"Australia" as written by and James Mercer....
Time to put the earphones on?

La la la la
La la la la
La la la la

(Born to) Born to multiply
Born to gaze into night skies
All you want's one more Saturday
Well look here until then
They gonna buy your life's time
So keep your wick in the air and your feet in the fetters
'Til the day we come in doing cartwheels
We all crawl out by ourselves
And your shape on the dance floor
Will have me thinking such filth I'll gouge my eyes

You'd be damned to be one of us, girl
Faced with a dodo?s conundrum
I felt like I could just fly
But nothing happend every time I tried

Woo, ooh!

A duotone on the wall
The selfless fool who hoped he'd save us all
Never dreamt of such sterile hands
You keep 'em folded in your lap
Or raise them up to beg for scraps
You know he's holding you down
With the tips of his fingers just the same

Well, you'll be pulled from the ocean
But just a minute too late
Or changed by a potion
And find a handsome young mate for you to love

You'll be damned to pining through the windowpanes you know
You'd trade your life for any ordinary Joe's
Well, do it now or grow old
Your nightmares only need a year or two to unfold

Been alone since you were twenty-one
You haven't laughed since January
You try and make like this is so much fun
But we know it to be quite contrary

La la la la la la la

Dare to be one of us, girl
Faced with the android's conundrum
I felt like I should just cry
But nothing happens every time I take one on the chin
You're Himmler in your coat you don't know how long I've been
Watching the lantern dim starved of oxygen
So give me your hand and let's jump out the window

La la la la la
La la la la
La la la la la
La la la la
La la la la la
La la la la
La la la la la

Lyrics submitted by heyheyhey111, edited by honeybee13, yaiir, Gryphoning, SoWhy, pinkredrabbits, lekawa, ydepth, pavelkomarov, boywithdreams

"Australia" as written by James Mercer

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Australia song meanings
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  • +10
    My InterpretationOK, I am seeing too many people way off the mark with their interpretations. In terms of lyrics, listen to the song on youtube where there is a live version, he usually sings slower.

    So lets hear it from the horses mouth. This song is about WORK. Working a 9-5, 5 days a week and being miserable until you die. Australia was originally a PRISON COLONY where they sent convicts to work in work camps and where they couldn't escape. Listen to So Says I for similar themes.

    Interview with James Mercer nerve.com/content/… :
    Let's talk about your lyrics. I've never liked a band more in which I understood the songs so little. For instance, one of my favorite songs on the album is "Australia." ::
    Well that song isn't about Australia, first of all. That's from my memories of working in offices. I've had a hundred different jobs, and there is a special kind of sickness doing a job in an office. I was a bookkeeper and a secretary, and there is something so horribly boring and defeating about it. That song is also about this woman from Texas who was just awful, a racist and a miserable person. I felt sorry for her. In Australia, she's Himmler. So it's partly me wondering, "Is this what humans are meant to be doing?" You're in this fucking cage and there's people you can see through the window and you see the gardener and you're so fucking jealous.
    OK lets look at the song again:
    Born to... Born to multiply?
    Born to gaze into night skies? <-------what is the meaning of life?
    All you want’s one more Saturday <------ all you look forward to is the weekend
    Well look here until then,
    They’re gonna buy your life's time. <---- your boss pays for your time
    So keep your wick in the air and your feet in the fetters <---wick=candle=hopes and dreams. Fetters are what they would hold convicts in.
    'Till the day... <-------Till the day YOU DIE
    You come in doing cartwheels <---so full of hope and energy
    We all crawl out by ourselves. <----which gets sucked out of you
    And your shape on the dance floor <--- dancing is expression
    Will have me thinking such filth and gouge my eyes <----(but you look so depressed that I cant look any more)

    You’d be damned to be one of us girl
    Faced with a dodo’s conundrum
    I felt like I could just fly
    But nothing happened every time I try <--- dodo, a fat flightless bird that was hunted to extinction. you have hopes and dreams that get crushed as you grow older.

    Wooo, ooooh!

    A dual-tone on the wall
    A selfless fool who hoped he’d save us all <-people who try to make the world better...
    never dreamt of such sterile hands<------dont realise nobody wants to get their hands dirty
    You keep 'em folded in your lap, <-nobody bothers to rise up and make the world better
    Raise them up to beg for scraps<- all you do is keep going to work under your boss who pays you 'scraps' ie nothing
    You know he's holding you down
    With the tips of his fingers just the same <- and is controlling you by doing this

    Well you'll be pulled from the ocean<--- now mercer is looking at the possibilities.
    But just a minute too late
    Or changed by a potion
    You’ll find a handsome young mate for you to love<---will it be too late for you or will you escape and find a happy ending?

