Doted on like seeds planted in rows
The untied shoelaces of your life
Nurtured all year then pressed in a book
Or displayed in bad taste at the table
Problems arise and you fan the fire
While there's a wild pack of dogs
Loose in your house tonight
Cut from bad cloth or soiled like socks
Add it up, and basically people never change

They just talk and make plans in the dark
Or make haste with ideas that can't help
But creep good people out
As you talk to me too much you're assuming
We don't always want what's right

Did I strike the right set of chords?
You're annoyed
The goal is to ignite you then move on
You feel ill at ease, you got no squeeze
And the wise-cracks won't make you more stable
You've learned you lines to scale and to time
Why must I remind you now
I'm only less able
Cut from bad cloth or soiled like socks
We're ordinary people, we can't help but to change

As we walk and make plans in the dark
Or make haste with the boy who can't help
But creep good people out.
As you talk to me too much you're assuming
We don't always want what's right

Two fallen saplings in an open field
Snow padding gently on an empty bench
An old woman's jewelry lying unadorned
Cold nesting robins allied for the first time
I know when you hear these sappy lines
You'll roll your eyes and say:
"Nice try."


Lyrics submitted by rudegirl

Pressed In A Book song meanings
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34 Comments

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  • +3
    General CommentOh, god. This is my favorite The Shins song. It's absolutely incredible! Not only the lyric content is great, the music is awesome. To hell with pop music. Give me something I can acutally THINK about.

    This song seems to be about all the people with social problems. The creeps. The people that don't know how to act around others. (I think we all know those sorts of people...) Keep this in mind as I try to explain.

    Let me go through this line by line (as I do every time);
    "doted on like seeds planted in rows," Gardens are very carefully kept, growing things, right? The growing seeds in this garden are "the untied shoelaces of your life;" the problems you keep tripping on, the "loose ends," which could easily be dealt with, but aren't. They keep these problems for a long time ("pressed in books"), or make them intentionally obvious ("displayed in bad taste...")

    "problems arise and you fan the fire/while there's a wild pack of dogs loose in your house tonight./.../add it up and basically people never change."
    All right. This is basically saying that they're making things worse, and that they enjoy it.

    I love this next line: "did i strike the right set of chords? you're annoyed./the goal is to ignite you then move on." The narrator just wants to get a charge out of the addressed.
    "you feel ill at ease. you got no squeeze./and the wise cracks won't make you more stable." To apply this to my own life as an example, I had a boyfriend once who had his own social problems. He didn't know how to control his emotions or how to react around other people. "No squeeze" would be a boy/girlfriend, and "ill at ease" because they see that everyone else has one.

    "why must i remind you now i'm only less able." Less able- in relating to others.

    The last stanza seems to be an attempt to show affection, but it comes off as cliche or dumb, etc. because they don't know how... "you'll roll your eyes and say, 'nice try.'"

    Man, some people are just so good at expressing themselves in these posts. I hope what I post is understandable.

    P.s. Keep on keepin' on.
    Greyshoeson December 11, 2004   Link
  • +3
    General CommentFor anybody who's curious, the title is a reference to the act of "preserving" flowers for an extended period of time by keeping them pressed in a book. Obviously the flower will die, but it will keep it's original appearance and beauty for a while afterwards. So, like many of Mercer's lyrics, this one is also a metaphor, in this case it seems like he's talking about somebody who has bottled up their resentment, depression, and anger for a long period of time ("doted on like seeds planted in rows"). After a while of nurturing their negative feelings, they've finally grown into something much worse (like disgusting flowers) and are now such a part of this person's personality that they don't want to get rid of them. So they keep them "pressed in a book" or they occasionally let them slip out (like displaying ugly flowers in a vase "in bad taste at the table")

    I think Mercer is trying to show how damaging this behavior can be as he's arguing with this person, probably a girl that he loved, and wishing that she hadn't held in all of her feelings.
    rebelquietlyon March 30, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"add it up and basically people never change"
    "we're ordinary people we can't help but to change"
    so what is he saying here?
    aDorkinSuburbiaon June 19, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General Commentpressed in a book is my favorite shins song, ever

    i think this might be about a few different things and also the same thing? maybe i'm stating the obvious here though. the song to me seems to have a lot to do with ignorance, and with the general standards of people. as if there is a specific condescending person (perhaps a parent as suggested in the first couple of lines?) or group of people this is aimed at. i'll get more specific...

    doted on like seeds, planted in rows, the untied shoelaces of your life. nurtured all year, then pressed in a book, or displayed in bad taste at the table.
    -this makes it seem like, "whoever" prided and stressed over the growth of these plants (children, whatever) only to press their dead remains forgotten somewhere or boast them tastelessly.

