"Oh Comely" as written by and Jeff Mangum....
Oh comely
I will be with you when you lose your breath
Chasing the only
Meaningful memory you thought you had left
With some pretty bright and bubbly
Terrible scene that was doing her thing on your chest
But oh comely
It isn't as pretty as you'd like to guess
In your memory you're
Drunk on your awe to me
It doesn't mean anything at all

Oh comely
All of your friends are all letting you blow
Bristling and ugly
Bursting with fruits falling out from the holes
Of some pretty bright and bubbly
Friend you could need to say comforting things in your ear

But oh comely
There isn't such one friend that you could find
Here standing next to me only my enemy
I'll crush him with everything i own
Say what you want to say hang for your hollow ways
Moving your mouth to pull out all your miracle for me

Your father made fetuses with flesh licking ladies
While you and your mother were asleep in the trailer park
Thunderous sparks from the dark of the stadiums
The music and medicine you needed for comforting
So make all your fat fleshy fingers to moving
And pluck all your silly strings and bend all your notes for me
Soft silly music is meaningful magical
The movements were beautiful all in your ovaries
All of them milking with green fleshy flowers
While powerful pistons were sugary sweet machines
Smelling of semen all under the garden was all you were needing
When you still believed in me
Say what you want to say and hang for your hollow ways
Moving your mouth to pull out all your miracle for me

I know they buried her body with others
Her sister and mother and 500 families
And will she remember me 50 years later
I wished i could save her in some sort of time machine
Know all your enemies
We know who our enemies are
Know all your enemies
We know who our enemies are

Goldaline my dear
We will fold and freeze together
Far away from here
There is sun and spring and green forever
But now we move to feel
For ourselves inside some strangers stomach
Place your body here
Let your skin begin to blend itself with mine


Lyrics submitted by PLANES, edited by MK217

"Oh Comely" as written by Jeff Mangum

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Oh Comely song meanings
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  • +8
    General CommentI agree that there appear to be some of his famous Anne Frank reference in this song, but I remember hearing that this song is about a girl he once knew, and he wasn't there for her in a time of need, and he has a lot of regret about it. He won't talk about it any more than that because it is so personal, so here is how I interpret what happened with that girl as he describes it in this amazing song: it seems to be about a girl who lives a really crappy life ("trailer park", her dad left her family and is "making fetuses" with trashy ladies). She thinks she has friends, but they aren't even there for her ("letting you blow", "there isn't such one friend that you can find here"). She tries to stay "bright and bubbly" because she has hope that things can get better ("chasing the only meaningful memory you thought you had left"), maybe because of him (the narrator of the song). Her memory may be of him as her first love--he took her out to football games, had sex with her, but then he dumped her. She was still trying to believe in him, but he let her down ("all you were needing when you still believed in me") and she is now totally alone.

    He's looking back on all of this now, thinking about how he let her down, and regretting it, wanting to make things better, but she is dead. And he wishes he could go back and make things better ("wished I could save her in some sort of time machine"), but it's too late. He now realizes he was actually her enemy, not her friend--There's something about how he sings "we know who our enemies are" that seems to say, "No, we don't, and sometimes the people we think are our friends are just the opposite".

    This is such a sad, beautiful song. I have thought for a long time that it is similar in tone and plot to an amazing novel called "The Book of Ruth". If you love this song, you might be amazed when you read the book by how strikingly similar it feels. And no, seeing the crappy TV movie they made based on the book doesn't count.
    RachWho?on May 26, 2005   Link
  • +8
    General CommentAm I the only one who notices his AMAZING use of alliteration? I really dont know how he does it.
    calculatinginfinityon June 26, 2012   Link
  • +4
    General CommentThere seems to be multiple story lines throughout the album. Two clear ones are A.) Anne Frank and B.) reincarnated conjoined twins. These two stories very well might merge. It's hard to say. I'm figuring all this out as I write it.

    As I piece the story together I find that the songs aren't in chronological order. If we change the order of some of the songs, a through line begins to present itself. So, this is me trying to understand the story of the conjoined twins and what, if anything that has to do with Anne Frank.

    1.)King of Carrot Flowers Part 2. The time before. Limbo. Purgatory. The rhythym here and the instrumentation create a feeling of being stuck in time. The lyrics are spiritual. "I love you Jesus Christ." Floating suspnended in a mother's womb.

    2. Oh Comely
    "But now we move to feel
    For ourselves inside some strangers stomach
    Place your body here
    Let your skin begin to blend itself with mine"

    "Inside some strangers stomach" could be how someone reincarnated as a fetus could look at their present situation. The "let your skin begin to blend itself with mine" line could refer to growing together in the womb as conjoined twins.


