Alexander, our older brother
Set out for a great adventure
He tore our images out of his pictures
He scratched our names out of all his letters

Our mother shoulda just named you Laika

Come on Alex, you can do it
Come on Alex, there's nothin' to it
If you want somethin' don't ask for nothin'
If you want nothin' don't ask for somethin'

Our mother shoulda just named you Laika
It's for your own good
It's for the neighborhood

Our older brother bit by a vampire
For a year we caught his tears in a cup
And now we're gonna make him drink it
Come on Alex don't die or dry up

Our mother shoulda just named you Laika
It's for your own good
It's for the neighborhood

When daddy comes home you always start a fight
So the neighbors can dance in the police disco lights
The police disco lights
Now the neighbors can dance (the police)
Now the neighbors can dance (disco lights)
Now the neighbors can dance (the police)
Now the neighbors can dance (disco lights)
Look at them dance


Lyrics submitted by drinkmilk

"Neighborhood #2 (Laïka)" as written by Regine Chassagne Edwin Butler

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Neighborhood #2 (Laika) song meanings
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  • +15
    General Commenti know everyone's all about the clockwork orange alex, but there's this little known book called "Into the Wild", by John Krakauer, about this kid (an older brother) named alex mccandless who sorta abandons his family to live out on the road kinda like the beat poets and whatnot. Its a truly great book, and this song could easily be all about him. Its a true story too, did i mention that? anyhow, i'd love to hear from someone who has also read this.
    rockbassarton April 03, 2005   Link
  • +8
    General Commenti didn't know this at the writing of my first comment, but laika is the name of the dog sent into space by the russians with no intention of retreiving her back to earth.

    i can see how that ties in to the song...
    special 3lendon October 06, 2004   Link
  • +5
    General CommentIt's common knowledge that Arcade Fire named the album on which this song appears Funeral because they had lost several close relations during the recording. But I think those losses sparked a more general contemplation of the contribution of the older generations and how they both affected and were affected by the passage of time in the twentieth century. The Arcade Fire often uses their music to make sociopolitical statements, and nowhere is this more evident than in the "Neighborhood" series, in which each song seems to reference a different time period in modern history.

    In this light, "Neighborhood #2 (Laika)" is about the Cold War era. Alexander (which, as someone already mentioned, is a very common name in Eastern Europe) represents the oppressed youth who rebelled against communism, perhaps attempting to flee to the West, thus severing ties with his family.

    The lyrics are written from a child's point of view because the public was similarly infantalized under the communist regime, forced to submit to the will of "Big Brother." Like the ambivalent Soviet populace, which was caught for so many years between fighting for individual liberty and supporting the propaganda of the state, the singer initially encourages Alex to rebel ("Come on, Alex, you can do it") but is also torn by feelings of loyalty to the state and perhaps resentment of Alex for daring to turn his back on the "old ways" and escape: "For a year we caught his tears in a cup/And now we're going to make him drink it." Although his family partly admires and envies his determination, they're bitter that he's making them the target of police interest ("When daddy comes home you always start a fight/So the neighbors can dance in the police disco lights").

    The Eastern European rebel interpretation is further supported by the reference to Laika, who, as everyone correctly noted, was the dog sacrificed for "the common good" of the Soviet people and the glory of their government. Subordination of individual rights for the sake of society was a key principle of communism, and the song taps into this, obliterating the line between Alex's well-being and that of his "comrades": "It's for your own good,/For the neighborhood."

    The song also captures the suspicious, sometimes superstitious, and ultimately hopeless atmosphere in which Russia bred its communist revolution. In an era in which looking the wrong way at an official statesman could have you deported to a Siberian prison, the people quickly learned that "if you want something, don't ask for nothing," and "if you want nothing, don't ask for something." In other words, don't ask questions, don't draw attention to yourself, and don't expect justice or clemency from the state. But even as the government attempted to squelch loyalties to any outside authority, the Russian people continued to uphold their longstanding tradition of superstition and mysticism. Vampires, for instance, struck very real terror into the hearts of many Eastern Europeans, and someone who was different may well have been "demonized," whispered to be under evil influences, whether earthly or otherwordly.

    The video for this song provides conclusive evidence for the above interpretation. As some others have commented, it features quite a bit of Eastern European imagery, including a monstrous skull labeled "Mother" (as in "Mother Russia"?) leading a firing squad against the would-be defector, Alex. Notice also the Old World village, the use of the Cyrillic alphabet, the heavy use of the color red (the color of communism), and the Stalin-esque posters.

