"Afterlife" as written by Win Butler, Regine Chassagne, William Butler, Richard R Parry, Jeremy Gara and Tim Kingsbury....
Afterlife, oh my God, what an awful word
After all the breath and the dirt
And the fires that burn
And after all this time
And after all the ambulances go
And after all the hangers-on are done
Hanging on to the dead lights
Of the afterglow

I've gotta know
Can we work it out?
We scream and shout 'till we work it out
Can we just work it out?
Scream and shout 'till we work it out?
'Till we work it out, 'till we work it out
'Till we work it out, 'till we work it out

Afterlife, I think I saw what happens next
It was just a glimpse of you
Like looking through a window
Or a shallow sea
Could you see me?
And after all this time
It's like nothing else we used to know
After all the hangers-on are done
Hanging on to the dead lights
Of the afterglow

I've gotta know

Can we work it out?
Let's scream and shout 'till we work it out
Can we just work it out?
If you scream and shout 'till we work it out?

But you say
Oh, when love is gone
Where does it go?
And you say
Oh, when love is gone
Where does it go?
And where do we go?
Where do we go?
Where do we go?
Where do we go?
Where do we go?
Where do we go?
Where do we go?
Where do we go?

And after this
Can it last another night?
After all the bad advice
Had nothing at all to do with life

I've gotta know

Can we work it out?
Scream and shout 'till we work it out?
Can we just work it out?
Scream and shout 'till we work it out?

But you say
Oh, when love is gone
Where does it go?
And you say
Oh, when love is gone
Where does it go?
Oh, we know it's gone
Where did it go?
Oh, we know it's gone
Where did it go?
And where do we go?

Is this the afterlife?
It's just an afterlife, with you
It's just an afterlife
It's just an afterlife, with you
It's just an afterlife


Lyrics submitted by mister care-too-much, edited by Mellow_Harsher, Bskiffington, Mikota, herr_gazebo, fluorine, DJMalkovich

"Afterlife" as written by Regine Chassagne Jeremy Gara

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Afterlife song meanings
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16 Comments

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  • +10
    General CommentActually listening to the lyrics, it seems like a love song more than anything.

    When love is gone, where does it go?
    and where do we go?

    It's when something is over, but you don't know what the hell to do with yourself. If you were ever really infatuated with someone to a painful degree, it's easy to see what the song is pointing to. There is a desperate sense of hanging on and demanding to know "can we work it out?"

    The point is that no, it doesn't work out. This song is just the desperation of losing love and trying to figure out what the hell to do afterwards. A different type of afterlife.

    I think this sort of says it all:

    "It was just a glimpse of you
    Like looking through a window
    Or a shallow sea
    Could you see me?"

    Could you see me? The lover doesn't even see you or recognize you, though you're hanging onto their image still.

    It's a great song, really.
    maill112on November 04, 2013   Link
  • +5
    Song MeaningI don't know if the changes I made to the lyrics will be accepted, but per Arcade Fire's own lyric video for the song, the last 4 lines of the last chorus should read "Oh, we know it's gone / But where did it go?" x2.

    This further cements the idea that the song really is about the dissolution of a relationship, and not a casual one at that; it's about the death of a life together, shared by two people who were very much in love but can't make it work anymore.

    They've followed bad advice (that had "nothing at all to do with life") and faced hardship ("after all the ambulances are gone", "the breath and the dirt and fires are burnt", etc.), which tore at the fabric of what they had.

    The girl (Régine) realizes that their passion for one another has disappeared and can't wrap her mind around it ("when love is gone / where does it go?"), even as her lover (Win) tries to find one last way to salvage what they had ("Can't we just work it out?"). The variation in the last chorus is especially important, because it shows the male protagonist finally resigning to his fate, which comes with the same consternation that his lover expressed previously: "Oh, we know it's gone / but where did it go?"

    They're stuck in a kind of afterlife - the muted, confusing present that comes after realizing the future you envisioned with the one you love won't come to pass after all.
    herr_gazeboon November 21, 2013   Link
  • +5
    General CommentTo me this song is referring to an "afterlife" as a post break up song, if you really love someone, then it's never really over which alludes to another song on this album "It's Never Over", you might fight and say bad things to people you love but you can always come back to that resolution with a loved one that everything will turn out alright. When love is gone where does it go? It doesn't go anywhere, love can not be destroyed, too many passionate memories can't just turn to dust, love doesn't work like that. Brilliant song
    livinlife94on November 24, 2013   Link
  • +3
    My InterpretationWell, I don't know the best way to word it but basically its about losing someone that means everything to you (not like breaking up, but actually them passing away) and how it's hard to accept it, so you take comfort in the ideal of an afterlife. Thinking that you'll get to see them again when you die. So your life becomes this dull and meaningless thing you just have to wait through until you get to see the one that means everything to you again in the afterlife. Only one problem with that though: The afterlife isn't real, and you just spent the only life you'll ever get waiting for something that will never happen. People think the ideal of an afterlife is ok because it gives some people comfort, but it's doesn't do that, it hurts them because it makes there life seem more meaningless. If only they could accept that they'll never see them again, it would make there life better, they'd still cry about it sometimes but maybe they could realize at least they where a good person and at least they got to spend part of there life together, and if all it ever was was that, It'd be worth it. But the afterlife ideal won't let you see that. "Afterlife, oh my god what an awful word."