    You'll be damned to pining through the windowpanes,<-stuck in the office, watching life go by...
    You know you'll trade your life for any ordinary Joe<--you wish youd be able to get rid of it all and live a happy life. a 'gardener' from the interview linked above.
    'Well do it now or grow old<--escape now! or itll be too late!
    Your nightmares only need a year or two to unfold<- You will be old sooner than you think, life passes by quickly

    Been alone since you were twenty-one <- this stanza is pretty obvious. you pretend as if you are happy but you are not.
    You haven't laughed since January
    You try and make of this as so much fun
    But we know it to be quite contrary

    La la la la la la la

    Dare to be one of us girl
    Faced with the android's conundrum
    I felt like I should just cry
    But nothing happens every time I take one on the chin<- android=robots=no emotions= you will become numb to life
    Yeah, Himmler in your coat, you don't know how long I've been<- himmler= evil nazi boss.
    Watching the lantern, starved of oxygen<-lantern starved of oxygen= lamp in the mines starved of oxygen. need fresh air.
    So give me your hand and let's jump out the window<- Escape...FREEDOM!
    yaiiron February 01, 2013   Link
  • +7
    General CommentDefinitely agree that this is the most catchy of the tunes off the new album. Love the melody and rhythm to this one.

    To me it kind of speaks to the state of attention deficit modern society in the first verse. It speaks of forgetting our essential nature: "Born to multiply...", but he emphasizes trying to remember to be happy and vital. I think "All you want's one more Saturday" is evidence of this. We all want to put off responsibility, and just have fun. "They're gonna buy your nice time" is about selling yourself to the system, having a job. Mercer lends his advice on how to stay happy, and if you can "keep your wick in the air and your feet in the fetters" then you will eventually "come in doing cartwheels". At that point you will be so free that the sight of a gorgeous girl on the dancefloor will be overwhelming.

    By telling the girl she would be damned to join their ranks, he is advising against overthinking things, like him and his crew do. He wants his mind to be able to fly free and clear, and unfettered, but nothing happens whenever he tries to let go.

    The lyrics in the next verse are very interesting to me. I think they again reflect our situation in society as part of the masses. The selfless person thinks that they can fight the system and save the people. The "man" is holding you down so all you can do is keep your hands folded and wait to beg for scraps.

    "But you'll be pulled from the ocean, but just a little too late..." meaning even if you do break free it won't matter, life will never be as normal as you'd like it to be. Thus the teasing last line: "You’ll find a handsome young mate for you to love."

    Another set of great lyrics in the bridge. The "windowpanes you know" are your own limitations, and you will be damned to continue suffering by them. But at the same time he says you may just as easily "trade your life for any ordinary Joe", get married, settle down and forget all your idealistic behavior. I think he might be saying basically you're damned if you do, and you're damned if you don't.

    In the last verse he is appealing to his partner, but this time he's daring her to jump into this world of doubt and constant questioning. His ultimate solution is for her to just "give me your hand and let's jump out the window".

    I'm not saying this is what Mercer meant by it, but rather my take on things. The Shins continue to amaze me. Some of the most amazing lyrics I've ever heard, up there with the likes of Morrissey and Belle & Sebastian. On Chutes Too Narrow every song has a unique feel to it, but the music on this album took a few listens to grow on me, especially because whatever effect they are using on his voice seems to be used on most of the songs, giving the songs more coherence as a whole piece than previous albums. Basically, it didn't sound very "Shinzy" to me on the first listen. But oh how it grows. Best band in America right now!!!
    G-Farbulouson December 28, 2006   Link
  • +6
    General Comment"android's conundrum" - to live but never be alive.
    As in the "dodo's conundrum" earlier - to be a bird, but never able to fly.

