You can fake it for a while,
Bite your tongue and smile,
Like every mother does an ugly child.
But the stars are leaking out,
Like spittle from a cloud,
Amassed resentment pelting ounce and pound.

You're entertaining any doubt,
Because you had to know that I was fond of you,
Fond of Y-O-U,
Though I knew you masked your disdain.
I can see that change was just too hard for us,
Hard for us.
You always had to hold the reigns,
But where I'm headed, you just don't know the way.

So affections fade away,
or do adults just learn to play
The most ridiculous, repulsive games
On the faith of ruddy sons,
And the double-barreled guns,
You better hurry,
Rabbit, run, run, run.
'Cause mincing you is fun,
And there's a lot of hungry hatters in this world set on taking it over
but brittle, thorny stems,
They break before they bend,
And neither one of us is one of them.

And the tears will never mend,
'Cause you had it in for me so long ago.
Boy, I still don't know,
I don't know why and I don't care,
well hardly anymore,
If you'd only seen yourself hating me.
Hating me,
When I've been so much more than fair.
But then you'd have to lay those feelings bare,
one thing I know still got you scared,
yeah all that cold ire
And never once aired on a dare

You had to know that I was fond of you,
Fond of Y-O-U.
So I took your licks at the time,
and a change like that is just so hard to do,
Hard to do.
Don't let it whip-crack your life,
And i'll bow out from the fight,
those old pious sisters were right
The worst part is over,
Now, get back on that horse and ride.


Lyrics submitted by heyheyhey111, edited by AliceInWonder

Turn On Me song meanings
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  • +6
    General Comment[ James Mercer professes that this is about a falling out with a former colleague in his previous band (Flake Music). As a result of the falling out, his estranged comrade did not join The Shins, and each went their separate ways. In the poem, Mercer talks about the pettiness of the both of them, although he feels that he was the more civil. He laments that the problems happened in the background rather than happening so that they could have been discussed and resolved. But, he concludes that forgiveness is the right attitude, and neither of the wayward friends should let the falling out having lasting effect on their lives. ]


    You can fake it for a while, [ liking someone ]
    Bite your tongue and smile,
    Like every mother does an ugly child.
    But the stars are leaking out,
    Like spittle from a cloud, [ but the truth is shown from behind its ephemeral cover ]
    Amassed resentment counting ounce and pound. [ and the hostility revealed in its full measure ]

    You entertaining any doubts,
    'Cause you had to know that I was fond of you,
    Fond of Y-O-U,
    Though I knew you masked your disdain.
    I can see that change was just too hard for us, [ the change of structure in the band ]
    Hard for us.
    You always had to hold the reigns, [ always had to be in control ]
    But where I'm headed, you just don't know the way. [ but not fit to lead anymore ]

    So affections fade away,
    Or do adults just learn to play
    The most ridiculous, repulsive games? [ was it time or foolishness that has created the indifference? ]
    All our favorite ruddy sons, [ vices ]
    And their double-barreled guns, [ with instruments of hostility ]
    You better hurry,
    Rabbit, run, run, run.
    'Cause mincing you is fun, [ the apparent satisfaction people get out of demeaning each other ]
    And there's a lot of hungry hatters in this world. [ people who will consume you to their advantage; consider the traditional association of hatters as “mad;” and also the possible play on “hater” ]
    Set on taking it over,
    But brittle, thorny stems,
    They break before they bend,
    And neither one of us is one of them. [ neither one of them is willing to give in to the other ]

    And the tears will never mend, [ they won't find any reconciliation ]
    ‘Cause you had it in for me so long ago.
    Boy I still don't know
    I don't know why and I don't care--
    (Well, hardly anymore)
    If you'd only seen yourself hating me.
    Hating me,
    When I'd been so much more than fair.
    But then you'd have to lay those feelings bare,
    One thing I know has still got you scared,
    Yeah, all that cold ire
    And never once aired on a dare. [ they never vented the problems (so they could have been mended) ]

    You had to know that I was fond of you,
    Fond of Y-O-U.
    So I took your licks at the time,
    A change like that is just so hard to do,
    Hard to do.
    Don't let it whip-crack your life, [ don't let it affect you in the long term ]
    And I'll bow out from the fight, [ he'll stop holding a grudge ]
    Those old pious sister's were right. [ the Christian idea of tolerance and forgiveness ]
    And the worst part is over,
    Now, get back on that horse and ride. [ the falling out should not be a crippling for either's life ]
    sackofcatfoodon June 03, 2007   Link
  • +3
    Lyric CorrectionYou can fake it for a while,
    Bite your tongue and smile,
    Like every mother does »» HER «« ugly child.
    But » IT STARTS TO « leaking out,
    Like spittle from a cloud,
    Amassed resentment pelting ounce and pound.

