"Portable Television" as written by and Benjamin Gibbard....
Portable television, shrouded in snow
In a raggedy van on the side of the road
The night it had frozen through my little bones
So you took me in your arms, you squeezed out the cold

And oh

Upstate New York, autumn, brightly colored leaves
Oh, the hills were on fire, they burn for you and me
And where we were going it was built like a lie
But as sacred as the Bible, so we didn't question why

And oh

I saw it in the soil just recently
Where the rows of teeth they grow in fields of infinite greed
And here laid the father, and here stood the son
Where the road meets the horizon for everyone
For everyone

Portable television, take us away
From this burden of reflection we've carried today
Oh, the generator's running but there's nothing on the air
And the static is a comfort, so we huddle around and stare

And oh


Lyrics submitted by reegs

"Portable Television" as written by Benjamin Gibbard

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Portable Television song meanings
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8 Comments

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  • +4
    General CommentUm, that might be "PORTABLE television, not "BORED OF OLD television"... you know, like the title of the song.
    Winternoiseon May 31, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General Commentthis is from the official digital booklet

    Portable television shrouded in snow
    In a raggedy van on the side of the road
    The night it had frozen through my little bones
    So you took me in your arms
    You squeezed out the cold
    Upstate New York
    Autumn brightly colored leaves
    The hills were on fire
    They burned for you and me
    And where we were going it was built like a lie
    But as sacred as the Bible
    So we didn’t question “why”
    They sodded the soil just recently
    Where the rows of teeth they grow in fields of infinite green
    And here laid the father
    And here stood the son
    Where the road meets the horizon for everyone
    Portable television take us away
    From this burden of reflection we’ve carried today
    Oh the generator’s running but there’s nothing on the air
    But the static is a comfort so we huddled round and stared

    i think this song is about his views on religion, god, and death
    all this of course is just my personal interpretation

    i see the raggedy van on the side of the road as a metaphor for how he and his family were on a journey in life then the night had frozen which means tough times came along and took a little hope out of their life (stopped the van) then they looked to god and they felt hope (squeezed out the cold)

    the second stanza i don't fully understand its obviously a personal experience

    the second verse is about a funeral where a son buries a father and Ben is talking about how death is the absolute end because the horizon is the end, there's nothing past it (Where the road meets the horizon for everyone) the horizon is always something you are looking out towards and never actually reach, as is the knowledge of what happens after death; you don't find out until you're actually there.

    in the last verse i think he is saying that many people just use religion and god to comfort themselves from the hardships of life and death whether or not they truly believe in it(Portable television take us away...there’s nothing on the air But the static is a comfort so we huddled round and stared)

    i don't actually agree with much of this but i thought it an interesting opinion and i thought i should share the official lyrics as well as my interpretation
    timhallon August 20, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General Commentthe Title is "Portable Television." How did anybody get "Bored of old television." Come on now
    capo51on June 10, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"Little bones". I love it, adorable.
    I'm not sure what the general theme of the song is, but I'm pretty sure the lines
    "I saw it in the soil just recently
    Where the rows of teeth they grow in fields of infinite greed"
    refer to death - the teeth are gravestones, growing in number as more people die.
    And the last verse points to the token, "We escape from the dysphoria of the modern world through equally meaningless entertainment."
    mister care-too-muchon August 07, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentGreat comments... I could be wrong on the second stanza but based on the words "upstate New York" and "sacred as the bible"...could this be refering to Joseph Smith's first vision?
    Yomon September 17, 2011   Link
  • 0
    Song MeaningThe lines "They sodded the soil just recently / Where the rows of teeth they grow in fields of infinite green" are a reference to the Greek myth of Cadmus, where he sows dragon teeth into the ground and from them springs up a field of warriors, who Cadmus has to defeat. He defeats them by throwing a jewel into their midst--the warriors turn upon each other, each desiring the jewel for themselves. The five who survive help Cadmus build the city of Thebes. (source: wikipedia).

    The /wording/ of "here lies the father, and here stands the son" is obviously an echo of Christian mythos, which makes sense considering the mention of the Bible earlier in the seong and Gibbard's own (uncomfortable) Catholic background.

    Not sure about the rest of it, but I picked up that much.
    freedom287on October 04, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI hear the lyrics a little different. I hear "They sodded soil, just recently/they grow in fields of infinite grief". Meaning, the father is dead, and the "rows of teeth", which are gravestones, are growing with grief of the death of a loved one.
    slasher123on October 04, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI recently left the Mormon church and became an Atheist, and have for a long time found a lot of personal connection with this song. I can't say whether the song is about Mormonism or not, but I can certainly make it work. There are plenty of connections to be made.

    I think another commented has the first verse right, dark times came and religion was the thing that squeezed out the cold, whether it was true or not. Second verse it speaks of "Upstate New York Autumn Brightly Covered Leaves" which I feel is speaking of Joseph Smith having his ""First Vision"" just by his home in upstate new york. Further bolstered by a line later "and here layed the father, here stood the son", Joseph Smith described seeing in his ""First Vision"" God, and his literal son Jesus (a different person) before him.

    Then you have the line "where we were going it was built like a lie, but it sacred as the bible, so we didnt question why". I think anyone with any remote involvement with the mormon church can see how the story of "finding and translating" the book of mormon is very obviously "making it up". Just read some of the events that happened around Joseph "translating" his new scripture the book of mormon, and you can see the book comes about just like any other lie or cult. But, the book is held up by the church as equal footing, or greater, than the bible, describing the next line.

    Then you have the other lines clearly talking about graves and dying, and futility. The song is a fantastic criticism of Mormonism and religion in general in my opinion. It's a perfect companion to the other criticisms of religion in the album like Unobstructed Views, St. Peters Cathedral, Codes & Keys, and Monday Morning.
    FBTJon January 28, 2016   Link

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