"Teeth" as written by and Lisa Margaret Hannigan....
Waking up today, it was cold out
There's something I should say, but I can't get my head around
The bends in your brain, and your elaborate pain
Makes me tired

As an old balloon, I hold my breath
Like a penance paid too soon, and with too much eagerness
To know what is true
When air is changed by you
Makes it hard

I don't know where it comes from
Where to go
When the rains come
When the rain put me back
In the battle
Where the sea meets the sun
Where the bones and their rattle
They don't mean anything to no one
I, I had a swing
When my salt was my own
I'd my teeth bared for battle
Till love lost made me dull
It made me dull
It made me dull

Put me back in the bottle
Where the sea meets the sun
Where the bones and their rattle
They don't mean anything to no one
And I had a swing
When my salt was my own
I'd my teeth bared for battle
Till love lost made me dull
It made me dull
It made me dull


Lyrics submitted by Shaftell

"Teeth" as written by Lisa Margaret Hannigan

Lyrics © BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC

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Teeth song meanings
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  • +2
    General CommentI agree with Sno that it's about being in a relationship with a complicated person... someone very emotional, maybe unbalanced, overbearing and powerful, and feeling like they're just sucking all the spirit and strength out of you until you can no longer remember who you are.

    the bends in your brain and your elaborate pain makes me tired- the person seems to indulge in his depression, making life so needlessly complicated and tiring her out...

    as an old balloon i hold my breath- she's keeping in all her own emotions and thoughts trying to deal with this overbearing person, like a balloon which, if it lets go of the air, will just fly away.

    like a penance paid too soon and with too much eagerness- she is with the person out of love, eager to please, but it feels like a punishment...

    to know what is true when air is changed by you makes it hard- he is so moody, keeps changing the air, may be pleasant one day and too much to handle the next... making it hard to just leave...

    the rain....overwhelming emotions...

    the last verse...she wants to escape and be herself again, be free from this person and his problems... salt may refer to her tears- they used to be her own, but this person demanded all her strength so she couldn't show her emotions... she'd had her teeth bared for battle, she had been strong and determined with her own plans, but love lost made her lose sight of all that and made her forget herself.


    asmitaon July 03, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Commentwoah this song, to me, seems so sad - I mean it seems to be about a relationship broken up but now that I'm reading it again I can feel that it's more so about a relationship holding her back - or a person holding her back from doing what she wants/needs to do....
    "there's something I should say but I can't get my head around the bends in your brain" --- she wants to say it to the person but who ever it is is just such a complicated person that you can't ever work out their reactions so your better not to say anything.

    "like a penance paid too soon with too much eagerness" -nobody ever wants to pay penance but and certainly nobody could be possibly eager to do so

    "Put me back in the bottle where the sea meets the sun when the bones and their rattle don't mean anything to no-one" -- this part I feel is that she wants to go back to the beginning when things meant nothing - they just were - she could be who she really was without judgment


    ---the more I get into writing about this song the more complicated it's becoming - I bet nothing I wrote above makes any sense but meh!
    Snoon November 23, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"i don't know where it comes from where to go when the rains come when the rain.."
    these lyrics are actually the most amazing!
    in my opinion I can see "the rains" as being like a sadness in her - and she doesn't understand why she feels that way but she does and she doesn't know what to do with this sadness either...
    then again it could be about anything lol!
    Snoon November 23, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song is so beautiful and it makes me want to live in it, just wrap myself in its beauty.
    iaremelissafoolon November 25, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song seems clearly influenced by the time she spent with Damien Rice. Maybe it is about him? (No, probably not). But it seems more like his style than the other songs I've heard of hers. Venn Diagram and An Ocean and a Rock and Lille are nothing at all like Damien's music, but in this song I can possibly hear his influence on her a little. When you work with somebody as genius as Damien Rice it would be hard not to be influenced by him a little, but in many ways Lisa is a superior lyricist in my opinion.
    TheThornBirdson February 04, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI love the emotion that erupts in this song towards the end. The lyrics and they way they are sung emulate what she is feeling perfectly.
    Maelglonon March 27, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think this means she is aggressive, out-spoken and prepared to end the relationship but when it comes to it she is the complete opposite because she loves him too much x
    TobyBartholomewon August 11, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Commentcould "bones and their rattle" mean skeletons in the closet?
    Musicmushon April 03, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song is the only song I have heard that perfectly describes, with a few exceptions, what it is like to be a loved one of someone suffering from depression. As the young daughter of a father with depression, I can only observe his situation and pray. It is a tiring, heartbreaking situation. All I want to do when he enters a depressed state is to be put "back in the bottle where the sea meets the sun," back to a time early in my childhood when he didn't have depression and things were happy, innocent, and simple. Where "the bones and their rattle" did not phase my father, did not send him into crisis mode.
    tarantellajenon January 02, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI see this as a landscape with an ocean.

