"Sailing To Nowhere" as written by and James Mercer Brian Joseph Burton....
Tonight I send a word
The wind is blowing all over
There's blood on the knife
Who'd have known
You're a devious sister
Guts on your blouse
Going the wrong way

And diamonds, a dozen
Sailing to nowhere
Vapor to float on
Still we hold on to the night

Behind I see stars, draining the light
Looking down by your house
One by one
Lord, to find
Our way out
Falling with the ghost

Running in circles
A mouse on the table
I try to feel
But just don't
Hurting and dead inside
Down and covered in ah
Sit down

Lyrics submitted by Cyberghost, edited by dontwannau

"Sailing to Nowhere" as written by James Mercer Brian Burton


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Sailing To Nowhere song meanings
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  • +2
    My InterpretationIt's like most of Broken Bells' songs are based on physiological emotions.
    I think he's trying to get away from all the bad he's done by "sailing to nowhere" and sometimes it's hard to find the way out.
    crissieoohhon May 10, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentJust a couple things that I heard differently.

    Who'd a known, your a devious sister

    Following the ghosts down.

    I try to feel, but just don't
    Hurting and dead inside
    Go on and cut 'em in half
    Said I
    Konversekidon April 11, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentBoily systems?

    Surely Balancing stones!
    hairydonuton August 04, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song is about living in two worlds...and the apathy that results.
    anonymeeseon September 01, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIt's about witnessing a murder and the guilt that comes with not preventing it.
    Crane42on May 18, 2013   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningSo these are the lyrics:

    "Tomorrow I sail the world
    Lovin, more than I know with blood on my hands
    Wouldn't know, you're a devious sister
    Guts on your blouse
    Close your old ways

    And diamonds a dozen
    Sailing to nowhere
    They burn and float on
    Still we move on through the night

    Boiling systems
    Drain the lot
    They go down by their hearts
    One by one
    Long to find
    A way up
    Following the ghost down

    Running in circles
    A mouse on the table
    I try to feel, I just don't
    Hurtin' and dead inside
    Go on and cut 'em in half
    Said I"

    - What I'm pretty convinced of is that there is a literal story here. And of course it can be used as a metaphor for a lot of different interpretations, but I just want to post the lyrics again with my interpretation of what I think the story is.
    My belief is that this is essentially about a complicated kind of love/passion, or rather a lack thereof -
    A captain on a pirate/raiding ship has a lover who joins him in destroying and looting other ships. They sail on from one assault to another, the fallen ships and crews getting no sympathy as the captain and his partner get richer and richer in wealth and glory. The captain seems to yearn for the ability to feel sympathy, hence "Sailing to Nowhere."

    "Tomorrow I sail the world
    Lovin, more than I know with blood on my hands (Blood on hands from raiding and looting)
    Wouldn't know, you're a devious sister (She share his ruthlessness)
    Guts on your blouse..." ( And sheds blood too, or has for the first time)
    "...Close your old ways" (Maybe she is actually new to this, but guts are already on the
    blouse; there is no going back)

    "And diamonds a dozen (The loot from the raids)
    Sailing to nowhere
    They burn and float on (The ruins of the destroyed ships, floating on the water)
    Still we move on through the night (The captain and his lover keep sailing on)

    "Boiling systems
    Drain the lot..." (Not sure here, but with the context of the rest of the verse, this seems
    to be like the cannons killing the lot of them basically. Them being the crew that the captain's
    ship is attacking)

    "...They go down by their hearts
    One by one
    Long to find
    A way up
    Following the ghost down" (The people who fall from the ship drown, struggling to the
    surface, but inevitably they sink and die)

    "Running in circles
    A mouse on the table.." (This is a great image for a panicked sailor running around
    frantically on the ship that's being attacked, wooden surface like a table and all)

    "...I try to feel, I just don't (Yearns to feel sympathy, or feel anything in general)
    Hurtin' and dead inside..." (The emptiness - either a result of raiding the innocent, or the
    reason he started doing so)

    "...Go on and cut 'em in half
    Said I" (Devoid of sympathy for the innocent, the captain ends up giving the
    order to "cut 'em in half," or basically destroy them. Large pirate ships would literally tear
    through smaller vessels by ramming them with the prow of their own ship, so that
    is the imagery I see)

    -What I think is just as important as the story, however, is the music itself. All the captain's emotion is there, but it is jumbled and confused. In the end it turns to a beautiful melody. I feel that part perfectly depicts what the captain feels as a raid ends and he sails away. He is sailing to nowhere, knowing he is ruthless and empty; even so, he has his lover with him, as well as an acceptance of who he is. That last part feels to me like a solace almost, in realizing that is who he is.

    Anyway, there are many layers to this but this was just what I saw as the main lyrical story. One meaning doesn't fit all, but I thought I would share this. I just love this song and had been trying to figure out the lyrics for some time.
    dontwannauon June 12, 2014   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI really don't think this is literal especially given meanings of other broken bells songs. I like the metaphorical imagery of the pirate ship floating aimlessly causing death and destruction to all others it comes across but I think it is a metaphor for someone going through the motions of relationship with someone who like him is traveling aimlessly out for the the glory of a new conquest with no feelings for the hearts left broken in their wake...there is no true feeling of love, just the sentiment of going through the motions perhaps aimless sex- they are unable to break free from their little world of numbness and hurt causing them to sail on endlessly doing the same thing over and over- a kind of purgatory of the heart.
    lilimomoon July 25, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General CommentEdited all except the first one, it seems like both could work in the context.
    Cyberghoston May 03, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentHe's done so much, he doesn't even feel bad anymore, he's just going through the motions
    "running in circles
    a mouse on the table
    I try to feel, I just don't"

    He's "hurting and dead inside" so he doesn't care what happens
    doogster18on May 11, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI know this is a crazy idea, but could this song be loosely inspired by Bioshock?
    jasonenosarton December 27, 2017   Link

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