"Alien Days" as written by and Ben Goldwasser Andrew Vanwyngarden....
Sometimes the windows combine with the seams in a way
That twitches on a peak at the place where the spirit was slain
One foot leads to another
Night's for sleep, blue curtains, covers
Sequins in the eyes
That's a fine time to dine
Divine who's circling, feeding the cards to the midwives
Who love those alien days
The nonstop alien days
Ooh the alien days

Must've skipped the ship and joined the team
For a ride
A couple hours to learn the controls
And commandeer both my eyes
Hey!
Be quick dear, times are uncertain
One month crawling, next year blurring
Decades in the drain
Monograms on the brain
Decide what's working and what's moved on
To the last phase
The floodgate alien days
I love those alien days
Mmm... the alien days

When the peels are down, it feels like traveling in style
You don't need wings to hover forty ton stones for a mile
And in the summer, virgin visions
Mindless humming
Numbers can't decide if the day's supposed to smile

Today find infinite ways it could be
Plenty worse
It's a blessing but it's also a curse

Those days taught me everything I know
How to catch a feeling
And when to let it go
How all the scheming, soulless creatures
Can't find dreamer's honey in the hive
If it's right beneath the nose

And when the light is new
The sky shows trembling cartoons
You don't need smoke to cover
Most of the world in a gloom
But here comes racer number 7
Watch my fingers ripping out the lines

If it looks like we could lose
If it looks like we could lose
If it looks like we could lose
If it looks like we could lose


Lyrics submitted by orl31

"Alien Days" as written by Benjamin Nicholas Huner Goldwasser Andrew Wells Vanwyngarden

Lyrics © BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC

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Alien Days song meanings
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  • +8
    Song MeaningFirst off, when trying to interpret MGMT’s more abstract songs, one must keep in mind that Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser, the duo behind MGMT, are self-professed mystics. Fundamentally, mystics are people who believe that there is a universal truth/spirit of some sort that waits to be discovered through introspection and enlightenment by intelligent beings. A more romantic description would be that mystics strive to be children of the universe, not children of mankind; a concept beautifully illustrated in Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Many religions contain the core concepts of mysticism, as discussed in Aldous Huxley’s book “The Perennial Philosophy”. But anyways, here’s my rather long crack at an interpretation for MGMT’s “Alien Days”:

    Before the actual lyrical interpretation, it is noteworthy to point out that a child sings lines in the beginning of the song. MGMT often uses children as symbols in their songs to represent a state of consciousness where reality is perceived through relatively unbiased eyes (read: third eye). Children, due to their relatively short existence and innocence towards reality, do not carry the biases towards it that we adults do. They have a more untarnished view of reality, though not the cognition necessary to understand it. MGMT equates children to the blank slate of mind required to perceive the universal truth.

    (Sometimes the windows combine with the seams in a way)
    (that twitches on a peak at the place where the spirit was slain)

    Windows are open and allow you to see places where a wall does not. Seams hold things together. MGMT is saying the ingredients are sometimes right in people to allow them to gain insight into the universal truth/spirit; the truth/spirit that is the source of all beings’ souls/reality. The peak represents the supremeness and majesty of the universal truth/spirit. The spirit being slain represents the spirit becoming a real life being, going from supreme oneness into a biased, lesser state of being. Basically, MGMT is saying sometimes people gain insight into the spirit they originated from.

    (one foot leads to another)

    This represents that even though people may gain this kernel of insight into the universal spirit/truth, they have bills to pay, children to raise, parties to go to, etc. Life, through its impetus, deftly whisks us away from the most important of all things, the thing we originated from.

    (night's for sleep, blue curtains, covers)
    (sequins in the eyes)
    (that's a fine time to dine)
    (divine who's circling, feeding the cards to the midwives)

    Even though life is full of things we deem important and goals we want to accomplish, nighttime is when our opportunity naturally arises to be in the right state of mind necessary to gain some mystical insight. “Sequins in the eyes” represents the colors against the black backdrop one sees when their eyes are closed. Right before you fall asleep is “a fine time to dine,” a time where your mind stops churning out the thoughts of the day, relaxes, becomes empty, and thus becomes receptive to meaningful insight. However, “divine who’s circling, feeding the cards to the midwives” seems to suggest that instead of being receptive towards whatever truth comes their way, people use this nighttime state of consciousness to try to justify their preconceived notions on reality i.e. trying to gain insight towards whatever god they believe in.

