"Red Tide" as written by and Rob Beattie....
There's a smell here that stands my hairs on end
Dog hair in the heater, gas pumps and cedar
And jackknifes on the nine
And seabirds choked on fishing line

Clouds are a hush but the chainsaws mush on to Custer and Columbia
Salty tentacles drink in the sun but the red tide is over
The mollusks they have won

There's a smell here of gravel and cigarettes lit
When the match made them sweet
When the engine turned over and beat up our street
Oh, that was the day
To remember

I remember because of the fires that leapt
From the caves of the things that have not happened yet
When I think of it now they smell to me quite sinister

I want to go back and die at the drive in
Die before strangers can say
I hate the rain
I hate the rain


Lyrics submitted by JoyAndJubilee, edited by tiggertai

"Red Tide" as written by Rob Beattie

Lyrics © THE ROYALTY NETWORK INC.

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Red Tide song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentIt's been driving me crazy what this song reminds me of, and I just realized: it sounds like "London Calling" by the Clash. So it's weird, 'cause I love "London Calling," but this might be my least favorite of her songs from any of her albums but The Virginian.
    persimmonon November 04, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentOk, I don't understand it fully, but I'm going to give it my best go...
    I think it's about the war between nature and humanity; how natural places are being developed.
    The first stanza is perhaps about an industrial plant- she's commenting on how ugly and disgusting it is, and how this type of development kills animals. "Seabirds caught in the fishing line"- animals are dying because people are careless with the environment.
    In the second stanza, the "clouds say hush"- through storms and desolation, nature is trying to "warn" people to stop polluting, but the "chainsaws", people who are logging and cutting down trees, continue doing what they are doing. 'Mush" implies these people are doing what someone else orders them to, like sled dogs. I know Custer was a famous general who died in a battle against native Americans- a battle he was expecting to win with ease. Perhaps she's saying that if we ignore nature's warnings and don't stop ruining the environment, we're all going to suffer.
    I know that a red tide is an algal bloom that makes seafood toxic. It's an example of a natural phenomenon that "fights back" against people killing and eating shellfish, I guess, and the fact that it's over means that people are finally able to control nature to a certain extent.
    The next stanza I think she's talking about watching a childhood home be demolished, and her horror at the inhumanity and artificiality of the machine.
    The last stanza is definitely about her nostalgia- drive-in movies are a thing of the past, and she wishes she wasn't alive to see them ( and the other things she loved) fade away.
    She loves nature, so it hurts her to hear people disparage it and be unable to see the beauty in it ("die before strangers can say 'I hate the rain'"). She regrets what people and time have done to the world and place she loves.
    This is my interpretation.
    cairn345on December 05, 2012   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI think this song is about a traditional fishing town which has been ruined by modern culture. Possibly Neko has had some experience with it when she was young and then came back years later to find it urban and dirty. The 'I hate the rain' is probably a metaphor, with rain being modern culture.
    Nebula69on March 09, 2016   Link
  • 0
    General CommentDebatably my favorite song on the new album. Either this one or The Pharaohs/Prison Girls. I have no comment on what the lyrics might mean, I'm not so good with figuring things like that out.
    ryman628on March 30, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI saw Neko yesterday (GREATNESS), and before they played this song (which is amaaaaaazing), she said it was a song about breaking up with a city, in this case Seattle, Washington. She said Seattle is not a good boyfriend of a town.
    I had no idea of this, and about halfway through the song, the line "I hate the rain" randomly clicked and made sense. =]
    xroseparadeon April 08, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentLOL - the breaking up with Seattle explanation makes so much sense. Last time I lived there, there was definitely a smell I hated. :P
    arrrielon November 10, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Commentseeing neko perform this on jimmy fallon a few hours ago, i suddenly heard it differently... i can't say i quite know what she's talking about, but i love how it sounds and how it feels... especially this part:

    I remember because of the fires that leapt
    From the caves of the things that have not happened yet
    When I think of it now they smell to me quite sinister

    I want to go back and die at the drive in
    Die before strangers can say
    I hate the rain
    I hate the rain
    TheWrongGirlon November 18, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentFor some reason, this always reminds me of the movie "The Mist"; weird monsters invading, wetness and debris everywhere, probably all sorts of smells.

    Someone needs to make a perfume out of these smells. I'd wear it. @,@
    CicadianRhythmon December 13, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Commenten.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    closetome543on March 20, 2012   Link
  • 0
    Song MeaningThe song is about Neko Case's disillusion with how commercial Washington state is becoming.

    Custer and Columbia are cities in Washington state.

    The red tide is reference to bio-toxins shellfish are releasing in Pacific County and how they are extremely poisonous.

    The fire is a reference to the wildfires that has been consuming that area on and off since the late 90s.

    The only nostalgia here is for the early 90s Seattle where people didn't consistently remark on how they "hate the rain".

    It is a very regionally-conscious song.
    AfghanAnton December 31, 2012   Link

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