"They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back from the Dead!! Ahhhhh!" as written by and Sufjan Stevens....
I-L-L-I-N-O-I-S!
Ring the bell and call or write us
I-L-L-I-N-O-I-S!
Can you call the Captain Clitus?
Logan, Grant, and Ronald Reagan
In the grave with Xylophagan
Do you know the ghost community?
Sound the horn, address the city

(Who will save it? Dedicate it?
Who will praise it? Commemorate it for you?)

We are awakened with the axe
Night of the Living Dead at last
They have begun to shake the dirt
Wiping their shoulders from the earth
I know, I know the nations past
I know, I know they rust at last
They tremble with the nervous thought
Of having been, at last, forgot

I-L-L-I-N-O-I-S!
Ring the bell and call or write us
I-L-L-I-N-O-I-S!
Can you call the Captain Clitus?
B-U-D-A! Caledonia!
S-E-C-O-R! Magnolia!
B-I-R-D-S! And Kankakee!
Evansville and Parker City

Speaking their names, they shake the flag
Waking the earth, it lifts and lags
We see a thousand rooms to rest
Helping us taste the bite of death
I know, I know my time has passed
I'm not so young, I'm not so fast
I tremble with the nervous thought
Of having been, at last, forgot

I-L-L-I-N-O-I-S!
Ring the bell and call or write us
I-L-L-I-N-O-I-S!
Can you call the Captain Clitus?
Comer and Potato Peelers!
G-R-E-E-N Ridge! Reeders
M-C-V-E-Y! And Horace!
E-N-O-S! Start the chorus

Corn and farms and tombs in Lemmon
Sailor Springs and all things feminine
Centerville and Old Metropolis
Shawneetown, you trade and topple us
I-L-L-I-N-O-I-S!
Hold your tongue and don't divide us
I-L-L-I-N-O-I-S!
Land of God, you hold and guide us


Lyrics submitted by Nimbus the Kitten

They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back from the Dead!! Ahhhhh! song meanings
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45 Comments

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  • +3
    General CommentFor me this song is, in essence, about the impermanence of all things.

    Just look at the third and fourth lines
    "Logan, Grant, and Ronald Reagan
    In the grave with Xylophagan"

    Shows how great men like these are now laid low (xylophagan being a species of beetle.)

    He then turns much of his attention to even larger matters -how cities and civilisations can die.
    "Do you know the ghost community?"

    "I know, I know the nations past
    I know, I know they rust at last" -speaking here about how great civilisations can be laid just as low as the figures he talks about in the first verse.

    "They tremble with the nervous thought
    Of having been, at last, forgot"
    - I love these lines. He's talking again about how things which seemed so huge and permanent to people at the time eventualy were wiped up and forgotten. It's sort of like that Jospeh Stalin quote: "the death of one is a tragedy, the death of millions is just a statistic."

    In the third verse his thoughts of death peak when he things about his own death:
    "We see a thousand rooms to rest
    Helping us taste the bite of death"
    - here he talks about how we should be prepared for death having seen it so often, yet we never are.

    The places which are named in the choruses are places in Illinoise which are ghost towns. (Shawneetown being one of the more famous.) He's obviously done his research.

    I love how the theme of zombies ties the whole thing together. Night of the Living Dead was shot in Pennsylvania though so I'm not too sure of the reason...
    AIRPORTon August 29, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentOne of the best songs on the album in my opinion. Absolutely amazing.
    MixedUpConfusionon July 09, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentAlthough Sufjan Stevens brilliantly weaves religioun into each empty nook and crany in his songs, each song on his two "States albums" has a real world story which he is telling.

    In this song he is talking about a large number of towns in Illinios which have changed their names over years in order to change. These towns were engulfed in poverty and such, so changing their names was changeing their identity. If they were no longer the name of a town in poverty, they were no longer in poverty, right?

    This constant change of identity resulted in the people there being left rather displaced. They already had no job, no house, no lives, and now on top of that they did not have a city for more than a year. They lost their identities as the names changed.

    This song is the uprising chant of all of those disposesed citizens who were forgotten as a result of all the poverty and public policy. They are back to claim the lives and the towns that were theirs. They say, "Look out all you who reaped benefits from our untimely demise!"

    As the title states, they are neighbors. They are the people all around us whom we ignore, who we refuse to help. They are back from the dead and are here to judge us for what we have done or done none of.

    There is the religous undertone: honor thy neighbor, for judgement day is near.

