Gold teeth and a curse for this town were all in my mouth
Only, I don't know how they got out, dear
Turn me back into the pet I was when we met
I was happier then with no mind-set

And if you took to me like a gull takes to the wind
Well, I'd 'a jumped from my trees
And I'd a danced like the king of the eyesores
And the rest of our lives would 'a fared well

New slang when you notice the stripes, the dirt in your fries
Hope it's right when you die, old and bony
Dawn breaks like a bull through the hall
Never should have called
But my head's to the wall and I'm lonely

And if you took to me like a gull takes to the wind
Well, I'd 'a jumped from my trees
And I'd a danced like the king of the eyesores
And the rest of our lives would 'a fared well

Godspeed, all the bakers at dawn
May they all cut their thumbs
And bleed into their buns 'til they melt away

I'm looking in on the good life I might be doomed never to find
Without a trust or flaming fields, am I too dumb to refine?
And if you took to me like
Well I'd a danced like the queen of the eyesores
And the rest of our lives would 'a fared well


Lyrics submitted by rudegirl, edited by frenzydiamonds

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  • +46
    General CommentOh, this song...this is what it feels like to be stuck forever in a small, dull town, bored to tears, and you resort to thoughts of lost love...("a curse for this town")...and the bitterness and anger is somehow toned down to a jaded apathy because what use is it to be angry? You curse everyone and everything you see ("all the bakers at dawn, may they all cut their thumbs and bleed into their buns till' they melt away") and the days pass and you don't even seem to notice, and you think your life could have been so much more if that one person had just stayed...(If you'd a took to me like a gull takes to the wind") And your self-esteem is gone entirely ("king of the eyesores," "too dumb to refine") and you reach your breaking point and you tell this person...five seconds later you realize you shouldn't have. ("Never should have called, but my head's to the wall and I'm lonely.") Talking to the person now, you realize they're happy, they're doing well, and here you are. ("I'm looking in on the good life I might be doomed never to find.") There's so much more than meets the eye to this song...The musical composition is so simple and monotonous-like the speaker's life-and the lyrics are so completely opposite. They're original and fresh, and thus all the more bitingly articulate-old cliches have lost their meaning in the face of lines like this-specific imagery painting a picture that's not quite coherent until the very end. I love this song.
    StarClaireon July 22, 2002   Link
  • +10
    General CommentRemember when you were a kid an you dropped food on the groud but ate it anyway because you didn't know anything about germs and dirt and disease because you're a kid and kids don't think about that stuff but then you get older and paranoid and sick and sad and angry and you notice all the crap in the world? This song wishes that didn't happen and warns against it.
    Laura75on April 23, 2004   Link
  • +5
    General Comment"What are you listening to?"
    "The Shins. Heard of em?"
    "No.."
    "Oh you have to listen to this one song. It'll change your life."

    Great song and I got it from a great movie.
    weezergirlon October 03, 2004   Link
  • +4
    My InterpretationI think it's about when you were younger you were happy and oblivious, but when you grow up fall in and out of love, see and experience dissapointment. You get angry and realize you aren't who you used to be. You want someone to trust you and take a liking to you, because you promise it will end well. Even after all of this you realize you are not having a good life and you are just seeing what a good life is supposed to be. you understand you may never have one, and that it is diffucult to even say what that means exactly.
    ashleym917on July 13, 2012   Link
  • +3
    General CommentSongs with this many levels are always fun to listen to.. Lots of interpretations people have come up with.. here's my take, line by line.. sorry if it's a bit wordy.

    > gold teeth and a curse for this town were all in my mouth.
    :: I've always had good teeth and managed to keep my disgust for this town to myself (in my mouth).

    > only, i don't know how they got out, dear.
    :: Somewhere through it all, I seem to have lost control of both. (I'm old, IE losing my teeth, and openly bitter)

    >> turn me back into the pet that i was when we met.
    >> i was happier then with no mind-set.
    Pretty self-explanatory, I long for the days when I had much less on my mind and was a slave (pet) to your love.. life was better then.

