"Citizen." as written by and James Mercer Brian Joseph Burton....
This is a day without
A trace of reason
No matter where you turn

And the walls will fall
Affirming nothing
So what's it all about?

Call on a bright star
Or play your hand as an intellect
Wounds always speak too loud

Get along for awhile
See the sin in the sea
How the innocent are bound to the damned
What is, just is, I know
So we're trapped by answers
Love haunts to the end

Are we all to ride
The edge of nothing?
Shake hands if I deny

And if they don't know
Their heart is stopping
Cause everyone is right

Get along for awhile
See the sin in the sea
How the innocent are bound to the damned
What is, just is, I know
So we're trapped by answers
Love haunts to the end

From the moment that we're born
Till we're old and tired out
Do we ever know?

From the moment that were born
Till we're old and tired out
Do we ever know?


Lyrics submitted by rockerbabe99, edited by Richard89, Explica

"Citizen" as written by James Mercer Brian Burton

Lyrics © BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC

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Citizen. song meanings
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  • +3
    My InterpretationAny reference to walls falling suggests an allusion to the Battle of Jerico, from the Bible, book of Joshua-5. What is significant is that in this battle all the Canaanites of Jerico were killed, including the innocent children. One could make a strong argument for the innocent (the children) being bound to the damned in this case. "How the innocent are bound to the damned"

    If we stick with the Jerico reference, you could review Joshua:5 for a reason for why the city attacked and its inhabitant murdered... however, you might come up empty in that search. In that bible passage there is no obvious reason given, no motivation, save except that the city was built near the River Jordan, of why these people were killed. One cold make a case for a lack of reason (lack of motivation) is found.. or "A day without a trace of reason"

    If we take this song as an indictment organized religion, we can ask how a progressive might view religion. Such a progressive might as ask what motivates people of religion, why they they follow religious dogma without insightful introspection. Many progressives view different world religions as a means of leaders controlling their respective populations. This view reduces religion to a paradigm more akin to magical thinking and superstition, for reasons of controlling the masses. So such a progressive might argue that in many ways religion is similar to wishing upon a star, or luck (such as trying to get lucky at cards): "Call on your brightest star or play your hand as it lies" Although, the lyrics offer up an alternative, both are reliant upon unseen forces out of the individual hands and left up to a god of some sort.

    The dilemma of fatalism and God: In many religious doctrine this is a recurring theme. We are without control and the fate of our lives is all in a deity's hands, yet we are asked to act moral as if we had a choice in a fatalistic reality. "What is, just is, I know."

    If what is held in religious dogma is the ultimate and true answer to all our questions, what is left for us to do if we are still unsatisfied by those answers. Thus, we find ourselves "trapped by answers" we're not happy with. This would require one to break with their cultural past, to break through to find unconsidered alternatives.

    Mercer steps out of character to the broach broader topic and ask, where are we if we expel God from the heavens? "Are we all to ride the edge of nothing?" It's like the fear and exhilaration of when you learn how to ride a bike and your father lets go. You're now free and you have control, but you're somehow alone. And can we reconcile this new freedom against our need for the comfort of an omnipotent and benign caregiver. So we're at once at odds with our own understanding. We "shake hands with fighting eyes" and it leaves us reconciling this new schema with uncertainty.

    And if we reject out of uncertainty the religions we we're born into, then can we ever know is right? Perhaps all religions are wrong when they don't consider that each one is a component of this whole we comprise as humanity. So what is left other than to conclude they are all right? "And if they don't know... The heart is stopping... Cause everyone is right"

    So can we ever know what it means to be an insightful sentient being if we cannot offer purpose for our existence? Can we ever truly know ourselves? We begin life unknowing and uncaring of the philosophical mountains we may one day climb. And when we reach the top of what is knowable, in maturity or our time of reflection such as in old age, are we anymore certain than we were when we newly born? "From the moment that we're born... Till we're old and tired... Do we ever know people?"

    LOVE HAUNTS TO THE END - perhaps all that is knowable is that we live, we die, and if we're lucky there our some things in life we learn to love, whether they are things, places, ideas, or most importantly, people. In the end, what thing better defines what we are than what we love.

    What is important to note in this song is riddled with three question marks??? Mercer's is a mind that is questioning internally, but not rhetorically. (Mercer is not trying to guide us to his answer, she he doesn't have these answers.) This suggests that Mercer isn't trying to lead the listener to a pat answer, a nice, neat and tidy answer to explain all that there is. The overall theme of the song suggests that Mercer is attempting to get the listener to questions their own existence and how they view the world, its people and their motivation. And in essence, Mercer is guiding the listener to ask their own questions, and search their own answers.
    Allknowingguitarguruon November 21, 2010   Link
  • +1
    Lyric CorrectionIt isn't "see the sin in the sea". It is "Citizen you will see" hence the name of the song....

