"False Flags" as written by Neil Davidge and Robert Del Naja....
In city shoes
Of clueless blues
Pays the views
And no-mans news
Blades will fade from blood to sport
The heroin's cut these fuses short
Smokers rode a colonial pig
Drink and frame this pain I think
I'm melting silver poles my dear
You bleed your wings and then disappear
The moving scenes and pilot lights
Smithereens have got 'em scaling heights
Modern times come talk me down
And battle lines are drawn across this town
Parisian boys without your names
Ghetto stones instead of chains
Talk 'em down cause it's up in flames
And nothing's changed
Parisian boys without your names
Riot like 1968 again
The days of rage yeah nothing's changed
Well pretty flames
In school I would just bite my tongue
And now your words they strike me down
The flags are false and they contradict
They point and click which wounds to lick
On avenues this Christian breeze
Turns its heart to more needles please
Our eyes roll back and we beg for more
It frays this skin and then underscore
The case for war you spin and bleed
The sales you feel screensavers feed
The girls you breed the soaps that you write
The graceless charm of your gutter snipes
The moving scenes and suburbanites
And smithereens got 'em scaling heights
Modern times come talk me down
The battle lines are drawn across this town
English boys without your names
Ghetto stones instead of chains
Hearts and minds and U.S. planes
Nothing's changed
And English boys without your names
Riot like the 1980's again
The days of rage yeah nothing's changed
More pretty flames


Lyrics submitted by scaffy, edited by noellyd

"False Flags" as written by Robert Del Naja Neil Davidge

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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False Flags song meanings
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18 Comments

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  • +4
    General CommentI think this song is about the hopelessness of fighting; how all these people rioted and died for a cause and nothing changed excepted for some 'pretty flames.' I think he is trying to point out that blind patriotism and faith are the cause of this. Hints lines like 'the flags are false and they contradict' and 'this christian breeze turns its heart to more needles please.' I think he's right as well... Nothing has changed... Amazing song though... Such a change of sound from their original form. Always leaves me feeling helpless... A must hear for Massive Attack fans...
    Poboon June 11, 2006   Link
  • +4
    General Comment"False Flags"

    'False flag operations are covert operations conducted by governments, corporations, or other organizations, which are designed to appear as if they are being carried out by other entities. The name is derived from the military concept of flying false colors; that is, flying the flag of a country other than one's own. False flag operations are not limited to war and counter-insurgency operations, and have been used in peace-time; for example, during Italy's strategy of tension.'

    (See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…)

    The song is obviously anti Iraq war, and bites into the whole corrupt economic and social system that underpins such a war. This is perhaps unsurprising since:

    '[Robert] Del Naja is - perhaps notoriously - open in his views, and has no qualms about criticising government policy. He was strongly opposed to the 2003 war against Iraq, and with fellow musician Damon Albarn personally paid for full page adverts in the NME magazine.'

    (See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…)

    It's hardly surprising then that in a media system controlled by the system, “False Flags” hardly saw the light of day.


    "In city shoes
    Of clueless blues"

    Reference to the ubiquitous uniform of city businessmen and women the world over. A rererence to the core of the corrupt economic system.


    "Pays the views
    And no-mans news"

    Reference to the corporate ownership of the media. In effect the media is payed - through advertising - to dispense standard "views" as directed by the system. This is interspersed with “no-mans news”: pointless stories about celebrities and such to comatose the masses.


    "Blades will fade from blood to sport
    The heroin's cut these fuses short"

    Possible reference to the thinking masses being comatosed themselves by drugs. "Blades will fade" and "blood" referencing cocaine (which is cut with blades) and heroin (injected into the blood stream - “spore” would be more effective than “sport”). The cutting short of fuses suggests that the youth's reliance on drugs prevent the action of dissent that is needed and called for in the song.



    "Smokers rode a colonial pig
    Drink and frame this pain i think"

    And even those not going the whole hog with drugs are comatosed from the pain of modern life by using dope and drink.


    "I'm melting silver poles my dear
    You bleed your wings and then disappear"

    Another heroin reference.


    "The moving scenes and pilot lights
    Smithereens have got 'em scaling heights"

    The "pilot lights" could be a reference to crack, which is often home-made by heating a solution in spoon above a cooking ring, rendering the “scaling heights” part of the line obvious. However, there's a second possible meaning of the line (which could be double) where “smitherines” references the TV images of the US bombing of Baghdad, and certain sick people getting excited by them.