    Loving the new album, addicted already.
    away we drifton October 24, 2006   Link
  • +5
    General CommentI think that in this song the speaker is someone who is single and is trying to talk a girl who is tied down into freeing herself. He says that we're born to multiply, talks about how she wants one more Saturday, etc. Then he talks about how she's tied down and has to pine through windowpanes and about how she's kidding herself thinking things are still fun being beholden to someone else. Even though he's trying to convince her to join the ranks of the free though, he's doesn't seem so sure himself if his way of life is better; he may be the one kidding himself and might really feel like he's of a dying breed as he gets older and all the other people around him start settling down. His motives for trying to convince the girl to free herself from her relationship with an ordinary joe may actually be selfish; he wants her to be "free", but "free" with him.
    musiclover2223on November 03, 2006   Link
  • +4
    General CommentI laugh everytime at the "TIME TO PUT ZE EARPHONES ON!!" part.
    ENEPon January 23, 2007   Link
  • +3
    General Commentthis is just my opinion

    This song is about never giving up on your dreams, or at the very least what a sad, pointless, circuitous life you might live if you do. Australia is a very remote place to most people in the world, a place I think many of us would be overwhelmed to be lost in. Similarly a life without dreams, or at the very least, without difficult, maybe unrealistic goals is a more real, visceral plain we wouldn’t want to be stuck on.

    Born to multiply signifies pointless existence, life as merely a way of preservation, of keeping the human race alive. Once you realize this, you want more out of life and become born to gaze into night skies, meaning you dig deeper into life’s mysteries, even though you might not find anything. At the very least you are aware of the mask of merely being alive to reproduce, and you’re doing something about it by searching the skies and thinking and as a result forming dreams and creative, expressive plans.

    Saturday represents your dreams. We always want more Saturdays, we always want more freedom, more time for ourselves. And our dreams, goals, allow us to be distracted in the present, through school or work or even family and religion at times cuz we know that what we are working for is that glimmer at the end, that light that will make all of our efforts seem relevant and worthwhile. Which is why we sell ourselves (to people willing to “Buy your life’s time”) through work. Mercer advises us to ” keep your wick in the air and your feet in the fetters” - your dream (here the metaphor is a burning candle) alive and in the air while you work (fetters are foot restraints, so he’s saying that while you’re tied down by your job, you still have your dream glowing brightly).

    Here’s where the trouble comes. You cant keep up your dreams and live the happy, normal existence that is expected of you by your family and friends. They all expect you to be a lawyer, so what are they going to say when you express desire to be a songwriter? Or a dancer? Or a painter or artist or freelance writer?? Whatever your dream is, it’s completely incompatible with what they want and expect out of you. You cant have both, it’s either one or the other. I think Mercer is saying you should go with your dreams and not what’s expected of you or you’ll only live to regret it. The lyric “your shape on the dance floor will have me thinking such filth I'll gouge my eyes” means you’re seeing someone beautiful, someone free and wild that might tempt you to settle down and start a civilized, normal life, (and in doing so trick you into thinking you can have both) but you quickly gouge out your eyes, forget what you’ve seen, because that’s just a challenge you need to overcome. Because if you settle down, “You’ll be damned to be one of us faced with the dodo’s conundrum” (of being a flightless bird), and every time you try to fly away to go realize your dreams, nothing will happen.

    “Will you be pulled from the ocean?” means will you be rescued from settling down, but find that it’s just a minute too late and you can no longer dream, or maybe be “changed by a potion” that’ll find you “a handsome young mate to love” and thus you’ll be settled with nothing to dream about. You don’t want that., cuz if that’s what you choose, then “You’ll be damned to pining through the window panes” and you’d “trade your life for any ordinary joe’s,” realizing what they have is so much more valuable and important than what you have and it’s not something you want to lose.