    (who love those alien days)
    (the nonstop alien days)
    (mmm the alien days)

    Alien days symbolizes a time when a person has a blank slate and/or altered state of consciousness and is thus receptive towards some of the ultimate truth reality has to offer. When in this state, MGMT feels as though they are aliens during these times because they no longer perceive reality in as biased a manner that everyone else does. As mentioned before, MGMT often uses children to symbolize this rather pure perception of reality that is not blemished by preconceived notions. “The midwives who love those alien days” means that as adults we cherish children’s ability to live those alien days, to be able have such a pure, unbiased view of reality. For children, this consciousness is nonstop and ends with the gradual onset of adulthood.

    (must've skipped the ship)
    (and joined the team for a ride)
    (a couple hours to learn the controls)
    (and commandeer both my eyes)

    “Must’ve skipped the ship” — The ship here represents the true path to enlightenment of love, meditation, ethical conduct, acceptance, etc. “And joined the team for a ride,” — Instead going on the true path toward enlightenment, MGMT instead opted to use drugs with their friends; these lines being from the point of view of themselves already on mushrooms, LSD, or some other perception-shifting hallucinogen. “A couple of hours to learn the controls and commandeer both of my eyes” — MGMT is saying this period of insight is short lived and temporary; that once you trip, you only have a limited time to get in control of it and see what you need to see, and, unlike enlightenment, is essentially a thrill ride that must come to an end.

    (be quick dear, times are uncertain)

    Buddha once said something to the effect of, “There is only one time when you need to seek enlightenment: that time is now.” One must try to obtain enlightenment as soon as possible, because one never knows when they will no longer have an opportunity to do so.

    (one month crawling, next year blurring)
    (decades in the drain)

    Your life is gradually, then suddenly diminished before your eyes; to steal a parcel from an Ernest Hemingway quote.

    (monograms on the brain)
    (decide what's working and what's moved on to the last phase)

    From Wikipedia: “Monograms are often made by combining the initials of an individual or a company, used as recognizable symbols or logos.” Just as monograms are symbols/logos that represent people/companies, MGMT suggests that the religions we follow are nothing more than symbols that we empower. That these symbols we use to understand/justify/cope with reality are introduced from the outside and do not come from within the self.

    “Decide what’s working” might be referring to MGMT’s song “It’s Working”, a song that concerns MGMT wondering if the drugs they are taking, and their subsequent state of consciousness, are working; that is to say, are what they are supposed to be doing to achieve insight to the truth. In “It’s Working”, MGMT concludes since drugs influence the physical self (“working in our blood”), they are inferior to gaining true insight through love, which is not a part of the physical self whatsoever, but is “only in your mind and not your heart”, and thus superior.

    Therefore, “Decide what’s working and what’s moved onto the last phase” means these symbols (society, parents, philosophers, priests) that introduce concepts to us that explain our reality decide for us if we are walking the correct path. MGMT believes mankind readily accepts these outside influences to answer the big questions concerning existence instead of discovering the way for ourselves; through introspection and self-discovery.

    (the floodgate alien days)
    (I love those alien days)
    (mmm the alien days)

    MGMT is saying that using drugs to shift you perception on reality in order to acquire true insight is like a floodgate; a torrent of truth that comes at you all at once. And that they love those alien days, those times when they’re on drugs and learning/experiencing so much.

    (when the peels are down it feels like traveling in style)

    MGMT is saying that when the normal biases and preconceived notions you carry towards reality are removed through meditation, youth, or drug usage, “it feels like traveling in style”…it feels like life/existence is a comfortable, pleasurable ride.

    (you don't need wings to hover forty ton stones for a mile)

    “40 ton stones” seems to be a reference to Stonehenge and not needing wings referring to the belief that aliens or divine beings helped build the structure, because man at that time could not possibly do it alone. MGMT appears to be saying that you do not need to be superhuman to achieve enlightenment. It might also be a statement about the power of the mind; that you do not need to believe in a religion to be capable of miracles; the power to do such things resides within you, and is not bestowed or granted by some divine figure.

