"Cartoon Blues" as written by and Oberst....
I listened to a lecture of nonsense until dawn
By a plagiary poet with dark glasses on
He said, "How did you ever dream up that song
The one where the baby dies?"

I said, "I'll tell you the secret, which one's your good ear?
Yeah, people are made up of water and fear
If there weren't women present we wouldn't be here
So let's make like we're friends"

And the pot turned to powder and soured the mood
And the people I'd come with were gone from the room
So I asked like a child, "May I be excused?"
And disobeyed them all

Into that late-night latrine, rain soaking through my shoes
I tried walking backwards to get less confused
Working off the theory I could never prove
That it was life itself to blame

And time ruined the world
Like a failed revolution
A tumor we could not remove
An old friend, a constant, the blues

Now my days are distractions, sit wringing my hands
Solitaire, crosswords and films on demand
When you turn from a cartoon back into a man
You start to smell that human smell

So I sleep with the fan on to drown out the street
And the noise rising up from the bar underneath
But for that inconvenience all my drinks are free
So I guess it's just as well

Why do I envy the ending right from the start
Just get it together to take it apart
Watching the horse as it follows the cart
I sweep up my broken spell

And I felt something changing the world
Like a new constitution
A thief I would have to pursue
At all times, at all costs, the truth


Lyrics submitted by plasticflowers

"Cartoon Blues" as written by

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Cartoon Blues song meanings
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41 Comments

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  • +2
    General Commentby the way, Conor, Arienette, well you should know that william blake gave her a homework assignment over the summer: 27 political cartoons with matching poems all to be written out in hand, similar to the 'illuminated manuscripts' of medieval times. Also, are you still trying to find Bob Dylan's wife?
    elilhuon April 22, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General Commentman i love that first bit.
    about plagiary poet with dark glasses on.
    to me i think its all those inthe songwriting community
    who've accussed him of copying like bob dylan
    (famous for the glasses)
    and he's simply saying
    look everyone owes something to him.
    this is me
    this is why i write songs.
    "the constant, the blues"
    though of course no one will know
    but i love it so much
    hiddeninromanceon March 05, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti love the lines

    "And time ruined the world
    Like a failed revolution
    A tumor we could not remove
    An old friend, a constant, the blues"

    the way he sings "You start to smell that human smell"
    it's so insanely, you got to love it

    youtube.com/…
    2min in he sings it with some sort of vocoder to sound like a monster. it scared people there i know, cuz i was there
    DiamondHearton March 01, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis may be nitpicking, but I believe he says "I listened to a lecture"--past tense. If it were present tense, then he'd probably say "he says" rather than "he said" in the following line.

    In the version I have, which is from the Four Winds EP, he says "Now my days are distractions, sit wringing my hands," not "they brim in my hands." I'm not sure whether you misheard him or if you transcribed the lyrics from a live version.

    Also, I think it may be "In time we'll win the world," but this one I'm less sure about, as it doesn't make much sense to me. Win the world like a failed revolution? What's that mean?

    By the way, how'd you figure out the line "which one's your good ear"? I must've listened to that lyric a dozen times to no avail. The closest I got was something along the lines of "with one jokered ear".

    Thanks a lot for posting this song. It's one of the best on the new EP.
    ToDigAndBeDugon February 05, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentyou're right about 'sit wringing my hands': for some reason i just couldn't make sense of that line!

    i can only hear 'listen', not 'listened', but i think you're right that logically it can only be the second one. damn you conor oberst and your swallowed syllables!

    i'm genuinely not sure whether it's 'in time we'll' or 'and time will'. i think it's fairly ambiguous. if only conor would enunciate :( (oh, and 'which one's your good ear' was the only thing i could think of that made any sort of sense for that line)

    cheers for helping with the lyrics :D


    i think this song is probably my favourite on the ep. i especially enjoy the reference to padraic my prince.
    plasticflowerson February 06, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentYou were very quick to respond. You deserve a hearty round of applause for that; it’s no small thing, mind you. Sadly, I’ve seen lyrics languish in neglect and inattention for months, even years on end; they wait, lost and alone in the vastness that is cyberspace, always faithful and intrepid, never imploring, though riddled with typos and misheard lines they may be—errors that are often made out of carelessness, but that are sometimes simply the result of the listener not using his or her “good ear.” So, on behalf of all the pock-marked refrains, the wart-strewn verses, the boil-littered bridges, and, above all, those wretched long-suffering songs whose entire bodies are ravaged with open sores, I extend a sincere thank you.

    With that said, back to the lyrics we go. Although I too am frequently peeved when trying to interpret the “swallowed syllables” and poor enunciation of some singers (this is doubly frustrating when listening to a song in a language (French, Spanish) one has little experience with), I’ve come to appreciate these little quirks, these idiosyncrasies of the spoken word. After all, what would some singers be without their southern drawl or their trademark slur? Notice that, inexplicably, Conor Oberst says, almost beyond a shadow of a doubt, “So I sleep with the fan on to drowned (to drowned!? An infinitive with a past tense ending! Oh, Lord!) out the street.” These odd little mistakes, whether intentional or completely unplanned, used to grate my ears in the extreme, but they now make me love the songs and the lines in which they occur all the more (this line in particular, because I myself do the very same thing every night for roughly the same reason).

    Another example: I fell in love with the wonderful “If You Rescue Me (Chansons des chats)” from the Science of Sleep soundtrack (It’s a remake of “After Hours” by the Velvet Underground, which is equally charming) upon first listening, but after a second and third listening, I noticed that, once again, unexplainably, Linda Serbu, who after watching a video of her on YouTube one might be inclined to think is slightly insane (Adopt a cat…it’s better than crack.) (she means well, she really does), speaking from the point of view of a cat down on its luck, says “Oh, the cars drive so fast, and the people are mean, and sometimes it’s so hard to find foon” (whereas any native English speaker worth his or her weight in salt would’ve said “food” with a nice crisp click of the tongue, or at least a half-hearted effort to produce something resembling the sound of a “d”).

    Well, I’ve begun to digress again, so I’ll try to wrap this up. Upon a second reading, I noticed a couple more mistakes in your post—don’t worry, they’re only minor errors. “So I asked like a child, “May I be exCused”—you’re missing the C. Also, I believe “tumour” is spelled “tumor,” without the U, unless that’s some sort of British or alternate spelling(?) (Now that I come to think of it, I believe it is a British spelling. Are you British? Is this site British? If so, let's allow it to remain). Regarding the “and time will win the world/in time we’ll win the world” line, either of us could be right, so let’s let it be until we can get our hands on an official copy of the lyrics.

    I also enjoyed the “Padraic My Prince” reference; “Padraic My Prince is underrated, no? There’s so much raw emotion in it, fiction thought it is. I’m torn between this song and “Four Winds” as to which is my favorite. It’s been fun helping out. Until next time.
    ToDigAndBeDugon February 07, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentfavourite of the new ep. this is more like the old stuff- very fast even though very different.yea i got that patraic my prince reference too. :)
    thefakerthebetteron February 23, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commenthas anyone heard "what people are made of" by modest mouse. the last lyric in the song is

    well, the one thing you're taught 'bout human beings is this
    they ain't made of nothin' but water and shit

    that's the first thing i thought about when i heard this song
    everswapon February 27, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentFour Winds has much more depth than this song, historically and philosophically, but it's marvelous nonetheless.
    Vaeon February 28, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentis it possible that "pop" is "pot", just thought it might make more sense.
    bobsbobbobbedbobbyon March 04, 2007   Link

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