I'll shoot you dead
For the father
Of the coal miner's daughter
Beneath the icicle tusk
You and me among the flattering dusk

In my haste I draw my weapon
Designing your final lesson
As you recede to the floor
All is silent but the fluttering door

Twenty-five grand on the table
Of the high wall street stable
I'm not responsible for
The reputation of the
Neighborhood whore

But I'm a keyhole peeker
And you're my surveilance keeper
And though my memory rusts
I will always see the icicle tusk

And I must admit
That it gets lonesome on my shelf
This much I can tell
This much I can tell


Lyrics submitted by wonderfulmetropolis

Icicle Tusk song meanings
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6 Comments

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  • +2
    General CommentI think the person speaking witnessed the coal miner's daughter being murdered for money. He was peeking through the wall at the prostitute with her murderer (keyhole peeker).

    "Twenty-five grand on the table
    Of the high wall street stable
    I'm not responsible for
    The reputation of the
    Neighborhood whore"

    The murderer tries to rationalize the act to the witness after the fact, using her reputation as a prostitute against her. The speaker isn't concerned with this fact, and takes justice into his own hands as he sees fit. "Icicle tusk" represents the weapon used, perhaps an ice pick.

    amatterofgraceon September 04, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis is the best song on the Fleet Foxes EP. I don't know what it's about, but the singing is very soulful.
    JeebusChristieon July 12, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentTo me, it's about the sorrow that comes with hard decisions and what you feel must be done because its right, to you. One is killed, but not in the name of money but because it was right to another. And then of course, living on with yourself, as the last few lines explain.
    Lyleon August 05, 2008   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationThis song is a story about a peeping tom who observes the woman he loves being killed by an affluent man. The peeping tom realizes that the murderer will never be brought to justice so he shoots him down in the gambling hall.

    A few items I noticed were:

    In the first stanza we realize that this poem is addressed to someone. The "you" in this song is the person that he is going to shoot dead. This person is also referenced in the fourth stanza as his "surveillance keeper," or the one that will not be forgotten even though his "memory rusts".

    In the second stanza he describes the "fluttering door". Could it be a window? A symbol representing the means by which the peeping tom observed the murder?

    In the third stanza we learn a little more about the environment. It seems to be a gambling parlor. The reference to money is to show that the person who was killed ran around with an affluent crowd. He was very wealthy and was possibly a man of prominence. The song seems to take place in the days of the wild west and twenty-five thousand would have been a lot of money back then.

    At the end of the third stanza and into the fourth we learn more about who is speaking. He is "not responsible for the reputation of the neighborhood whore" but he is a "keyhole peeker". In other words, he had never been with the prostitute but he was a peeping tom who was peeking into the room of the prostitute when he saw her murdered.

    I agree with @amatterofgrace that the icicle tusk was the weapon used, but I wonder if the murderer may have used an actual icicle to kill the woman. This would make it very difficult to prove the murder because the icicle would just melt. The peeping tom realized that nobody would ever believe his story and so he took matters into his own hands. The last stanza describes how lonely he is in prison ("on my shelf").

    I agree with @Lyle that the message of the song relates to doing the right thing even when there will be consequences. The song also speaks to the powerlessness of the lowly against corruption in high places.
    dowdyscouton May 12, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAll wrong. Sorry guys. Icicle Tusk is the moon.

    The song is about a man who lost his sense of purpose and his subsequent loneliness after defeating his rival in a duel. The 'surveillance keeper' is merely the subject of his memories; his rival. The 'keyhole peeping' is just a metaphor in which the narrator describes the way he remembers the subject - peering through a window into the past. The event is romanticized by the narrator, with the moon being the most significant part of his memory.

    One of Fleet Foxes very best? I think so!
    lucamilneon July 10, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think this is one of the most beautiful songs ever written, and this is what i infer from it.

    I'll shoot you dead
    For the father
    Of the coal miner's daughter
    Beneath the icicle tusk
    You and me among the flattering dusk

    A man has a confrontation with the boyfriend/husband who is dating this girl (the coal miner's daughter). He really wants the approval of her dad, or maybe she is already married and cheating on her husband with the man. He plans to kill her husband tonight (beneath the icicle tusk, being the moon) in an attempt to win the girl's love.

    In my haste I draw my weapon
    Designing your final lesson
    As you recede to the floor
    All is silent but the fluttering door

    He sneaks in on the man, and plans to kill him. He draws his weapon, but he is having second thoughts/second guessing himself and murders the girl's boyfriend/whatever. The girl was there, all is silent but the fluttering door as she snuck out quietly.

    Twenty-five grand on the table
    Of the high wall street stable
    I'm not responsible for
    The reputation of the
    Neighborhood whore

    The man is paying either to buy the daughter or for a lawyer. The coal minor's daughter accuses him of murder and it is a huge trial. His defense was that she sleeps around and it could have been anyone that did it (since no one saw but her).

    then is put in jail for life. During his trial, his defense is that he didn't do it and she sleeps around a lot. He especially remembers that night and in particular, the way the moon was glowing. Probably in quiet reflection of his actions or something. He gets very lonely sitting in prison, referring to his cell as his shelf.

    But I'm a keyhole peeker
    And you're my surveilance keeper
    And though my memory rusts
    I will always see the icicle tusk

    Not sure about the keyhole keeper part. Maybe he was stalking this girl even though she wanted to end things. He refers to the man he killed as his surveillance keeper because he feels haunted by the murder he committed. His memory rusts because he is has been in prison for a long time, but will never forget the way the moon looked that night and it all still feels very real to him.

    And I must admit
    That it gets lonesome on my shelf
    This much I can tell
    This much I can tell

    He admits prison is very lonely; He regrets committing the murder.
    jediravenon May 19, 2013   Link

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