    3.) The King of Carrot Flowers part 3:
    "Up and over
    We go through the wave and undertow
    I will float until I learn how to swim
    Inside my mother in a garbage bin
    Until I find myself again, again"

    The birth. Being birthed. The music here is frenetic and charging. The imagery in the lyrics as clear as any on the album. "Until I find myself again" referring to being reincarnated. The next two verses the baby (ies) getting older. The following three lines, one from each verse, takes us through the first few phases of life:
    "I will float until I learn how to swim
    I will spit until I learn how to speak
    I will shout until they know what I mean."
    There is also something in the third verse about a "synthetic flying machine." I have no idea what this means. It's only of note because of another line in Oh Comely: "I wish I could save her in some sort of time machine." Are these thoughts related? I don't know.

    4.) The King of Carrot Flowers Part 1:
    "When you were young you were the king of carrot flowers." This song also has some of the most straightforward lyrics on the album.

    It's about two young people who shared a (shitty) childhood (twins? brother and sister?) and how they dealt with it (imagination, solace in each other, etc.)
    "And your mom would stick a fork right into daddy's shoulder
    And dad would throw the garbage all across the floor
    As we would lay and learn what each other's bodies were for

    And this is the room
    One afternoon I knew I could love you
    And from above you how I sank into your soul
    Into that secret place where no one dares to go"
    The two seemed to have shared a sexual relationship of some sort. (Also noteworthy but ambiguous is the referring to "your" mother, but when talking about the father, just saying "Dad".) It also could be that the mother and father in this song are talked about more in Oh Comely: "Your father made fetuses with flesh licking ladies, While you and your mother were asleep in the trailer park".

    5.) In the Aeroplane Over the Sea:
    One song on the album that potentially seems like a stand alone, but if you listen to the lyrics with the conjoined twins theme in mind, there are some interesting connections:
    "What a beautiful face I have found in this place; Let me hold it close and keep it here with me.
    And one day we will die and our ashes will fly. Love to be in the arms of all I'm keeping here with me."
    Just a selection of lyrics from the song. Didn't to want to post all of them. Particularly of note, expecially when trying to build the conjoined twins theme is the last line above "love to be in the arms of all I'm keeping here with me."

    6.) Two-Headed Boy: (the events in this song are out of chronology, much like the entire album)
    Upon first listening I assumed two-head boy to be symbolic for something else (someone consumed with sex, someone who's bi-polar, etc.) but I now see that it's possible the title is meant to be taken literally and the two-headed boy refers to a set of conjoined twins. In this light, I believe the second verse and the third verse are about the twins enjoying life and each other's company\falling in love:

    "Two headed boy
    Put on Sunday shoes
    And dance round the room to accordion keys
    With the needle that sings in your heart
    Catching signals that sound in the dark
    Catching signals that sound in the dark
    And in the dark we will take off our clothes...
    Two headed boy
    With pulleys and weights
    Creating a radio played just for two
    In the parlor with a moon across her face
    And through the music he sweetly displays
    Silver speakers that sparkle all day"

    I believe the chorus is about the twins having surgery to seperate them (likely against their will) and one of the twins dies during the procedure:

    "We will take off our clothes
    And they'll be placing fingers through the notches in your spine
    And when all is breaking
    Everything that you could keep inside
    Now your eyes ain't moving,now
    They just lay there in their climb"

    The last line of the third verse also support this: "Made for his lover who's floating and choking with her hands across her face."

    The first verse is a case of en media res. The song starts with the twin already dead and the boy being alone in his room, reaching out and trying to connect with her:

    "Two headed boy
    All floating in glass
    The sun it has passed
    Now it's blacker than black
    I can hear as you tap on your jar
    I am listening to hear where you are
    I am listening to hear where you are"

    The fourth verse is the boy saying goodbye to his sister/love:
    "Two headed boy
    There is no reason to grieve
    The world that you need is wrapped in gold silver sleeves
    Left beneath Christmas trees in the snow
    And I will take you and leave you alone
    Watching spirals of white softly flow
    Over your eyelids and all you did
    Will wait until the point when you let go"

    6.) The Fool: A funeral dirge.

    7.) Holland 1945:
    "The only girl I have ever loved...." and he then goes on to describe Anne Frank (but then they buried her alive with just her sister at her side and only weeks before the guns all came and rained on everyone)
    So if the narrator of this song is the same narrator from the first 5 songs, then it stands to reason that the only girl he ever loved is his twin and is also Anne Frank. So was Anne Frank reincarnated as his twin sister? Some lines that support this:

    In the Aeroplane Over the Sea: "Anna's ghost all around, Hear her voice as it's rolling and ringing through me."
    Oh Comely: I wish I could save her in some sort of time machine.
    Ghost: Ghost, ghost I know you live within me
    I feel you as you fly
    In thunder clouds above the city
    Into one that I love"
    "And she was born in a bottle rocket, 1929" (Anne Frank was born in 1929 and died in 1945, just a couple of months before the allied forces invaded the beaches at Normandy i.e. only weeks before the guns all came and rained on everyone.)