    (See dictionary.reference.com/…)


    "Modern times come talk me down"

    The “modern times” of the unwise masses living lives as prescribed by a system that has brainwashed them, and the wise being similarly eliminated by their own escapist drug habits, literally “talk down”, or shout louder than those actually trying to say something like Del Naja.


    "And battle lines are drawn across this town"

    Battle lines of opinion are drawn everywhere between the wise who percieve the corruption of the system, and the unwise and brainwashed who do not, or are evil enough to ignore it.


    "Parisian boys without your names"

    'Without your names' may refer to anonymous identities on the internet, the only partly free media left, and the great hope for organising any change.


    "Ghetto stones instead of chains"

    Not sure about this. “ghetto stones” could be a crypic reference to computer mice – a modern day tool of dissent, or it could be more literal. The ghettos having the same chaining effect of imprisonment of the masses.


    "Talk 'em down cause it's up in flames
    And nothing's changed"

    Nothing has changed wince the last uprisings of the people, like the anti-Vietnam war movement in the 60s.


    "Riot like 1968 again"

    There were 'a series of protests and a general strike that caused the eventual collapse of the De Gaulle government in France.' (See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…).


    "In school i would just bite my tongue
    And now your words they strike me down
    The flags are false and they contradict"

    See the title piece above. Del Naja possibly heard the phrase from a teacher at school.


    "They point and click which wounds to lick"

    Possible reference to the 'wound' inflicted by the media after their wrongful accusations against him:

    'In 2003 there was controversy surrounding allegations of indecent material when the police arrested Del Naja on suspicion of downloading child pornography. The investigation was later terminated and no charges were brought. An expert witness from the case wrote in April 2007 about the sloppy police work leading to the investigation.'

    (See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…)


    "On avenues this Christian breeze
    Turns its heart to more needles please
    Our eyes roll back and we beg for more
    It frays this skin"

    Reference to religion - which is no better than the system (In fact it's just the superseded previous system) – having the same effect to just turning the youth onto drugs as an escapism.


    "and then underscore"

    Another possible internet reference. The underscore character used in many screen names.




    "The case for war you spin and bleed"

    Reference to the false “case for war” (Iraqi WMDs etc) that was made in the West by the system.

    Note the use of "you" and "your" throughout this section. This refers to the system itself.


    "The cells you fill"

    Reference to Guantanamo Bay, and also possibly the general false imprisonment of people for non-offences. Like drug offences.


    "screensavers feed"

    A possible reference to attempts to sterilize the Internet.


    "The girls you breed"

    Reference to the idiotic celebrity wannabes that are the role models of young women brainwashed by the system.


    "the soaps that you write"

    Another method of brainwashing the masses being the banal soap operas on TV.


    "The graceless charm of your gutter snipes"

    The general phrase “gutter snipes” can be used for people of low moral fibre:

    (See webster-dictionary.net/definition/…)

    However, specifically, the slang 'gutter press' in the UK refers to the particularly hugely popular, but dually manipulative and mindless tabloid papers like The Sun and The Mirror:

    ('Tabloid newspapers are sometimes pejoratively called the gutter press' - See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/….)

    So 'gutter snipes' could reference the journalists working for them. This is relevant to the "no-mans news" above, and also Del Naja's own experience with them (See 'which wounds to lick' above).


    "Hearts and minds and US Planes
    Nothing's changed"

    Says it all.

    "And english boys without your names
    Riot like the 1980's again"

    The race riots of the early 80s and poll tax riots of the late 80s were the last civil uprisings in England.

    (See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…)


    All in all, a pretty obvious call to war against the current system. Well needed.
    matt2971on September 22, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis has to be my favourite Massive Attack song ever. It's so hypnotic.

    The clip at the end is a distorted version of Radiohead's The Bends, by the way. He says "Where do we go from here/ the planet is again engulfed in a sea of fear" in the sample, which I think pretty much sums up what False Flags is about, too. Mass panic about riots and wars that do nothing to change wrongs in the end.

    Pobo's pretty spot on, I'd say.
    Appers66on June 28, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI agree with waryman that the song is about 11/9 and that the US government was involved:
    "hearts and minds and u.s. planes
    nothing's changed
    "
    But its not only about this. According to wikipedia:
    "
    False flag operations are covert operations conducted by governments, corporations, or other organizations, which are designed to appear as if they are being carried out by other entities. The name is derived from the military concept of flying false colors; that is, flying the flag of a country other than one's own.
    "

    I am saying this, because I believe that the song is not only about this "false flags" operation, but also about the terror done by the state and the power to the people and about the people's revolts against it.