    >> and if you'd 'a took to me like a gull takes to the wind.
    >> well, i'd 'a jumped from my tree(s)
    :: We're all monkeys, after all (possibly another reference to pet.. IE pet monkey, very simple creature)

    >> and i'd a danced like the king of the eyesores
    >> and the rest of our lives would 'a fared well.
    :: I'm not a very good dancer, but would have danced my pants off anyway, even if it would have been an eyesore to watch me.. although dancing is just a term.. think more along the lines of obnoxiously happy celebration, all because you love me.

    >>new slang when you notice the stripes, the dirt in your fries.
    :: Someone else hit this right on the head.. "new slang" means new thinking, words, mindset.. "new slang" doesn't mean what the kids come up with to name their car this week.. on the contrary, "New slang" is how the old fuddy-duddy's speak.. "new slang" = "new to you slang".. thoughts you aren't accustomed to yet. Basically, "growing up".

    When you are a kid, you drop fries on the ground, you pick the fries up off the ground and eat them anyway, but when you get older, you notice the dirt.. and the stripes.. as in prison stripes that we all wear, enslaved in whatever life we are leading.. along with thousands of other little wonders life has in store for us as we get older.

    >>hope it's right when you die, old and bony.
    This is not a curse, it's a blessing.. here's hoping that you fare better than I.. that you don't notice the dirt in your fries until right before you die.. because then you will lead a blissful life, by comparison.

    >> dawn breaks like a bull through the hall,
    One of my favorite lines.. can only really be understood by someone who has had a significant revelation about something (anything) that is true and ugly in life.. when dawn (realization) breaks, enlightenment comes crashing through like a raging bull.. and it usually gouges you really good with it's horns.

    >> never should have called
    >> but my head's to the wall and i'm lonely.
    I think we've all been here.. brings a tear to my eye just reading the words, thinking about the "might have beens".. checking in on things that might have been is usually not a good idea, but we all succumb eventually. Ever looked up an old flame? A line from another "song" comes to mind.. remember the one titled "Sunscreen"? Remember the line "The older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young" Same general rule.. you will look them up eventually.. and find out they have moved on without you.. or died of old age.

    >> god speed all the bakers at dawn may they all cut their thumbs, and bleed into their buns 'till they melt away.
    :: This one is so interesting. I can't find anything to back this up, but I seem to recall something in the back of my brain that I got from "somewhere" (possibly one too many late night cable-tv fests?) that is telling me that a baker cutting his thumb is a good luck sign.. to be honest though, I have no idea what this line means.. though I get a good vibe from it, not a bad one.. *shrug*

    >>i'm looking in on the good life i might be doomed never to find.
    :: I see content people everywhere, but I can't seem to find it.. and I'm getting older.. very quickly.. and I'm worried I may die before I find it. I like the idea someone else said above, though.. once you see some of life's most ugly points, it's hard to be blissfully ignorant again.. that "good life" is forever out of your reach.

    >> without a trust or flaming fields am i too dumb to refine?
    Flaming crop fields is commonly used in agriculture to renew soil, destroy weed roots, and basically breathe new life into old dirt. I think trust should be self-explanatory.. and refine = change.. or more precisely, transform.

    As for why the last king is queen, who knows.. could be spiritual, could be just to mess with us... :)

    --
    Pat
    pfarabeeon January 23, 2005   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI think it's a mix of analogies - a potential relationship after a breakup, or more likely just a flirt at a party, the kind that has a lot of promise but goes nowhere\turns sour, has made the [shy] writer, see all the rotten things that for a moment he didn't notice - "when you notice the stripes, the dirt in your fries". Out of a moment of weakness, he wishes things would have gone differently with the relationship that broke up - "Turn me back into the pet that i was when we met" even though the relationship was a naïve one and not any good — "I was happier then with no mind-set"
    The writer thinks\blames his ex, that if she would just have been more compatible, more "right" for him - like the way a "gull takes to the wind" then he would have jumped out of his shell and all would be ok forever[maybe she blamed him for being shy, maybe they just weren’t right for each other…].
    But reality isn't that kind - "Dawn breaks like a bull through the hall" its early morning, the party is over, in a moment of desperation he had called his ex "Never should have called But my head's to the wall and i'm lonely" he curses the day, the town the signs of morning — "God speed all the bakers at dawn may they all cut their thumbs" and "Gold teeth and a curse for this town were all in my mouth"
    He realizes that he is an outsider — "I'm looking in on the good life i might be doomed never to find" that his emotions are crude and uncontrolled, too dramatic — "Without a trust or flaming fields am i too dumb to refine?
    And once again moves back to the illusion that if his ex would have been just a little more compatible he would have jumped out of his shell\outsidernes, and everything would have been ok…
    I think I might have over analyzed it to the point that I might not like it so much anymore, but there it is…
    OhadKaynaron November 09, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis is song is about wishing you were able to attain happiness when you can't. But it's suggested through whoever 'you' is, that maybe he could be happy.


