I attack with love, pure bug beauty
I curl my lips and crawl up to you
I attack with love, pure bug beauty
I curl my lips and crawl up to you

And your afternoon
And I've been puking

I move so slow, a steady crushing hand
Holy shit there's a company in my back
I move so slow, a steady crushing hand
Holy shit there's a company in my back

Hide your soft skin, your sorrow is sunshine
Listen to my eyes
Hide your soft skin, your sorrow is sunshine
Listen to my eyes

They are hissing radiator tunes

I move so slow, a steady crushing hand
Holy shit there's a company in my back
I move so slow, a steady crushing hand
Holy shit there's a company in my back

You learn so slow, old radiant beauty
I'll curve my flight
You learn so slow, old radiant beauty
I'll curve my flight

Under your bended knee
And I will always die
I will always die
I will always die
So you can remember me

I move so slow, a steady crushing hand
Holy shit there's a company in my back
I move so slow, a steady crushing hand
Holy shit, there's a company in my back

There's a company in my back

Lyrics submitted by eastcidskl

Company in My Back Lyrics as written by Jeff Tweedy

Lyrics © BMG Rights Management

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Company In My Back song meanings
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  • +3
    General CommentI agree with the above, yes, it works on a relationship level, and the idea of spooning is lovely, though perhaps a little whimsical. I always assumed that "company in my back" was a suble referral to the band being unceremoniously dropped from Reprise Records after YHF, and Tweedy's stubbonness in changing his methods to facilitate commercial success.
    The holy shit realisation that there's a (record) company pushing him down, quashing his talent (a steady crushing hand).
    Now i look at it, the other lyrics do seem to refer to the songwriting process, he moves so slow, and the company wishes to rush him, concerned about spiralling costs. He attacks his work with love, he'll "curve his flight"; honing his art.
    Perhaps the old radiant beauty is the album itself, which he nurtures vainly in the hope we "will remember" him for it, and could better words ever be found to describe the album than "your sorrow is sunshine"? For indeed it is.

    What is the connection with "radiant" and "radiator"? the words are far too similar (and radiator far too random) for it to be a coincidence.
    Molesworthon January 08, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI think all of the comments above are missing - or eliding - the most important nuance of the song, to wit, that the company is "in" his back, not "on" it. One would certainly expect Tweedy to say "on" if he meant "on," no? It's certainly the more natural formulation. So here's my take: The company - literally, the company that has contracted him to make sales-worthy music - is operating him like a ventriloquist dummy. (Metaphorically, of course.) This is something he discovers whenever his production begins to lag and the studio costs mount - he finds that he is not really the one controlling the process. The "steady crushing hand" is.

    This brings about the tension of the song. Basically, the external pressures encourage the drinking and the drinking undermines the writing, which then brings about more of the pressure and more of the drinking. The drinking is referenced pretty explicitly in the small asides following the first and second verses (I'm excluding the chorus.) His reference to vomiting during "your afternoon" suggests that he's really not in any condition to work during the studio time that the company booked for him.

    The verses, meanwhile, are the artist-protagonist's mangled attempts to convert his ideas into useful lyrics under these very unfavorable conditions. (A very good suggestion from earlier in the forum was that Tweedy was actually trying to adapt a poem he had written. It was probably something that he had imagined would one day work as a song, but now finds the verses unaccommodating.) Lyrics like "Hide your soft skin", "your sorrow is sunshine" "Listen to my eyes" are presented as a triptych of hackneyed "writerly" cliches that echo in his head and bog down the writing process. He can't help musing that if his bloodshot eyes really could make sounds, as the nonsense lyric would suggest, they would be "hissing radiator tunes" - just a bunch of atonal noise. Almost all of the verse lyrics are gaseous, overwrought attempts to render his thoughts poetically: "attack with love," "pure bug beauty" - just like "sorrow is sunshine" or "listen to my eyes" - are ridiculously strained attempts at creating metaphorical meaning through ironic lyrical constructions. The bridge of the song (beginning with "Under your bended knee" - note that the dummy is no longer atop the ventriloquist's bended knee, but rather under it) is a final drunken lament, this time in the imaginative, despairing voice of an artist wallowing in self-pity and frustration. Yes, he will "always die" - perhaps very soon - and the suits will have nothing to show for their badgering but his memory. Is that how they would prefer it to be?