    As ArnhemKnight117 said the music video is about a guy that is throwing a molotov cocktail in a slow motion. One can see the emotions of the character - despair that is leading to anger and revolt. In the end of the video there is a flag burning, which looks like the flag of the EU, which means that the idea is that the governments of all big powers are the same and that the people's revolt is against all of them. The molotov is thrown at a car, but in the end the flag of the EU is burning.

    So the song is about the revolt of the people and about that revolt does not change anything. Lets analyse the last few lines:

    "hearts and minds and u.s. planes"
    u.s. planes is clear. hearts and minds may be refers to stuped nationalism who favours only the state and those that are in power.

    "nothing's changed"
    Meaning that state terrorism and injustice by the state and those in power is nothing new.

    and english boys without your names
    riot like the 1980's again

    I am not sure which riot is this about, but I guess the lines are similar to:
    parisian boys without your names
    riot like 1968 again

    i guess we all have heart about the anti-authoritarian riots in paris 1968. Without your names, i guess because of all the nameless revolutionaries. The music video is showing that ordinary type of guy also, who is the one that is rioting. Which is kind of a guy without a name also.

    In the end of the line there is this 'again' which is there to say that songs is not only to mention about the historical event, but to say that there are still revolts against the injustices.
    "
    the days of rage yeah nothing's changed
    "
    There were those days of rage so many times, but the power is causing the same injustice.

    "more pretty flames"

    more pretty flames caused by the riot or by that the injustice continues? I guess both. The flames of the molotov coctail may be.

    Something else. I don't know think that the song is saying that the revolts are meaningless. Or that may be they are but also that the author supports the resistance.
    "in school i would just bite my tongue
    and now your words they strike me down
    the flags are false and they contradict
    they point and click which wounds to lick"

    He is very angry against the injustice and when he understands of the state terorism and state injusteces knows what to revolt against.


    I guess there is more to the song, but my comment went for to long already. Thanks to everyone for the great comments on that nice site:):):)
    4i4arataon January 08, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti agree with Pobo. it's about hopelessnes, it's about "lets do nothing political, kids, lets stay home as trip-hop kiddies doing absolutely nothing but buying masiive attack products...
    and i think the feeling of hopelessness this song is almost identical to Thom Yorke's Analyse.... anyway. i like them both.. :)

    .
    deliibrahimon May 16, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think that this song in general contradicts- It states reoccurring how the system is corrupt, and people are dying, escaping into drug use, etc. and that we should riot, but then says things like, "Nothing's Changed".

    Does he mean that we should riot now, in order to overthrow, or is he saying that we shouldn't because it won't change anything in the end? I think It'll take more than Riots to change anything, and it would take a lot more than pretty flames. I think he is saying that people will riot, and people will die, but that it all changes nothing.

    Ryn_Sharon December 21, 2008   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningHeroin is a reference to the Marx quote: "Religion is the opiate of the masses". He is saying religion has "cut these fuses short", i.e. religion makes people more prone to becoming destructive.

    "Ghetto stones instead of chains" is referring to black pop culture in the West. It's a sort of double play on the Rolling Stones (the band) and the phrase "rolling stone" as slang for a rootless person (from the proverb, "a rolling stone gathers no moss"). It's essentially a comparison of hip hop and slavery; children don't grow up in chains now, instead they all want to become Lil Wayne.
    Ultranauton November 05, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Commentit seems to be about the recent rioting in paris, "parisian boys without your names
    riot like 1968 again"

    "without your names" is probably pointing out their arabic descent

    And there was of course some serious rioting in paris 1968
    scaffyon March 17, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI sort of feel that this is about war and maybe even about this current war we\'re having.

    Things like \"Nothing\'s changes...more pretty flames\"
    And \"ghetto stones instead of chains\" reminds me of perhaps an undeveloped country where it may be happening
    Then \"Modern times they talk me down\"
    And also \"False flags\" remind me of false patriotism
    Either that or they\'re making a statement about how society is false and everything is very fabricated while other, more important things happen
    Treefoxon May 08, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentFantastic song! i agree with scaffy one this one though.
    FreeDemonon June 30, 2006   Link

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