    (and in the summer, virgin visions)
    (mindless humming)

    MGMT likes to equate the summer/desert with a time of intense mystic/spiritual activity and winter/the artic with self-doubt and fear. “Virgin visions” suggests gaining unique insights for the first time and “mindless humming” being something akin to the “Om” sound.

    (numbers can't decide if the day's supposed to smile)

    MGMT is saying that reality is not all encompassed by math equations; that there is more to existence than what a computer could eventually replicate. Google cannot come up with an equation that will know if a day will hold a hidden treasure or small wonder.

    (today we find infinite ways it could be plenty worse)
    (it's a blessing but it's also a curse)

    Many religions, our parents, our communities, etc. teach us to be thankful. It is a great concept that teaches us to be humble and appreciate what they have now instead of desiring for more. We need to be thankful because so many people have it worse. MGMT might be suggesting that this thankfulness/contentment also breeds complacency and a fear of becoming those unfortunates we are thankful not to be. Instead of living life freely, we sit snug in our homes, thankful for the peace and fearful of the night.

    (those days taught me everything I know)
    (how to catch a feeling and when to let it go)

    The knowledge gained from those alien days, those times of mind-expanding consciousness, is what seems to be most important to MGMT. The RZA, leader of the Wu-Tang Clan, in his song “A Day to God is 1,000 Years,” states that he is “God in the bodily form, lettin’ my knowledge be born”. His lyric here has the same meaning to MGMT’s: that once you are in a pure state of being, knowledge comes from within you, not from outside of you and is the most meaningful knowledge one can attain.

    (how all the scheming, soulless creatures)
    (can't find dreamer's honey in the hive)
    (if it's right beneath the nose)

    Here, MGMT expresses vexation at not only people’s inability to not only understand mystics (dreamers) and the universal truth (honey in the hive) that they value so much, but also if they just gave it a chance, they could see it for themselves.

    “Honey in the hive” might also be referring to mankind as a whole; the bees (dreamers/mystics) who leave the hive (society/biased reality) and bring back pollen (universal truth) to sustain the colony (mankind).

    (and when the light is new)
    (the sky shows trembling cartoons)

    “When the light is new” — MGMT is saying that when people are first exposed to the truth (i.e. when someone is tripping for the first time; when someone hears some universal truth from a dreamer for the first time), it appears strange and unsettling (“the sky shows trembling cartoons”). Something that should show immense beauty (the sky and universal truth) is instead perceived negatively by those who are not ready or have too much bias.

    (you don't need smoke to cover most of the world in a gloom)

    MGMT here is saying since mankind refuses to value universal truth and instead values their own selfish ends and beliefs, that the pollution of the planet is only natural from such beings.
    skyjukeon September 06, 2013   Link
  • +4
    General CommentI always thought this song was fantastic but then one day I really looked into the meaning of what Alien Days really means and I just fantasize about myself laying in a field looking up at the night sky at the stars and thinking about the whole universe around me and how experiences have changed me, loosing ego, realizing that I don't even feel human sometimes and questioning where some of my mind bended thoughts are coming from, there's so much for me to still take in, your awareness can go beyond any limit, there are no boundaries, the universe and your mind are infinite
    livinlife94on November 19, 2013   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationThis may be a very literal translation so I look forward to hearing other fans interpretations. This song is a really a poem. An inner voice is speaking to his/herself. The song is a moment of self-reflection and thinking.

    Sometimes the windows combine with the seams
    In a way
    That twitches on
    A peak at the place
    Where the spirit was slain

    The song begins with the speaker trying and failing to fall asleep. In the darkness of the room, the speaker cannot see where the windows begin and the walls start. Staring off into space, the speaker's thoughts turn to a crushing memory or experience in their life.

    Hey!
    One foot leads to another
    Nights for sleep, blue curtains, covers
    Sequins in the eyes
    That’s a fine time to dine
    Divine who’s circling
    Feeding the cards to the midwives
    Love those alien days
    The nonstop alien days
    Ooh, the alien days

    The speaker gets out of bed, restlessly walks around their home, and eats a midnight snack? I'm not too sure how about these lines, but this is a beautiful verse.