    Oh, and the lyrics are a conversation between the writer that knows there's no afterlife, ("Afterlife: I see right through you like looking through a window") and someone in the situation above where they lost there loved one. ("But you say... If love is gone where did it go? Oh, we know it's gone, but where did it go? And where do we go?")

    And I think if you listen closely the last couple of lines when "It's just an afterlife" is echoed, the "F" sound goes away, changing to "It's just an afterlie".

    Could be wrong, that's what I think at least.
    UnabitiousKidon November 22, 2013   Link
  • +2
    Song MeaningVery postmodern. Seems to be about the negative connotations associated with spiritual things in general nowadays ("Afterlife, oh my God, what an awful word"), and all the different religion's constant bickering over who goes where and what draws the line, etc.
    The speaker seems very doubtful of whether or not there is actually an afterlife ("Afterlife, I think I saw what happens next/ it was just a glimpse of you, like looking through a window"), feeling that his imagination may be merely playing tricks on him. The line "When love is gone/ where does it go?," however, indicates that he is still conflicted inside because he finds it illogical for there to be nothing but this physical life. Love must go somewhere, even when the body decomposes. That is the basic problem with every debate on the afterlife: to some people it seems whimsical to assume there's an actual place we go when we die, but it seems illogical to assume there is nothing beyond this physical universe when we humans have such an innate desire to search for meaning and such a craving to know what's out there. Why are we designed this way? The argument circulates back to where it started.
    Radioheadfanaton October 22, 2013   Link
  • +2
    General CommentActually, this song is about the Greek mythological tale of the lovers Orpheus and Eurydice:

    greeka.com/greece-myths/…

    After their marriage, Eurydice is bitten by a snake, dies and goes to the underworld (Afterlife). Orpheus is so distraught that he descends to Hades and begs to have her back. His singing voice is so beautiful that his wish is granted. But he fucks up and glances back at her before they return to the land of the light, which dooms him to lose her back to Hades.

    The music video to the song shows a modern retelling of this tale, and the two lovers are referenced in consecutive tracks earlier in the album - Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice) and It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus).
    Nooshbagon February 20, 2014   Link
  • +2
    Song MeaningThis song is about the Greek tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice. A lot the album is about this actually (awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)). This Greek tragedy is the one where Orpheus's love Eurydice died and he went to hell and convinced hades with his music to let Eurydice back to the living world, under one condition. He could not look back at her until she walks out. of course he walks out then turns around to see her and she's slow so she was still in the underworld and then she disappeared forever, and Orpheus wandered around earth not knowing what to do, until he was ripped apart limb by limb by a pack of women. This song makes a lot of sense once you read up on this Greek tragedy. ty
    Bennin_Edulmenon December 02, 2014   Link
  • +1
    General CommentCould it not be about a lover dying leaving their other half to continue alone lost without them?
    Much like This Womans Work by Kate Bush
    Adamako666on May 27, 2014   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThere's a nice reference to Soren Kierkegaard's essay on the "reflective age"--which seems to influence the album's first song, "Reflektor"--hidden in this song:

    "It was just a glimpse of you
    Like looking through a window
    Or a shallow sea"

    Kierkegaard writes,

    "Action and passion is as absent in the present age as peril is absent from swimming in shallow waters. . . ."

    It seems that our postmodern lover-boy protagonist is given a glimpse of something real, albeit from a distance (I.e., "window", reflection off "a shallow sea"). He feels, perhaps, for a moment, that he might have gained access to his object of passion but ultimately cannot act because "it was just a glimpse of you [her]." The whole album seems to be about the difficulty of action for a population raised on "reflections," or "screens." The afterlife seems a romantic concept, which might shed our obsession with analyzing and making judgments despite these judgements inherently impeding our ability to do anything spontaneous, passionate, or worthwhile. But then, why should we fantasize an afterlife ("what an awful word") when we have a real one that is being neglected. Maybe we, staring our screens, have preempted the afterlife synthetically while eschew the one real life outside of our silly little heads?

    Butler seems to confirm this idea in an interview with Rolling stone. When asked about Kierkegaard's influence on the album, butler says,

    "It reads like it was written here, basically. He basically compares the reflective age to a passionate age. Like, if there was a piece of gold out on thin ice, in a passionate age, if someone went to try and get the gold, everyone would cheer them on and be like, "Go for it! Yeah you can do it!" And in a reflective age, if someone tried to walk out on the thin ice, everyone would criticize them and say, "What an idiot! I can't believe you're going out on the ice to try and risk something." So it would kind of paralyze you to even act basically, and it just kind of resonated with me — wanting to try and make something in the world instead of just talking about things."
    TyroneSlothrop, or Sloth Entropyon September 14, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI feel like this song is about the end of a relationship. The after life of a break up. Where does the love go when you break up?

    "And after this
    Can it last another night?"

    I feel like he's asking to work out the relationship because if not he will be lost in the after life.
    lemonlighton November 02, 2013   Link

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