One hand on this wily comet,
Take a drink just to give me some weight,
Some uber-man I'd make,
I'm barely a vapor

They shone a chlorine light on,
A host of individual sins,
Let's carve my aging face off,
Fetch us a knife,
Start with my eyes,
Down so the lines,
Form a grimacing smile,

Close your eyes to corral a virtue,
Is this fooling anyone else?
Never worked so long and hard,
To cement a failure,

We can blow on our thumbs and posture,
But the lonely is such delicate things,
The wind from a wasp could blow them,
Into the sea,
With stones on their feet,
Lost to the light and the loving we need,

Still to come,
The worst part and you know it,
There is a numbness,
In your heart and it's growing,

With burnt sage and a forest of bygones,
I click my heels,
Get the devils in line,
A list of things I could lay the blame on,
Might give me a way out,

But with each turn,
It's this front and center,
Like a dart stuck square in your eye,
Every post you can hitch your faith on,
Is a pie in the sky,
Chock full of lies,
A tool we devise,
To make sinking stones fly,

And still to come,
The worst part and you know it,
There is a numbness,
In your heart and it's growing.


Lyrics submitted by heyheyhey111

A Comet Appears song meanings
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86 Comments

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  • +6
    General CommentSo, as our protagonist awakes to a grey morning, complete with birds chirping, he has to reflect on what he has learned from 'wincing the night away.'
    He has realized what it feels like to fully accept and understand nietzsche's concept of the ubermensch, in this song cleverly written as uber-man.
    The boy realizes his naivete, and is lost, trying to summon up something good in himself, a forced smile, that will make this bitter dream seem better.

    He learns that it is naive to try to convince someone else, (in the specific the girl that has been discussed throughout the album) about the lack of an afterlife or faith in humanity, because people are so easily lost and drown by the weight of these thoughts. ("The wind from a wasp could blow them into the sea...")

    No matter what though, its stuck in his head, in front of him, that religion is man made, "Every post you can hitch your faith on is a pie in the sky, chock full of lies, a tool we devise to make sinking stones fly."
    He has lost a faith that there is a purpose in life, and a numbness to it all is growing.

    This album is a description of what happens when we start to think about the realities of life, and the grim thoughts that ensue. There are ways to continue living life, but the boy we have followed throughout this album is unsure what it is he is supposed to do next.

    The fact that 'the shins' can produce music that addresses things that we hope not to think about is eerily wonderful. We wonder if other people have had these thoughts as well, and here is a springboard to talk about them. It may not be something you wish to think about, but the shins have painted a beautifully dark picture that was only previously addressed in their songs like "your algebra" and "sphagnum esplanade."
    ladybug87on November 02, 2006   Link
  • +3
    General CommentSome lyrics suggestions: "some überman i'd make, i'm barely a vapor", as harshfury suggested. The rest of that verse is about him feeling insignificant, so this line isn't so odd.
    "Blow on our thorns" = "blow on our thumbs"

    Great song. Such a lonely song, too. There are 2 metaphors here -- earth as a comet hurtling through space, with people trying to hold on and not get left behind; and the world as a sea, with people trying to keep from sinking. In both cases, the song takes the position that we're all naturally being forced from holding onto the comet, or that we're all sinking. So it's about the ways we try and fight our insignificance as history ploughs on and forgets us.

    For some it's religion, which people use to believe they'll never sink into insignificance. For others love will keep them from sinking away so quickly. But the lonely people are the worst off, they've essentially got nothing keeping them afloat. I think that's what the coming "worst part" is... dying alone with nothing to show, and being forgotten forever.

    Wow, how emo.
    doctortimon October 31, 2006   Link
  • +3
    General Comment[ This poem is about how the speaker has lost all sense of meaning, or perhaps he has always lacked meaning and is only now coming to terms with the fact that it shall never be otherwise. He sees that anything there is to latch on to is just a lie to comfort a willing mind. Contrast with the opening of the album, where the speaker was young and passionate about every cause his young generation had to offer. Now he is 'old' and sees no meaning in anything. He is faced with simple apathy, and he is unable to ignore or otherwise escape (except, in some small measure, through alcohol and drugs) his knowledge that life has no meaning. ]

    One hand on this wily comet, [ dysphemism for “earth” ]
    Take a drink just to give me some weight, [ alcohol to numb the intellectual sense of disconnect ]
    Some überman I'd make,
    I'm barely a vapor [ the author cannot overcome the self (in the Nietzschean sense) and barely amounts to anything ]