    Oceans and water are commonly referred to as archetypes or symbols about deep emotion and the subconscious - the territory both love and pain. I feel like this is kind of what Lisa is referring to here - that she is talking about a deep relationship she had with someone where she "dove in" with him, and truly loved him. I think it was deep and passionate because they were both strong individuals at the start, she had her "teeth bared" and was strong and virile and able to give of herself and expected the same in return. That was what made it worth "diving in", so to speak.

    But the beginning of the song opens up with a quiet, delicate reverie-like piano. It sounds like she is wistfully reflecting on something she has realized - she has "surfaced from the water", so to speak, and is sadly experiencing a kind of revelation on her own. There's something in her heart that she should say, but it's heavy, she doesn't have the energy anymore to wade through the depths, to offer herself and what's in her heart up to him anymore. She's mentally and emotionally drained, cold from being submerged in the depths for so long and the "bends in his brain and his elaborate pain", they keep pulling her under and beneath the surface.

    "Like an old balloon I hold my breath, like a penance paid too soon with too much eagerness to know what is true."

    What's true used to be able to sustain them, keep them swimming. There was something real and tangible between them. But in their relationship now, she's prematurely forced to age, to carry all of the weight for both of them on her own shoulders. She's forced and sort of manipulated, in order for their relationship to work (to know what is true) by his changing moods and sort of dictatorial way of being. It sounds like he is kind of self-centred in his own pain, and leaves her to man the ship, to carry the weight of his "elaborate pain" and navigate the way for both of them. His expectation of her to do this kind of leaves her hanging and holding her breath, and makes it seem natural - because they do have a real love - so she's left eager waiting to know the truth from him, but he keeps changing in a fickle way, seemingly immune to her pain and love.

    "I don't know where it comes from"

    I agree with the other readers that it sounds like her partner is kind of consumed in a depression, or something heavy and dark that sweeps him away from her - a kind of torrential current in this "ocean" that pulls him away from her, and she "doesn't know where it comes from". Basically it sounds like this "depression" or whatever you would like to call it is some new, foreign introduction into their love that consumes him and pulls him deep into himself and away from her, such that she loves him still but is suddenly left lost and confused, "holding her breath" once the air is changed, waiting for him to come back. This pain or depression is like this monster under the bed that keeps coming out and frightening her and upsetting her world.

    She's hurt and lost, bewildered about why he has suddenly gone and left her, what this dark, heavy thing is - "the rains come".

    "pour me back in the bottle where the sea meets the sun"

    I think of this as a sort of ship in a bottle. This is where I see the archetype of the ocean most clearly - I see her as wanting to "jump ship" - to get back out of the depths of his emotion she bought into to have a relationship and is now mired in and drowning in. I see the sky as a sort of lightness and freedom, and she wants to "jump ship" and go back into herself, in a "ship in a bottle" floating between the ocean and the sky where she can continue to see the world on her own terms. Where she's no longer being pulled under by his darkness and "rains", but is back on her own, where there is none of this elaborate pain or darkness - "where the bones and their rattle don't mean anything to noone". Where she doesn't have to deal with this unfair imposition of all of his burdens on her shoulders, this "penance paid too soon with too much eagerness" - she loves him, but is realizing she needs to pull herself out of the depths if she doesn't want to drown. She doesn't need to sign up for the rains. She wants to go somewhere else when the rains come, where "the bones and their rattle don't mean anything to no one."

    "I had a swing when my salt was my own."

    I just picture this as a follow up to the last verse - she was free and liberated when it was only her, when the only pain she had to deal with was her own - the salt being either her tears or the "ocean" of her own depth and pain. She never needed or deserved to have all of his weight and pain placed on her shoulders. She had her teeth bared for battle and was strong and powerful on her own, robust, and signed up for this thinking she and him could conquer things together as two strong, equal people, but she is being pulled under and consumed in this undercurrent by his darkness or "the rains", they come in a torrential downpour and weaken her and drown her.

    "Put me back in the bottle"

    The buildup to this, I picture her being tussled around underwater by this unexpected current, struggling against it and then almost futilely giving into the tides, being consumed by this "rain" and her own pain now, almost giving into it and just singing out with the emotion of it. Saying how it made her dull, knowing now that this is what the love was, sort of explaining wistfully again how she was tricked and misled and weakened. And it ends on that same wistful, reflective note.

    I find this song really beautiful.
    jmitch7on January 23, 2012   Link

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