    You're entertaining any » DOUBTS «,
    'Cause you had to know that I was fond of you,
    Fond of Y-O-U,
    Though I knew you masked your disdain.
    I can see » THE « change was just too hard for us,
    Hard for us.
    You always had to hold the reigns,
    But where I'm headed, you just don't know the way.

    So affections fade away,
    or do adults just learn to play
    The most ridiculous, repulsive games?
    »» ALL OUR FAVORITE «« ruddy sons,
    And »» THEIR «« double-barreled guns,
    You'd better hurry,
    Rabbit, run, run, run.
    'Cause mincing you is fun,
    And there's a lot of hungry hatters in this world set on taking it over
    but brittle, thorny stems,
    They break before they bend,
    And neither one of us is one of them.
    Mimiron October 27, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThe narrator is breaking up with his girlfriend. The irony is that she, not him, was the one who knew what they had wasn't working. But for whatever reason -- she might have thought things would get better, or maybe she was looking out for his interests -- she hid that knowledge, and kept what they had going.

    But the narrator finally comes to the conclusion that the girl had already reached: the relationship won't work. So he tries to act like he's the only one who wants it to end, and tries to comfort her by telling her to "get back on that horse and ride." As if there's someone or something out there, better than him.
    amh1010on December 13, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThe line, "Do adults just learn to play the most ridiculous, repulsive games?" is a quote from the book, The Little Prince.
    iluvdolphinzon May 26, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentAnd "double barrelled" guns as well.

    Fab song anyway, definitely one of the best from the new album. :-)
    expertecon October 21, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Commentamh1010,

    Interesting take.

    I know that lyrics are open to many interpretations, but I don't see him singing to a girl at all, but to an old friend who he had a hurtful falling-out with. I guess we all filter lyrics through our own personal life experiences, and come to see them in that light.

    I think of this song as a continuation of the song "Mine's Not A High Horse." The last lyric in this song, "...now get back on that horse and ride" may not just be a snide parting comment, but also a hint to a connection between the two songs. It's certainly the same subject matter in both.

    Here, it seems he had a friend who was dominant and controlling, ("you always had to hold the reigns", "so I took your licks at the time"), and now with some distance and reflection, he just needs to vent his frustrations about the experience ("the stars are leaking out like spittle from a cloud, amassed resentment pelting ounce and pound").

    But just like the message in "Mine's Not A High Horse", ("...will you remember my reply when your high horse dies?") I think the message is the same in both songs.

    Because what was his "reply" in the first song?

    "One finger parallel to the sky."

    Of course I'm probably wrong, but that's how I hear it.
    ElvisAteMyDonutson December 13, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI had always assumed this was a sort of break-up song - guy singing of girl.... just the other day I convinced myself that this was written from the view of one male friend who is gay, that has come out to another male friend who is strait.

    "I could see that change was just to hard for us.... You always had to hold the reigns, but where I'm headed you just don't know the way."

    The rest of the lyrics just fall into place with that sort of relationship, no?

    The friend may have enjoyed a certain dominance over him. At first his friend faked accpetance but "ammassed resentment" takes over, perhaps since he was "fond of y-o-u"... then a falling out between them. In the end, the writer accpets that the relationship is irreconcileable and moves on.
    G LOVEon August 22, 2008   Link
  • +1
    My OpinionThis goes above and beyond the actual lyrics --it's just my take:

    I hear it as being about two otherwise straight guys who briefly had a "more than friends" relationship during their youth at a Catholic boarding school. As adults, the other guy completely denies the relationship ever happened and has completely rejected the narrator as a way of sweeping the whole thing under the rug. The narrator has also moved on with his life, but he misses the friendship and is both angry and a little contemptuous at how the other guy reacted to the whole thing.

    I'm not suggesting this actually happened to James Mercer, it is just what the lyrics suggest to me --maybe because it's so rare to hear a song about the intense emotions that can still exist in a purely Platonic friendship.
    kitobaon September 16, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe line appears to be "every mother-doesn't-love-me child" and not "every mother's ugly child". It makes sense with the former but not the latter.
    Nezzoon June 06, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"Though I knew your mask your disdain,
    I can see that change was just too hard for us,"
    SphagnumEsplanadeon October 21, 2006   Link

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