    Sufjan Stevens talked a little about the history behind this song and others on a radio interview which is available as a podcast from "KPBS These Days."

    I'm not sure what the website is but I'm sure google won't fail you if you are in search of it.
    zachharrismenton June 26, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis song is specifically about all those cities named throughout: Kankakee, Evansville, Parker City, all the beaten down rustbelt towns across Illinois that have become forgotten (as the lyrics state). Eventually they will be resurrected. Its very similar in theme (though obviously not style) to his song about the unemployed in Ypsilante from Michigan. Its a very powerful song, and one of my favorites, since it functions on three levels (the superficial zombie level-which is fun, the rustbelt level, and the Christian resurrection level).
    kareyn01on March 28, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commentjust the name makes me smile.
    flybillisflyon July 12, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentMy own interpretation is that this song is about the general ressurection. If anyone's unfamiliar, the general resurrection is a belief that is common to classical Judaism as well as orthodox Christianity, which is basically that at some point in the future the god of Israel would resurrect the dead, with the righteous being welcomed into the messianic kingdom. (The whole obsession with the afterlife is a later mistake.)

    A lot of the imagery, as well as the terminology, in this song is taken from classical Judaism. The nations, in Jewish thought, was basically a word for the non-Jewish world. In the messianic age, Israel would be vindicated. This is where the lines 'I know, I know the nations past/I know they rust at last' fit in. The language about the axe is reminiscent of John the Baptist, who announced with very vivid imagery, including that of an axe being laid to the root of a tree, that Israel's god was issuing judgment upon his people.

    A lot of the imagery can be made sense of if I'm right, including the sounding of the horns, which was apocalyptic imagery for the arrival of the kingdom. It's kind of funny then that people focus so much on Sufjan's Christianity, which of course informs a lot of his music, when an equal amount of his imagery is derived, consciously or not, from the Jewish tradition.

    ... Of course, I could be entirely wrong and this song is actually about zombies coming to eat people. I dunno.
    blackemmaon August 17, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThat was really interesting and could be right blackemma. I dont know alot about religion so that didnt occur to me at all, but your explanation doesnt explain some parts to me. For example, when hes naming towns and says "you trade and topple us" and earlier in the song when he says "They tremble with the nervous thought Of having been, at last, forgot". I think he is talking about the old and the dead not being on the minds of the young enough. i think hes saying the past is important and everyone should study history and know history (clearly sufjan is interested in it being a folk artist and by undertaking the 50 states project and talking about the histories of each state for the album).
    These lyrics also make me believe that this song is about needing to remember the past, " I know, I know my time has passed
    I'm not so young, I'm not so fast
    I tremble with the nervous thought
    Of having been, at last, forgot"
    and these a little earlier
    "(Who will save it? Dedicate it?
    Who will praise it? Commemorate it for you?)"
    I think the last two selections are supposed to tell the young of today another reason we should remember the past is because we want to be remembered someday.

    - donald
    afoolintherainon August 24, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThat was really interesting and could be right blackemma. I dont know alot about religion so that didnt occur to me at all, but your explanation doesnt explain some parts to me. For example, when hes naming towns and says "you trade and topple us" and earlier in the song when he says "They tremble with the nervous thought Of having been, at last, forgot". I think he is talking about the old and the dead not being on the minds of the young enough. i think hes saying the past is important and everyone should study history and know history (clearly sufjan is interested in it being a folk artist and by undertaking the 50 states project and talking about the histories of each state for the album).
    These lyrics also make me believe that this song is about needing to remember the past, " I know, I know my time has passed
    I'm not so young, I'm not so fast
    I tremble with the nervous thought
    Of having been, at last, forgot"
    and these a little earlier
    "(Who will save it? Dedicate it?
    Who will praise it? Commemorate it for you?)"
    I think the last two selections are supposed to tell the young of today another reason we should remember the past is because we want to be remembered someday.

    - donald
    afoolintherainon August 24, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commenthey now, Kankakee isint a ghost town. It might as well be, but theres a good 60, 70000 people in the k3 area. I think that line in the chorus names towns with three syllables in Illinois, so it sounds good

    but yes. The song is amazing. and about the ressurection. With the obiligarty Illinois references thrown in.
    ilikestuffandyouon December 13, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthe ressurection being old Rust Belt towns, having been stricken with severe unemployment and degeneration after industry left, are rebuilding themselves
    ilikestuffandyouon December 13, 2005   Link

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