    Must’ve skipped the ship and joined the team
    For a ride
    A couple hours to learn the controls
    And commandeer both my eyes

    The speaker feels they missed an opportunity and joined the team. The team being a symbol for graduating from college and getting a stable yet unfulfilling career.

    Hey!
    Be quick dear, times are uncertain
    One month crawling, next year blur
    Decades in the drain
    Monograms on the brain


    Act fast. Life does not wait for you. The daily grind of the 9-5 cycle are "decades in the drain" that leave "monograms on the brain". A better way of showing the relationship between work and conspicuous consumption. The ubiquity of logos, brands and advertisements and how they have become ingrained into our collective consciousness.

    Decide what’s working
    And what’s moved on to the last phase
    The floodgate alien days
    I love those alien days
    Ooh, the alien days

    The speaker remembers to accept the challenge of being more conscious of their emotional intelligence and how to improve that by making positive changes in ones life. Those positive changes don't happen overnight, and doing so is often a difficult, anxiety-ridden process. This process overwhelms the speaker yet he/she appears to be at peace with those thoughts. Possibly because the speaker is now at a place of total self-acceptance and is no longer holding regret in their heart. There is nostalgia for the alien days when life felt like it was closing in on the speaker.

    When the peels are down
    It feels like traveling in style
    You don’t need wings to hover
    Forty ton stones for a mile
    And in the summer, virgin visions
    Mindless humming
    Numbers can’t decide
    If the day’s supposed to smile

    I can't decipher much from these lines. The last two is about pleasant weather being irrelevant to one's outlook on life.

    Today we find infinite ways it could be
    Any worse
    It’s a blessing and it’s also a curse
    Those days have taught me everything I know
    How to catch a feeling
    And when to let it go

    The speaker laments how having socio-economic privilege makes one feel guilty for discussing problems aren't as severe or life-threatening as those in more dire circumstances. While you should be thankful for living a comfortable, sheltered life, there's no end to the idea that your life "could be worse" because the chain of human misery is endless and using that cliché to help you feel better is another example of exercising your privilege.

    The days of frustration and anxiety have shaped the speaker into who they are now: a wiser, hopeful soul The speaker learned to accept loss while looking for more things to gain and share.

    How all the scheming, soulless creatures
    Can’t find dreamer’s honey in the hive
    If it’s right beneath their nose

    The speaker sees the limitations of the inherent cynicism in the modern condition. We all have talents, hopes, illusions and dreams yet we never rise to become our higher selves.

    And when the light is new
    The sky shows trembling cartoons
    You don’t need smoke to cover
    Most of the world in a gloom
    But here comes racer number 7
    Watch my fingers
    Ripping out the lines

    If it looks like we could lose
    If it looks like we could lose
    If it looks like we could lose
    If it looks like we could lose

    ..These are the most exciting lines in the song mainly because I have no idea what they could mean. I look forward other people's thoughts on the end of the song. I'm just soaking up the energy I feel from this song. These guys keep getting better.
    Psychedouton April 22, 2013   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationConsciousness vs. Subconsciousness

    I like to think that this song is a journey into the brain of the narrator.
    Most of the song is taking place in a very deep and dark layer of his consciousness, where raw fundamental feelings and only a limited number of words with extremely heavy meaning float around, as the narrator reflects on himself and life. Down here, according to the experiences of the narrator (on drugs or not) it all shifts around to shape the structure of the conscious person on the surface, all happening on one of those ‘Alien Days’

    This is the clearest, most conscious part of the narrators thoughts:

    those days taught me everything I know
    how to catch a feeling
    and when to let it go
    how all the scheming, soulless creatures
    can't find dreamer's honey in the hive
    if it's right beneath the nose

    To me this is simply a more defined sense of feeling in the narrator, in which the subconscious ramble seems to take shape as actual conscious revelation. To me this seems to show the narrators’ look on people being of 2 kinds; ‘schemers’ and ‘dreamers’ and how the ‘schemers’ are unable to enjoy their stressful lives like the ‘dreamers’ can. The narrator is definitely a dreamer! ☺

    you don't need wings to hover forty ton stones for a mile

    This seems to be an early subconscious grasp of the sensation ‘faith can move mountains,’

    but here comes racer number 7
    watch my fingers ripping out the lines
    if it looks like we could lose

    This very last part of the song
    I think it is supposed to mean how our whole life is like a race in which we hope our bet wins!