    "i'm looking in on the good life i might be doomed never to find. - without a trust or flaming fields am i too dumb to refine?"
    kikujiroon May 04, 2004   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThe Shins write their songs like a poet writes poetry and thus it must be analysed like such. As a writer and reader of poetry (along with the help of a poetry interpretation class i am taking) i felt as if i could at least offer my take on the song. Take it line for line then stanza by stanza. But as to the meaning its about a couple who did not try hard enough to make things work. Try not to focus on the literal meaning of phrases like gold teeth and gulls taking to the wind. Gold teeth paint a picture of the character of the man and when he says like a gull takes to the wind he does not simply mean that he wishes she would take to him, but submit to him like a gull to the wind. If this change had been made he would have gladly come down from his tree (remember those, when you wanted to get away when you were a kid?) and danced (or jumped through hoops) for her like the king of the eyesores (sore eyes, the king of being with the same girl his whole life). Then the song changes (a NEW slang, slang being a term used in substitute for the actually, probably what he calls her) and the man who wished he was back in the infatuation stage of a relationship now changes his mood to a bitter reflection, how as a relationship moves on you see faults in the person (dirt in your fries) that you hope is all good as you grow old and die. The next bit of the chorus i assume was something of a booty call, if you have ever broken up with someone you truely fell for you would know how hard it is sometimes to get free of that influence. As for the bakers, you see that at dawn they are making their buns and the writer wishes them to cut their thumbs and bleed into their work, because as a baker the purpose in life is to bake and as a lover it is to love, you must put yourself into that purpose until you die. Also notice the references to food to descrbe the nature of dating, he found dirt in his fries, not something he has to deal with forever. As to the girl's response pay attention to the line with no flaming fields or trust, too dumb to refine? She could find nothing horribly wrong or completely right about this guy and she wonders if she was too dumb to make the thing something worth more. This song offers a bleak outlook on love and marriage (you also have to pay attention to the music, kinda melo) and is, in my opinion, pure genius. I love the shins. Anyways poetry is always one thing and one thing more (Robert Frost) but never everything at once.
    kwpnon January 04, 2012   Link
  • +2
    My Interpretation251 takes on the meaning of this song, guess I'll add another... My favorite songs are the ones that embed layers of meaning. Many of the meanings discussed previously make sense and I imagine many of the ideas were in Mercer's mind at the time of writing. But let's take this to a different level and look for another way to roast this chestnut:

    James chose an alternate path, alternate life for himself. He chose this course during those formative years when most of us fall in love, settle into a nuclear family, and settle into the 9 to 5 with two weeks vacation. Some would say aging but not living.

    James regrets that the love of his life rejected him. Maybe if he'd kept his mouth shut... Although, maybe if she had accepted him, he would have married and settled into the 9 to 5 working stiff lifestyle to support a family. Would that really have been better?

    The life he has chosen has been difficult. It would have been easier to live a life of quiet introspection if he came from a rich family or inherited a prosperous business. But maybe the reward is the vision you gain through the struggle; the perspective on life that few people understand, as most don't take the time to experience it for themselves.

    But James has, and when he looks out into his lemming town he is both sickened by everyone he sees, and a little jealous.
    LonelyHikron August 21, 2015   Link
  • +1
    General Commentthis song is so happy that it makes you sad. very moving, i am listening to it as i speak. it gives you this odd feeling of comfort, as if everything is going to end up ok. i like it.
    IAmTheEvenstaron September 21, 2004   Link

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