"Brief Encounters" as written by Alexander Paul Kapranos Huntley, Nicholas John Mccarthy, Robert Hardy and Paul Robert Thompson....
We are bored
We are married
We are young
On the edge of the city
The edge of Ambrosia
Rolls upon rolls upon
Rolls upon the tongue

A certain party
A certain cul-de-sac
A certain outcome
A certain piece of me

Car keys, choose your keys
Car keys, choose your keys

Outside alone
Crossing a perfect lawn
Could it be you
Could it be you
Could it be you
Or could it be
This is what freedom is?

We are brief encounters
We all lose our keys
We all choose our partners
We all choose our keys
Car keys, choose your keys
Car keys, choose your keys

Pull back
Pull back
Into the drive
Rigid in the matrimonial superking bed
Pretend to sleep
Pretend to sleep
Come on pretend
Yeah, let's pretend
Yeah, let's pretend
Yeah, let's

We are brief encounters
We all lose our keys
We all choose our partners
We all choose our keys
Car keys, choose your keys
Car keys, choose your keys
Car keys, choose your keys
Car keys, choose your keys
Car keys, choose your keys
Car keys, choose your keys


Lyrics submitted by flozn

"Brief Encounters" as written by Nicholas John Mccarthy Alexander Paul Kapranos Huntley

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Brief Encounters song meanings
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  • +4
    My InterpretationI posted this on the /r/franzferdinand sub-Reddit and thought it'd be useful here too.

    I think this song is amazing it sounds absolutely wonderful. I think it's definitely about the character's first experience of swingers' key party. I'm going to try and go through it lyric by lyric so it might end up being quite long. Apologies in advance...

    We are bored, we are married, we are young On the edge of the city, the edge of Ambrosia Rolls upon rolls upon, rolls upon the tongue

    I assume Ambrosia is taking the Greek mythology definition, Kapranos being Greek and with all the Greek mythology references in Trees & Animals. Ambrosia is basically consumable immortality. Anti-ageing cream for the Greek gods, making them look beautiful. It's served out by Nymphai/Nymphs which are minor youthful-looking nature goddesses.

    This very much reflects how the car-owner's keys at swingers' key parties are served out, causing the participants to feel youthful; rebellious, free and wild, sleeping about as if they weren't married. I thought the "we are bored, we are married, we are young" line was a bit suspicious. Shouldn't young married couples be bursting full of life, aspiration and love for each other, rather than boredom? I instead think it's referring to more mature people who've become bored with their marriage, but this swinging - or consuming of Ambrosia - is making them feel young and animated again. 'The edge of Ambrosia' is almost like the person is just about the reach the party, suggesting a bit of nervous anticipation, and I think the 'rolls upon' lyric which repeats itself kind of support this, as if the anticipation is building. I'm not entirely sure what is rolling upon the tongue. Perhaps he's literally talking about the word Ambrosia, as you can roll the R sound of the word on your tongue. Obviously tongue is a sexual thing in itself, so maybe it's tying in all the Ambrosia business in with the physical sexual aspect.

    A certain party A certain cul-de-sac A certain outcome A certain piece of me

    'A certain party' suggests that it isn't a normal party. 'A certain cul-de-sac' reassures me that the location is a residential area and amongst all these normal cul-de-sacs and normal houses, it's this one that maybe has a reputation or that feels special. Perhaps the party involves the residents of the houses in this cul-de-sac? 'A certain outcome' is quite vague and sounds a bit apprehensive, as if the character isn't quite sure what the outcome of the party will be, but knows that it'll be something significant, like a change in thinking or feeling. I think 'a certain piece of me' might refer to the fact that the person is providing a physical factor for the party, but it also sounds like the word 'piece' suggests part of the person's psyche; something they will soon be required to give up, feel separate from or even lose. I'm thinking probably the feeling of marriage solidarity or confronting and overcoming the taboo in their mind.