    This song is so haunting...sad...I love Broken bells soooooo much.
    Cassiuswingateon May 14, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General Commentand it kinds sounds like he is saying "the heart is starving" not "stopping"....
    Cassiuswingateon May 14, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti always thought it was "how the innocent are bound to the damned"
    probably wrong.
    wonderful song though, & my favorite off the album.
    kind of reminds me of the haze i get in after getting bad news; just going through the motions like any other citizen; just blindly carrying out tasks.
    waltzaon September 03, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentCorrecrion*

    Call on your brightest star
    Or play your hand as an intellect*
    Wounds always speak too loud

    This song is beyond any adequate verbal description. Mercer has had incredible lyrics since the shins' days, so i'm not especially surprised. One dude up top fell into the bible a bit too deep. I agree that there is an allegory underlining the song that is referential to the bible, but the song is more of a modern day anthem. It's a questioning of any bigger picture, higher being, etc... And then, especially, what that means for society.

    This is a day without
    A trace of reason
    No matter where you turn

    Rather straightforward: He's describing a personal belief that this generation lacks reason, or logical thought.

    And the walls will fall
    Affirming nothing
    So what's it all about?

    This may very well be a biblical reference like one commentor already mentioned. It could also be talking about the toll of time on everything. No matter what we as humans build up, we cannot affirm anything because nothing lasts forever.

    Call on your brightest star
    Or play your hand as an intellect.
    Wounds always speak too loud

    This might be my favorite verse. It's simply reffering to the options one has to try to remedy such feelings and answer the questions. Call on your brightest star: Pray to the god of your understanding. Or play your hand as an intellect: Study philosophy or science and seek those answers through understanding. Wounds always speak too loud: Rergardless of which option chosen, feelings and questions remain unresolved.



    Get along for awhile
    Citizen you will see
    How the innocent are bound to the damned
    What is, just is, I know
    So we're trapped by answers
    Love haunts to the end

    This chorus is truly an anthem for society and the common good. Mercer is pleading with everybody to empathize, as well as open up their eyes, to the facts of the matter. "The innocent are bound to the damned." Hate doesn't solve anything, and once we get along we can actually understand. "What is, just is, i know. So we're trapped by answers:" this is a great line, and its referring to reality, existence. What exists and is real, we can see, and study, and experiment with, so we're inundated with all of our answers regarding everything around us.



    Are we all to ride
    The edge of nothing?
    Shake hands if i deny.

    This verse is hard to decipher. Are we all to ride
    The edge of nothing? : While we live, are we just along the edge of ceasing to exist. Maybe shake hands if denying that view, or a view of an afterlife.


    And if they don't know
    The heart is stopping
    Cause everyone is right

    Mercer is knocking the gullible in this verse. The people who wouldn't know their heart was stopping because they have only listened to, and followed along with others. And nobody knows your heart is stopping other than you!



    From the moment that we're born
    Till we're old and tired
    Do we ever know people?
    - self explanatory.
    proofofmyexistenceon April 08, 2011   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationAre we all to ride
    The edge of nothing?

    I think what James Mercer means by this lyric is that, well... a lot of things hold meaning to us as humans, right? But what's it all really for? Nothing. No matter what happens everything will always amount to nothing. Like what proofofmyexistence said "No matter what we as humans build up, we cannot affirm anything because nothing lasts forever."

    Anyway my point of all this is to say that although everything means nothing, that doesn't stop us - humanity. To say that there is an edge to nothing means to me that it is just our perception of all this as actually being something, despite it all meaning nothing. So we ride the edge of nothing and push forward as humanity even though it leads nowhere. Nothing lasts forever. I think that is the main subject of the whole song really.
    gigglingbuon December 05, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is about life and how we can never truly know what it is, we can choose to believe in religion etc, but do we ever know if it's right.
    Cyberghoston March 31, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI saw broken bells at the Vic and James Mercer messed up the first line and made the band restart it bc he said it was his favorite song, it was awesome
    topicalrushon June 01, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentMost of the above lyrics are correct but these are all correct:
    This is a day without
    A trace of reason
    No matter where you turn

    And the walls will fall
    Affirming nothing
    So what's it all about?

    Call on your brightest star
    Or play your hand as it lays
    Wounds always speak too loud

    Get along for awhile
    Citizen you will see
    How the innocent are bound to the dam
    What is, just is, I know
    So we're trapped by answers
    Love haunts to the end

    Are we all to ride
    The edge of nothing?
    Shake hands with fighting eyes

    And if they don't know
    The heart is stopping
    Cause everyone is right

    Get along for awhile
    Citizen you will see
    How the innocent are bound to the dam
    What is, just is, I know
    So we're trapped by answers
    Love haunts to the end

    From the moment that we're born
    Till we're old and tired
    Do we ever know people?

    From the moment that were born
    Till we're old and tired
    Do we ever know people?
    Actorsarepretendingon June 29, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI agree with waltza, but I supposed it could be dam or damned. Just think the way the rest of the song plays out, the context suggests it's about somebody being tied down to another person.. one of them not so lucky (aka damned).
    craftsy21on October 02, 2010   Link

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