    I find this song beautifully volatile. Every line is almost perpetually ambiguous and every listen brings a new perspective and understanding.
    sørenaron April 26, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think this song is about how some days bring depression and sometimes you feel trapped in your mind. Andrew also says "Those days taught me everything I know" signifying their importance to life in that without those days of depression, he would not be who he is. And that is a great message to give.
    leesaenzon September 15, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General CommentSuch a fucking brilliant song! Favorite on the album! I agree with all the other comments on here. Alien days are when you see everything for what it is, in a higher mind. To be aware.
    Bearstronautson November 20, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWhoa! Really surprised there are no comments for this song yet. It is wonderfully melodic and well crafted. MGMT is maturing.
    panama77on October 23, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentLove it!!! Anyone wanna take a stab at what it's about
    Pauperon April 21, 2013   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationTo me, it seems like the song criticizes modern society, and how we are betraying our natural tendencies and practices to participate in "alien days"

    "Sometimes the windows combine with the seams in a way that twitches on a peek [ I think peek makes more sense than peak ] at the place where the spirit was slain" - This one's a bit of a stretch, but I feel like the windows may be outlooks of life and the seams are what connects them, not entirely sure, but they unite in horror and "twitch" when they merely glimpse, or "peek", at "where the spirit was slain" (spirit here probably means will to live, and society is where it was slain)

    one foot leads to another - Life is causality, that which proceeds comes from what precedes

    night's for sleep, blue curtains, covers sequins in the eyes; that's a fine time to dine - Obviously saying that we should be sleeping at night, and not staying up. I think the 'dine' in this context refers to consuming of information or recollection.

    divine who's circling, feeding the cards to the midwives - Honestly no idea what this line mines

    who love those alien days, the nonstop alien days, mmm the alien days - I feel like the "Alien days" refer to modern lifestyle where we are living regularly day to day "alienated" from our tribal heritage and trying to detach ourselves from our natural tendencies.

    "must've skipped the ship and joined the team for a ride a couple hours to learn the controls and commandeer both my eyes" - Perhaps the ship represent the biosphere as a whole, and the team is humanity. The part where it talks about learning the controls reinforces our "alien" lifestyles where we use technology and must adjust to operating it.

    be quick dear, times are uncertain, one month crawling, next year blurring decades in the drain - Obviously a reference the finiteness of life, though the style seems like something a parent would say, and perhaps mocks the urgency to live in our culture

    monograms on the brain decide what's working and what's moved on to the last phase - Probably a statement about prototyping and experimenting, whereby we use symbols or "monograms" to represent physical phenomena

    when the peels are down it feels like traveling in style - May be referring to convertibles, which are typically owned by the rich, though at the end of the day they are just cars all the same.

    you don't need wings to hover forty ton stones for a mile - A reference to modern architecture, speaking of feats which were previously unthinkable.

    and in the summer, virgin visions - virgin visions may be visions of "virgin" or tribal life, as foliage and wildlife are active in the summer

    mindless humming - may be a reference to the tedious monotony of everyday life, or perhaps even the humming of engines and generators

    numbers can't decide if the day's supposed to smile - Likely referring to calendared holidays, or maybe weather forecasts, whereas in tribal-hood we didn't have such things and lived each day for itself

    today find infinite ways it could be plenty worse; it's a blessing but it's also a curse - there is a forced optimism on viewing our social roots and how we view "primitive" living to be unpleasant, but while we find solace in that, it also alienates us from our roots as well.

    those days taught me everything I know; how to catch a feeling and when to let it go - Not entirely sure, but likely an argument on how tribal people are more in tune with their feelings and instincts, or were at least less conflicted about their emotions

    how all the scheming, soulless creatures can't find dreamer's honey in the hive if it's right beneath the nose - Probably a reference to financial greed, specifically marketing, and how those who practice it miss out on the simple pleasures. MGMT have certainly criticized corporate control and operation in many other songs.