    (Also from Ghost) "With all that was left within me
    Until we tore in two
    Now wings and rings and there's so many
    Waiting here for you."

    Until we tore in two could refer to their seperation talked about in two-headed boy.)

    To be honest, this is just one possible theme in album with many themes. I haven't been able to really crack (yet) Oh Comely and Two Headed Boy part 2. I have a feeling that a lot of the answers to the mystery that is this album lie within those two songs.

    Any thought? Do you agree there is a conjoined twins theme? Reincarnation? Is it meant to be taken literally or just symbolic? Share what you think. This is the most complex, layered album I have ever listened to, and I love that no matter how many times I've heard it, I discover something new with each listen.
    R2kon June 28, 2012   Link
  • +3
    General CommentWho could possibly decipher the stream of consciousness that flows from the mouth of Jeff Mangum? i have no idea what this song means, but it blows me away. it is such a powerful song in 2 movements. Jeff Mangum takes the ugly and makes it beautiful in an ugly way. there's a lot of talk of semen, death and reincarnation. but without a doubt, Neutral Milk Hotel is one of the most interesting and innovative bands I've ever heard.
    juan_the_owlon May 22, 2002   Link
  • +3
    General CommentWOW. Does no one seriously get this?
    I'm not claiming to absolutely know what this song is about, but here's a wild guess: a random, trashy girl has sex with a man living a shit hole of a home with his family. She's insignificant, it seems, and their reltionship is purely sex out of desperation. I imagine he's older and disgusting and she's this 'bright, bubbly thing'.

    "Your father made fetuses
    With flesh licking ladies
    While you and your mother
    Were asleep in the trailer park
    Thunderous sparks from the dark of the stadiums
    The music and medicine you needed for comforting
    So make all your fat fleshy fingers to moving
    And pluck all your silly strings
    And bend all your notes for me
    Soft silly music is meaningful magical
    The movements were beautiful
    All in your ovaries
    All of them milking with green fleshy flowers
    While powerful pistons were sugary sweet machines
    Smelling of semen all under the garden
    Was all you were needing when you still believed in me "

    The relaltionship is purely sexual trash. Perhaps the relationship broke off, hence 'when yous till believed in me' - when they're having the affair. The man is probably intensely obsessed with her, his sexual energy totally focused on this young girl. He wishes he could be with her 'save her in a time machine'.

    Again, she's insignificant, 'buried with...500 families'. She's trash, just a person. But their primal, sexual connection left them together.

    The Goldaline lines seem to be about Siamese twins, but perhaps his infatuation with her is maternal as well. It's almost Freud-like, a sexual, phallic obsession. The semen, the ovaries. It's so primal and natural. Impregnation, being a twin (being together forever [Siamese]), an affair in a bored marriage, obsession, a revival of youthful sexual hormones, 'know who your enemies are' (she has moved on from their affair). etc. more later.
    fugazion November 21, 2004   Link
  • +3
    General Commenti believe that this song is an ironic juxtaposition between beauty and rancor/impurity. the title itself implies a certain degree of attraction and attachment to the serenaded. the lyrics, however, suggest sexual perversion. instead of reflecting the tenderness of the title, the lyrics and the contrasting imagery of natural beauty [the asexual reproduction of flowers]and human sexual corruption imply an inherent flaw in human nature. the emphasis upon the repulsion of the female sexuality suggests guilt, sexual repression, and/or bitterness on the part of the male narrator. the repitition of "pretty" and "beautiful" followed by unpleasant imagery and diction further cements this concept. even the most natural aspects of human nature can be, and are, perverted. this leads to the last couple stanzas which suggest an inhumane atrocity and further veil any purity in the human race, or so viewed by the speaker.

    so, yeah, i think that's pretty much what the song is saying... heh.
    autumncassidyon May 18, 2010   Link
  • +3
    General CommentAnne Frank and semen
    TheOneJudgeon June 01, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General Commentugh, this is such a terribly wonderful epic song.
    PLANESon October 05, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General CommentIf you turn about the volume very loudly, you hear at the end of the song a man in the background yell "holy shit!"

    I think that about sums it up.

    This could possibly be the greatest song I have ever heard in my entire 17 years of existence, not to mention the greatest band. Jeff Mangum is pure genius.
    xReadysetSTABon June 17, 2003   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThe guy who yells "holy shit!" at the end of the song is Jeff's HS friend and Apples In Stereo frontman Robert Schnider. I was talking to his wife (also of Apples In Stereo) on a message board and she said that Robert yells "holy shit!" at the end not cause of how good the song was but because he managed to play all 8 minutes of the song without screwing up. That kinda demystifies the song a bit. I don't know if that's true but I perfer the story that he yells it cause the song is so amazing.
    wingedfeetxcon March 30, 2005   Link

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