    So essentially I see the song as an elaborate plea to the higher-ups to lay off. The real cleverness here is that the plea is couched as airy poetry about the usual themes of love and beauty etc. The subaudition is that he can only do the artistic stuff he was presumably hired to do if the bosses would give him some space to work.

    One more note: I think it's always very important to pay attention to the instrumentation when trying to interpret Wilco. In "Company in my Back," the band basically foreshadows the theme of the song with the echoing start-stop cadences of the opening riffs. The instrumentation in the verses, on the other hand, are rendered in wistful, melodic tones, with the organ riffs drifting off into the ether.
    Aspenauton September 12, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI personally love the music, beat, and lyrics of this song. It always struck me, and still does. Now it means more to me, because I feel like he's talking about how he really cares about this person, but maybe he is afraid to commit. Maybe it's just personal experience shining through on my part. It's a beautiful song.
    jazzy09on December 17, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis might be weird or crazy... BUT I feel like pure bug beauty could be a couple of things. Like, beauty that most people would overlook, or something dirty almost. Maybe because I imagine some sensual yet animalistic sex involved in this scenario. But I mainly think it's about beauty overlooked. Well, that part of the song at least. :)
    jazzy09on July 28, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song was written from Jeff Tweedy's Poem: Pure Bug Beauty. Published in his book of poems (and I'll not say which poems) Adult Head.

    Pure Bug Beauty
    Jeff Tweedy
    I attack with love
    folded, my wings
    crawl up to you
    and your afternoon
    I’ve been puking

    you move so slow
    a steady crushing hand
    over my body
    a company
    in my back

    hide your soft skin
    your sorrow in sunshine
    listening to my eyes
    they are full
    of bloodful tunes

    you learn so slow
    old fleshy beauty
    I curve my flight
    under your bent knee
    I will always die

    so you can remember me
    dsteingasson March 28, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think this is a song about a man with a migraine condition (puking) who is addicted to painkillers and trying to quit them (monkeys "on his back"), and who finds relief and comfort in his lover.

    When he sees that she gets sad about his condition (your sorrow is sunshine) he feels her love most acutely. But in her sorrowful state, she doesn't expect his sudden passion (she learns so slow). He thinks she should know that look in his eyes, smouldering with love (hissing radiator tunes). He makes his moves, but still a bit slowly because of his migraine.

    He crawls up to her and "crushes" her, his pure bug beauty.

    I love this song.
    disparatehousewifeon May 12, 2009   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningNone of you guys have kids?
    I've found lots of ingenuous and imaginative comments, but I'm still convinced he's talking about a completely different matter: he's playing with a child.
    That's why he attacks with love, and curl his lips, and crawl up to him/her.
    It' the child that makes him move so slow, who feels the steady crushing hand, who's the company in his back. Who's got the soft skin that needs to be hidden from too much sunshine. Who can listen to an eye. If that's not what he intended, he inadvertedly created perhaps the most beautiful song ever made to listen to while you think about your baby child...
    evandroon December 13, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI always interpreted the refrain as a man who is unable to tear himself away from the rat race and he realizes that the he's suddenly a company man, his life has been spent doing exactly what he never wanted:

    I move so slow (from the) steady crushing hand,
    Holy shit, there's a company in my back.

    "In my back" I always interpreted as almost like a malignant cancer.

    That's just my thoughts. Lovely song.
    glennowillon June 10, 2015   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti truly think this is one of the best songs ever written
    jcbeck17on April 23, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti absolutely agree. you know how when you start really liking a song and you're doing something like maybe homework or playing a game or talking online or something and it comes on you just STOP and sigh and life is wonderful...for this song it never went away...i'll always stop and sigh...and it will always make my life beautiful ...
    finallyCLARITYon October 11, 2004   Link

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