    They shone a chlorine light on, [ pale green; either showing his sins for their true grotesqueness, or distorting them to look worse than they are ]
    A host of individual sins,
    Let's carve my aging face off,
    Fetch us a knife,
    Start with my eyes, [ remove the windows of knowledge ]
    Down so the lines,
    Form a grimacing smile, [ and now form a fake happiness through willing ignorance of the truth ]

    Close your eyes to corral a virtue, [ bring back perception of value via ignorance ]
    Is this fooling anyone else? [ but it's still just self delusion ]
    Never worked so long and hard to
    Cement a failure. [ it all amounts to nothing ]

    We can blow on our thumbs and posture, [ opposable thumbs and upright posture; we can try to disown the meaninglessness inherent to our natural origins ]
    But the lonely are such delicate things,
    The wind from a wasp could blow them,
    Into the sea,
    With stones on their feet,
    Lost to the light and the loving we need. [ but, as hard as we try to put a better face on things, it's so easy to become disillusioned, drowned in understanding, and no longer with any hope of meaning, despite the basic human need for it ]

    Still to come,
    The worst part and you know it,
    There is a numbness,
    In your heart and it's growing, [ the apathy that comes with disillusion and/or the fading of life into death ]

    With burnt sage and a forest of bygones, [ reflecting his whole past (perhaps turning to narcotics) ]
    I click my heels,
    Get the devils in line. [ sort out the mental burdens ]
    A list of things I could lay the blame on,
    Might give me a way out. [ he tries to escape responsibility by looking for excuses ]

    But with each turn,
    It stays front and center,
    Like a dart stuck square in your eye, [ but it's not possible to shutout what you've realized is true ]
    Every post you can hitch your faith on,
    Is a pie in the sky,
    Chock full of lies,
    A tool we devise,
    To make sinking stones fly. [ all sense of life's purpose is just an opiate ]

    And still to come,
    The worst part and you know it,
    There is a numbness
    In your heart, and it's growing. [ this knowledge leads to a consuming indifference and / or there is death looming on the horizon ]
    sackofcatfoodon June 03, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commentuh, i definitely changed the lyrics to say "some überman i'd make, i'm barely a vapor" and somebody changed it back. i definitely think that's what he's saying, especially since it could be a reference to Friedrich Nietzche's concept of the übermensch, somebody who rejects religion and society in order to create and be governed by his own values.
    ladybug87on November 02, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis is just how i interpret the song personally..

    He views life as a ride with no destination and different than the rest of the world,

    Water/Liquid is what all humans are comprised of, therefore in order to relate to other humans and pull weight in society he must take a drink to conform and be seen as relevant.

    Uber man refering to ubermensh. a man who disregards religion and societies teachings of morals, and would rather interpret life through his own means. in essence he would be creating a superman that would be enlightened rather than powerful

    I'm barely a vapor - He was raised to live within the present system of morals and norms in society, but recognizes that he is different than the common man
    Berfondon March 30, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commentbasically, to sum it up, think it's about people, and how they take such effort to make themselves better in whatever way they feel will be effective, but in the end we're all lonely, and need a little love, and it's such a rare thing these days. the lyrics themselves are just basic generalizations about many peoples lives, and the choices they make, and the things they do to get over the loneliness.(i.e. drinking, self-mutilation, plastic surgery, suicide, and most overlooked of all, religion).

    much of the second half of the song is(in a nutshell) the futility of life(which coincides with the idea of the first), in that it will inevitably end. basically stating that we spend much of our lives trying to side-step our age, trying to look younger, be younger, but we spend so much time doing it that at some point we realize that in working so hard to stay young, we never really were young, and by then we're older. and death is staring us in the face, even if it's 20-30 years away, we start counting the clock. and as time passes, that clock is all we begin to see.

    straight explanations for certain lines go as follows(imo):

    "some uber-man I'd make" - very simple, we all want to be legends...but our lives result in nothing more than a blink in time.

    "chlorine light on individual sins" - sunlight.

    "wily comet" - obvious reference to our lives, and that we aren't leading our lives, our lives are leading us.

    "blow on our thumbs and posture" - I'm not positive, but I think this is a reference to our species and making a joke of the FACT of evolution(theory no longer works, people just hold on to it), and the fact whether we make fun of it or not, it's who we are.(our thumbs and posture perticularly stand out between us and other species, as well as a lack of hair and our ability to sweat as a means of cooling, regardless of whether or not it's a result of evolution.)

