is shaped by us and our language (there isn't anything essentially 'horse' about a horse, it could just as easily be called a 'table' - but would it mean the same thing or not?) and it's hard to say if there is a reality sepparate from our perceptions of it. Or something like that. Here's why I'm thinking this way:

    The person in the song is told that his fundamental truths are not true: "And I don't know where I stand / Not since someone informed me / That my house was built on sand". Then, when he looks closer at the reality around him, it all falls apart (the buildings, the house on sand) or it never actually existed (the horse, the earth).

    The following lines have one thing in common - they all point to someone discovering that the things that they thought were essentialy real are not:

    That my house was built on sand / And it's not the earth beneath me / It's just the concept of the land

    And I'm standing on the corner / When the buildings they all fell

    You know you can't ride the concept of the horse / But still I try

    But there's something that unnerves me / Like I'm riding on thin air

    But it seems I'm getting nowhere / On the concept of the horse

    Also, the following verse points to our reality being not real (it is cartoon, we are wearing cartoon jetskates made by a fictional cartoon company):

    In a cartoon desert landscape / With a pair of ACME jetskates

    And isn't it a conceptual hell when you realize that reality as you know it isn't real? (like, as 'tenwords' pointed out, plato's people in the cave did).

    So I think he's saying something like 'we go through life thinking that our reality is real, our truths are true, our paths are determined by god and that we are all moving forward but we are all just riding the concept of a horse (ie. it's all in our minds and we aren't getting anywhere because of it).'

    And then, even when you know there is no essential real or true, what else can you do but go on?
    ... 'But still I try' ...
    frejaon March 09, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General Commentthe concept of the horse/concept of the land part makes me think of plato.
    tenwordson June 03, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti would definitely agree with the religious assessment. it makes perfect sense with the lines mentioned by kenimator and other phrases like "you know its all just part of the course, but you blame it on some non-existent force."
    mw828on January 09, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"And you know it's all just par for the course
    But you blame it on some non-existent force"

    Going along with the religious imagery, I think that this line negates the idea of an omniscient God that controls everything. I think he's saying that people do not take enough credit. Blaming or accrediting life-changing events to something that may or may not even exist (he obviously believes it doesn't) gives people the false concept that life is beyond them and what happens just happens, regardless of their actions.

    Also, the lyrics are on the Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire page as well, but they're incorrect.
    kelmo328on April 14, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI definitely don't think it has anything to do with terrorism, I think that kenimator has said it best.
    It seems like this is one of Andrew's pessimistic songs. He's talking about the futility of life. People try to find meaning in it by looking to "some non-existant force" i.e. religion. I think that the horse imagery is so strong...
    And I'm riding to meet you
    On a brown gray speckled mare
    But there's something that unnerves me
    Like I'm riding on thin air
    To me it's like he's trying to accept a belief system, but it's just a concept, it's not concrete.
    You know you can't ride the concept of the horse
    But still I try
    He just can't find the proof of a "higher power" but he tries to find something to believe in anyway.
    That's what I get out of it anyway.
    TheNamingOfThingson September 03, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOK. This is pretty much my favorite song.
    airwolf queenon January 08, 2007   Link

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