    problems arise and you fan the fire
    while there's a wild pack of dogs loose in your house tonight.
    cut from bad cloth or soiled like socks...
    -kinda implies, to me, overlooking important things for details. covering up the problem, when theres really a bigger problem. (its an idea im having a hard time explaining but something you understand if you read Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk)

    add it up and basically people never change
    they just talk and make plans in the dark
    or make haste with ideas that can't help
    but creep good people out
    as you talk to me too much you're assuming
    we don't always want what's right.
    -this whole part seems to be, like i said, a lot about stubborness, ignorance, an unwillingness to change, even for the better.

    did i strike the right set of chords? you're annoyed.
    the goal is to ignite you then move on.
    you feel ill at ease. you got no squeeze.
    and the wise cracks won't make you more stable.
    -this is maybe him kinda saying, yeah, that's right, i'm talking to you. blatantly admitting his attempt to antagonize whoever.

    you've learned your lines to scale and to time.
    why must i remind you now i'm only less able.
    cut from bad cloth or soiled like socks...
    -i think this might be him saying, maybe i'm not as good as you, according to your standards. you're trained, and i'm just... cut from bad cloth?

    we're ordinary people we cant help but to change
    as we walk and make plans in the dark
    or make haste with the boy who can't help
    but creep good people out.
    as you talk to me too much you're assuming
    we don't always want what's right.
    -still addressing that condescending attitude, maybe the boy is him, or anyone really that doesnt seem to live up to whoever's expectations. someone... cut from bad cloth, or soiled like socks. whatever.

    the whole last stanza seems almost like he's trying to... i dont know. I like greyshoes explanation of it. just look at that. i find it self-explanatory, i guess.

    actually as a whole, i like greyshoes' explanation, even though its entirely different from mine, it still makes sense :)

    so yeah
    -winter
    zerowinteron January 06, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Commentthis is one of my favorites too. it has a very personal meaning for me. thats one of the things i love so much about the shins. their songs can have
    such a different meaning for each person...like to me, this song describes my friend, and the things i try to tell her. shes the kind of person who loves being miserable, thrives on drama, hates change and is extremely judgmental, bitter, and jealous.
    The first stanza describes her well, she loves drama, gossip and problems, and spends every second talking and thinking about them. she nurtures controversy, then files it away so she can hold a grudge forever or gossip about it at the dinner table.
    she talks a lot and makes bogus schemes, and some of the bitter things she has said have definitely creeped me out.
    and the whole "did i strike the right set of chords?"
    thing really hits home. i try to tell her all the time about how she is; she knows im right and gets annoyed. i point out that making wise cracks and comments about people wont make her life any better, that normal people do change (she seems to think that changing means youre somehow trying to be somethng your not, i dunno), that all people are flawed (even her), and that if she continues to judge and criticize everyone she'll be alone for the rest of her life.
    and in the end she'll always deny it and think
    im a sap because i believe in being nice to people.
    so i wonder if anyone else can see, if you really look back at the lyrics, how perfectly it all describes her. i think its mostly just me relating songs to my own situations though, as i do all the time.
    NinaNinjaon April 29, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentrandom comparisons about materialistic things and relationships? i have no idea, but this is a very very good shins song.
    agnostic_rabbion June 14, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song reminds me of The Beatles...

    As for the meaning.... ??? I've got no idea... requires some more thought by yours truly.
    anna118kon August 23, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Commenthahah thats the first thing that came to my mind damn beatles. great song though :)
    poisonawellon March 09, 2003   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthey remind me a lot of the beatles too, not only with this song. they have the best sound to them tho.
    i'm thinking this songs about a guy trying to get a girl, but he's not good enough for her. but then she falls for him-
    "as you talk to me too much you're assuming
    we don't always want what's right."
    maybe she has a boyfriend
    bermudababe273on November 22, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI like your interpretations Greyshoes, they make perfect sense to me. I am actually surprised to see that I'm not the only one who loves this song. It is my absolutely favorite Shins song. I am awful at interpreting things because songs such as this have their own meanings for me, and probably only me. To me this song is about people in general, or maybe someone in particular, and that people just really aren't that great. Such as the line "We walk and make plans in the dark or make haste with the boy who can't help but creep good people out." Obviously talking about someone with physical disabilities or even mental that even "good people" won't make the time of day for. We really don't always know what is best. People never change but they change daily. I've said that myself. You see someone after not having spoken in 5 years, they look totally different, they act different, you rekindle the friendship or even romance but then after a few months you realize nothing has changed. They are still the same person they were years ago, for better or worse, usually the latter. Perhaps the speaker in the song is telling all of this to someone but they just aren't buying it, as the end of the song suggested "You'll roll your eyes and say nice try." (I love that line by the way). And to comment on the Beatlesqueness of The Shins...the very first time I ever heard them I got a sense of the beatles, from the very beginning. I completely agree with you all on that.
    evapor8edon March 08, 2005   Link

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