    "there is a numbness"chorus - reference to the thought that as we get older, we begin to feel a seperation from "god"(insert religion here) and begin to doubt such things, mostly because we don't want to die.

    "burnt sage" verse - just about collecting your thoughts, preparing to be judged, wondering about the good and bad things you've done, what you could've changed, etc. the first line is just a metaphor for "sage" being old wisdom, and "forest of bygones" simply being things that you've never really gotten over, even though they're infinitesimally unimportant by then.

    anyway, sorry to spell out the whole song, and I didn't really read any of the posts before this, so I apologize if somebody has already hit on this or basically proven me wrong(i.e. the songwriter hopped on and simply told what the song was about).
    freeloaderon April 29, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commentthis song makes me cry every time i hear it
    audreywon September 18, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentStill to come
    The worst part and you know it
    There's a numbness
    in your heart and it's growing

    I don't know what the meaning of this entire song is supposed to be really, I haven't given it much thought, but I do know that those lines break my heart every time. So beautiful and sad.

    I love the Shins, they're my favourite band, and this is one of my favourite songs by them.
    demonkitty0on July 02, 2010   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationThis song I'm almost POSITIVE, (although there are tons of interpretations of all of The Shins's songs) is about religion, and the false sense of importance it can give people: making them seem strong and fullfilled, when actually it is just a veil over their real-life problems.

    One hand on this wily comet,
    Take a drink just to give me some weight,
    Some uber-man I'd make,
    I'm barely a vapor
    [the song starts out with Mercer already realizing that people 'drink up' religion to feel some type of grounding; He clearly knows he's nothing but a vapor so he's not going to pretend to be some kind of uber-man because of a belief.]

    They shone a chlorine light on,
    A host of individual sins,
    [Chlorine is a cleaning agent, so this line is showing how a religion can 'clean' up your sins]
    Let's carve my aging face off,
    Fetch us a knife,
    Start with my eyes,
    Down so the lines,
    Form a grimacing smile,
    [this is about the 're-birth' that some people believe a religion can give you. but its artificial, just like carving your face up to look younger and happier.]

    Close your eyes to corral a virtue,
    Is this fooling anyone else?
    [this is about praying. Who are you fooling?]
    Never worked so long and hard,
    To cement a failure,
    [self explanatory: you have to work so hard at religion just to bury up your failures under cement.]

    We can blow on our thumbs and posture,
    But the lonely is such delicate things,
    The wind from a wasp could blow them,
    Into the sea,
    With stones on their feet,
    [How people blow themselves up and act like religion has made them so strong and grounded, but it didn't solve their problems, they are still extremely fragile just as before, and if they get pushed down they arent quick to jump back up]
    Lost to the light and the loving we need,
    {People who are very religious can be blind to the love of others, which is more beneficial to personal strength than the love to a deity or higher power which could not even be real.]

    Still to come,
    The worst part and you know it,
    There is a numbness,
    In your heart and it's growing,
    [they are covering up their troubles with a fake happiness from their religion, so basically they are numb, and feel nothing because they've shut out their emotions.]

    With burnt sage and a forest of bygones,
    I click my heels,
    Get the devils in line,
    [burnt sage is used to ward off devils, so they are using 'ritual' to get rid of sins and demons instead of facing tem.]
    A list of things I could lay the blame on,
    Might give me a way out,
    [saying that things that they have done that may seem like 'sins' or 'wrongdoings' in the church, they can blame on demons or the devil, basically just pinning troubles on something else in order to rid themselves of them.]

    But with each turn,
    It's this front and center,
    Like a dart stuck square in your eye,
    [No matter which way you look at it, its very clear in your face and to the point that...]
    Every post you can hitch your faith on,
    Is a pie in the sky,
    Chock full of lies,
    A tool we devise,
    To make sinking stones fly,
    [...a religion is a false, full of lies, just creeted by humanity to keep the people that are 'sinking' soaring with the rest of them.]

    And still to come,
    The worst part and you know it,
    There is a numbness,
    In your heart and it's growing.
    [same as said before]

    James Mercer is a lyrical genius. I've still to find another artist who can keep their listeners guessing and analyzing their lyrics as well as he does. Been a strong fan of The Shins for years! :)
    RubyQon September 09, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song is extremely beautiful. I love the dark guitars in the background of the chorus. I'm not willing to call the lyrics brilliant yet, since some of them are off, so it's slightly unintelligible, but they are still very poetic.
    heyheyhey111on October 20, 2006   Link

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