    and when the light is new the sky shows trembling cartoons - Not sure what new light is, perhaps dawn, but I feel the trembling cartoons refer to clouds and the shapes they form

    you don't need smoke to cover most of the world in a gloom - a final statement of how every is pessimistic and unhappy

    but here comes racer number 7 watch my fingers ripping out the lines if it looks like we could lose - kind of a shift compared to the last lyric, but I feel as though this line comes from a person who is trying to remove competition, and thus are greedy.
    Lyrxiconon June 18, 2013   Link
  • 0
    My Interpretation"Sometimes the windows combine with the seams in a way
    That twitches on a peak at the place where the spirit was slain
    One foot leads to another
    Night's for sleep, blue curtains, covers
    Sequins in the eyes
    That's a fine time to dine
    Divine who's circling, feeding the cards to the midwives
    Who love those alien days
    The nonstop alien days
    Ooh the alien days"

    I feel like this could possibly be describing a psychedelic trip, laying in bed, seeing various visual phenomena, things blending together, riding it out.. "The spirit was slain" could refer to ego death. Sequins in the eyes, the sensation that things are sparkly.. The alien days could be days where they quite literally feel alien to the world, because of altered awareness.

    "Must've skipped the ship and joined the team
    For a ride
    A couple hours to learn the controls
    And commandeer both my eyes
    Hey!
    Be quick dear, times are uncertain
    One month crawling, next year blurring
    Decades in the drain
    Monograms on the brain
    Decide what's working and what's moved on
    To the last phase
    The floodgate alien days
    I love those alien days
    Mmm... the alien days"

    This sounds like they could be talking about trying to grow out of their tripping Oracular Spectacular days on purpose, and reminiscing about them, almost longing for the simpler times. They feel distracted, "commandeer both my eyes", I think maybe it could refer to missing days gone by, feeling decades in the drain, what's been burned into their brain (reminiscent of The Handshake) and moving forward with what they like about things, and don't quite enjoy.

    "When the peels are down, it feels like traveling in style
    You don't need wings to hover forty ton stones for a mile
    And in the summer, virgin visions
    Mindless humming
    Numbers can't decide if the day's supposed to smile"

    The not needing wings to hover forty ton stones for a mile to me comes off like they're saying anything is possible if you put your mind to it, almost a mind over matter thing, and visions in the summer are superior in a way to trying to overcalculate everything, and that breaking everything down into pieces or being overcritical/analytical (numbers can't decide) doesn't make everything better all the time.. (can't decide if the day's supposed to smile)

    "Today find infinite ways it could be
    Plenty worse
    It's a blessing but it's also a curse"

    They might be reflecting on their fame, and how far it's taken them, and how even though they don't like everything and might have some regrets, it could be a lot worse.

    "Those days taught me everything I know
    How to catch a feeling
    And when to let it go
    How all the scheming, soulless creatures
    Can't find dreamer's honey in the hive
    If it's right beneath the nose"

    The carefree days of their youth taught them the most, how to catch a feeling to me refers to tripping, and when to let it go refers to learning self-control and setting boundaries with yourself.. and how it made them aware that so many people couldn't find happiness if it bit them in the ass (dreamer's honey right beneath the nose)

    "And when the light is new
    The sky shows trembling cartoons
    You don't need smoke to cover
    Most of the world in a gloom
    But here comes racer number 7
    Watch my fingers ripping out the lines

    If it looks like we could lose
    If it looks like we could lose
    If it looks like we could lose
    If it looks like we could lose"

    This end part is the part I'm least sure on what meaning I'd personally apply to it. This has all been my personal interpretation, and that's what is so great about MGMT. They purposely make their lyrics in a way that they say will empower the listener to apply their own meanings.

    The light is new, sky covered in cartoons could mean when they're back at the tripping feel-good times, realizing that people tend to make themselves miserable and create their own problems (don't need smoke to cover in a gloom) , and then maybe the singer refocuses on the trip.

    I feel like this album and song are very introspective, and I'm diggin it a lot. I'm gonna try to write up more interpretations while the album is pretty new.
    FractalRealityon September 25, 2013   Link

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