    Like many others here, I think that Arcade Fire may also be drawing a parallel between the communist regime and the behavior of the U.S. toward dissenters, especially in light of the content of the other "Neighborhood" songs. (See my comments on the other songs for further comparisons.)
    LyricallyInclinedon November 29, 2007   Link
  • +4
    General CommentIt refers to Alexander Supertramp and Laika, the first animal sent into space and shows their similarities in that they both left familiar territory with no intent on coming back.
    kibadunnoon December 16, 2010   Link
  • +3
    General CommentWell, personally I believe "Alexander" might be the great Alexander Supertrampp, the guy who ditched an unhappy life at home to the rural adventure of Alaska.

    "When daddy comes home you always start a fight
    So the neighbors can dance in the police disco lights"

    This is referring to the fights he had with his parents, and perhaps the narrator is his younger sister.
    ksmpianoon June 17, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI'm not too certain about what this song is about, I only know that it's f*ing fantastic.
    Though, from what I can gather:

    It's about a troubled boy (older brother, alex) who leaves/is kicked out of home (set out for an adventure). I'd lean towards kicking him out. For the past year, it seems his antics have been causing trouble (police lights, fights with his dad). His family have been somewhat supportive of him, trying to help him (catching his tears) but it seems that they've drawn the line, and decided that he should leave.
    The whole "come on alex - if you want something, don't ask for nothing" bit - I think - refers to how his family were supportive of him, trying to help him get his life back on track.

    If anything, his family have completely reversed, and by kicking him out they've forced him to drink those tears they've been catching. The whole 'don't die or dry up' sounds very twisted and sorrowful, as though they want to make him suffer as much as possible (sounds very bitter from the family - not loving at all - thrown out like he meant nothing to them (a stray)).

    Anyway, he seems to have scratched all pictures/names in an attempt to emptionally separate himself from his family (he probably feels betrayed, and deeply hurt).

    The Laika bit - which we know is the Russian space dog - also leads me to think he was forced out of home. Firstly, the whole "it's for your own good" bit is probably said just to make the family feel better about their choice (you know, when you say - it was for his own good... it needed to happen); whereas, "it's for the neighbourhood" bit it far more truthful - they through him out because the neighbourhood wanted it (whether this refers to just his family, or complaining neighbours, I don't know). Compare this with Laika: they Russians said what was happening was humane and safe; and perhaps, in some perverse way, good for the dog (your own good); but we all know it was done for the good of humans, and the poor dog suffered so we knew how to deal with space travel (the neighbourhood's good).

    Also, Laika was taken up off the street, cared for and looked after, and then cruely sent into space to be burnt to death. Even before she died, one of the scientists took her into his home for his children to play with (showing great care); but in the end, she was - with no emotion - sent to her death. Sound's very much like the cruelty spoken of in the song.

    That's my take on the song. Although, it's posssible the song is about the dog, and Arcade Fire tried to attach human qualities to the story - just to make it hit closer to home. This way, they just use the story of alex to paint Laika's tale in words that have far more power over us.
    ecfc90on February 22, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti think it's about a much older sibling that causes trouble and is torn by growing up and his family.

    "it's for your own good
    it's for the neighborhood"

    perhaps moving out and getting away so that no one wil have to up put with his mischief.

    "when daddy comes home you always start a fight
    so the neighbors can dance in the police disco lights"

    domestic violence maybe. damn alexander needs to calm down.

    that's just my interpretation, but still a very wonderful song.
    special 3lendon October 01, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentAfter not hearing this song for some time, I listened to it again the other night. It's excellent. I enjoyed reading everyone's comments. Regarding lyrics, the part about the brother being bitten by a vampire might also relate to the severity of the brother's problems/oddity. It's also the way that children - who don't understand - might try to explain a realistic disorder... The concern with the neighbors could be looked at as a genuine necessity or could it be that they're just embarrassed by him? After all, the whole “neighbors can dance in the police disco lights” (such a great line) suggests that the neighbors seem to revel in the spectacle of Alex’s transgressions... Also, could the "great adventure" be one of the mind - Alex losing his mind? There's such a joyous feel to this song, an almost childlike celebratory tone, but it's quite dark lyrically...
    Kittenclawon February 08, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe line about drinking tears reminds me of this line in Sylvia Plath's poem, "Daddy":

    The vampire who said he was you
    And drank my blood for a year,

    I really just though of The Arcade Fire when reading this, also because of the Vampire/Forest Fire song. But I thought I'd post it here.
    blueoftheskyon April 14, 2007   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI have known this song for a while and have only realised today that it is almost certainly a reference to "Into the wild", which has now been released as a film starring Emile Hirsch. It all makes perfect sense, as it was an obvious "great adventure" of a man who cut himself off from society and (although i'm not sure about the book) the film is from the POV of Alex's sister, hence the older brother reference. The references to blood describe Alex killing wolves etc for food. Arcade Fire would be well aware of this true story as, being from canada, they are fairly close to the alaskan wilderness.
    cakesofsquidon January 29, 2009   Link

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