    Car keys, choose your keys Car keys, choose your keys

    Pretty straightforward. I imagine a bowl of keys being swirled around. As the lyric is repeated, it feels almost like there's pressure from people watching - as well as the mesmerising enticement as the keys circle around.

    Outside alone, crossing a perfect lawn Could it be you? Could it be you? Could it be you? Or could it be - this is what freedom is?

    The first time I heard the song, I thought this was about a married couple going to a key party, but because of 'outside alone', I think it's about a singular married person going instead. The lyric could also refer to how the character's feeling like they are in a drying-up marriage, feeling outside of it and very lonely. 'Crossing a perfect lawn' - he's walking up to the house. The lawn being perfect maybe evokes our stereotype of a normal functional household, what with the husband maintaining the front garden and having a sense of pride in appearance. The character's aware that this is indeed the home of a real married couple. The 'could it be you, could it be you, could it be you...' is an internal narrative as the person passes all the parked cars, wondering which one it'll be; which car owner they'll be paired with. 'This is what freedom is?' is quite simple to understand, I think. The person's questioning whether this is all there is, being temporarily free from their own relationship. It's almost an existential meaning-of-life sort of question. Is this all there really is to get excited about at this age? Is this what it's come to? Again, possibly reflecting more doubt and apprehension.

    We are brief encounters, we all lose our keys We all choose our partners, we all choose our keys Car keys, choose your keys...

    The 'we' lyrics collectively refers to key party swingers. They are all acquainted for a brief amount of time, losing their keys as they're mixed in a bowl. 'Brief encounters' might be a little play on briefs as in the underwear sense. They choose partners, which I think isn't referring to other swingers but instead their own marriage partners, because instead the next line is about them choosing the swingers (via keys). So essentially they choose marriage partners as well as choosing swingers.

    Pull back, pull back into the drive Rigid in the matrimonial superking bed Pretend to sleep, pretend to sleep Come on pretend, yeah let's pretend Yeah, let's pretend, yeah, let's...

    'Pull back' obviously has a huge sexual reference which doesn't need explaining. The fact that they're backing into the drive shows that maybe afterwards, the person wants a quick and easy escape. No faffing about with reversing in the dark. 'Rigid in the matrimonial superking bed' is quite vivid. I don't think 'rigid' needs much of an explanation either. The fact that the bed is 'matrimonial' reminds us that this person is doing it in somebody else's bed, moreover a married couples bed. The fact that it's a superking size bed suggests wealth, dominance and perhaps space for more people? I wouldn't be surprised. The 'pretend to sleep' line is interesting. I'm not sure what to make of it. The only thing that comes to mind is that the whole affair is shrouded in guilt and embarrassment; something that's best kept behind closed doors, not raising any suspicions. Maybe it's internal narrative, as the character is convincing themself that they're just going to bed with another person instead of adultering. 'Pull back' and 'pretend' is repeated, representing a repetitive motion (need I say more) and shows that the character keeps going to the parties. The 'come on' and 'yeah' is quite eagerly sung and seems like quite casual narrative compared to the rest of the song, which I think expresses the thrill and how accustomed the person is to swinging now.
    JayParmaron February 05, 2014   Link
  • 0
    Song MeaningThe song is about swinging, where couples unite and the partners have sex with another married persons.
    "car keys, choose your keys" "we all choose our partners" refers directly to it
    killevilrobotson October 04, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General CommentLiterally it's about swinging, yes.
    But for me it's more about being bored in an unsuccessful relationship, when everything became routine and monotonous. There's no love left, only habit and fear of being alone. With this happening swinging seems to be a solution to such state, but as the lyrics show it doesn't really help it just postponed the ending.
    Maybe the swinging represents the reality - choose your keys - we all have a right to 'choose our keys', but that doesn't mean, we have chosen the right one.
    Maybe also misunderstanding the right of chosing with being obliged to choose and behaving as others expect you to do (be in relationship, get married, pretend to be happy), which in most cases lead to being bored and unhappy in relationship.
    Loony59on October 30, 2013   Link

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