    The last paragraph is the character (Mercer? Probably not) thinking over the fact that he chose to settle in what’s expected instead of following his dreams and now he’s faced with the “android’s conundrum” of living but not being alive (How you can really be alive if you have no dreams??? They’re what keep us moving from one day to the next) and he cant even cry about it, all he does is sit there “watching the lantern dim” and being “starved of oxygen,” meaning growing older and more upset and feeling more trapped like he’s running out of oxygen until he cant take in any more and just jumps out the window, leaves his stifling life of routine to follow his dreams.
    NewLibertineon April 03, 2007   Link
  • +3
    General CommentAustralia, written by The Shins’ James Mercer, is a story of a woman that has lost all of her dreams and ambitions, and therefore leads a pointless life. The girl uses the ideas of religion and love to provide a false sense of comfort, but she is merely hiding behind that idea that someone else will save her from herself. The speaker urges the girl to makes changes in her life before it becomes too late. In order for the woman to become fulfilled she must abandon the false ideals she has used to replace a meaningful life.
    The third verse reveals the implications of the girl’s religious beliefs. It becomes clear that the “duotone on the wall” is Jesus when the speaker refers to him as the “hopeless fool who hoped to save us all.” The picture is black and white, which demonstrates that although she believes in Christ, he has not brought any color or meaning to her life. Mercer uses the idea that Christ “never dreamt of such sterile hands,” to imply that Christ never meant religion as belief devoid of action. The woman may believe, but does not live up to the commands of Christianity. Instead she keeps her hands “folded in [her] lap,” not taking action and merely going along with what society dictates, except when she raises them up to “beg for scraps” of any comfort offered to obtain a fulfilled life. Mercer speaks of Jesus as “holding [her] down with the tips of his fingers,” despite her belief. The idea of the woman being held down by Christ demonstrates that her false sense of religion does not comfort her or motivate her to make positive changes in her own life. The religious ideals are not a real restraint, just as being held down by the tips of someone’s fingers would not truly restrain a person, but the woman lets herself be restrained. Mercer then ponders whether she will “be pulled from the ocean just a minute too late,” meaning that through religion the woman will eventually be saved, but only after death. Mercer stresses that if she follows this path she will not experience any transformation in her life.
    The woman’s religious beliefs lead into the idea that the woman is simply waiting to be saved by something or someone else. In the same verse Mercer emphasizes that only the woman can make herself happy, and she can’t sit around and wait for someone else to make changes in her life. The speaker ponders whether the woman hopes to be “changed by a potion,” or some magical force, and “find a handsome young mate for [her] to love” an unrealistic idea that someone else will save her from the monotony of her life. The speaker warns that if she looks to someone else to save her she’ll “be damned to pining through the window panes.” The window panes represent the limitations that depending on someone else for happiness present. If she chooses a dependent life, she’ll eventually be left longing to “trade her life for any ordinary Joe’s.” This situation will impose limitations that will leave her still wanting her own life. The woman will never truly be happy unless she takes the steps to give meaning to her existence. The woman should be taking steps to save herself rather than vainly hoping for a magic transformation. Religion and dependence on someone else are merely facades that will leave her wanting to trade her life for anyone else’s. The speaker urges the woman to make the changes necessary “now or grow old, your nightmares only need a year or two to unfold.” This is her chance to make herself happy, and if she doesn’t, it won’t be long before her life will be consumed by the nightmare it is becoming.
    James Mercer uses the song, Australia, to convey the idea that without dreams or ambition the woman is living, but not truly alive. The woman in this song is holding on to religion and hope for love as false aspiration to something better. The speaker in the song tries to convince the woman to make changes within herself to escape the monotonous life she leads. The song concludes with the speaker and the woman jumping out of the metaphorical window of self inflicted limitations.
    saroldineon June 19, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentWow, after reading what some other people have thought, especially G-Farb, I have a much different take than I did before. I originally had a more shallow view of the song, thinking that the speaker was pleading to a girl to stop letting a man hold her down and to free herself, but now instead of it being "a" man, I think it's about "THE" man. This song is a plea to all of us to be true to ourselves.

    The song starts out by reminding us how we're social animals and dreamers by nature, but many of us sell out. Life might actually be easier, simpler, and seemingly more carefree for those who don't worry about "selling out" and that type of thing and are able to just live and conform, but this song is pleading with us to dare and not take that easy route.

    The song goes on to describe a benevolent "fool" who sort of forgoes her ideals and takes the easy, "ordinary" route in life and tries to convince herself that all is well; the song then again, telling her it has seen all the life sucked out of her, pleads to its target to forget the "ordinary" life and live the way she has always wanted.
    musiclover2223on December 30, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General CommentIm a New Zealander, and hate this song without even hearing it!

    The Manic Street Preachers have a song called Australia. The Kinks have a song called Australia. The Bicycles have a song called Australia. Bark Bark Bark have a song called Australia. Carl Cox even named an album after those bastards!

    And now The Shins break my heart too!

    Someone write a song titled "New Zealand"! Were sick of Hobbit references. We hate playing second best to neighbours - if youre Canadian, you know what I mean. If youre Rhodesian, you know what I mean. If your'e Welsh, Scottish or Irish, you know what I mean.
    bkat004on June 29, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General Commenti just wanted to point out that in himmler's wikipedia article, the word "coat" appears while recounting an incident where, during a mass execution of jews in poland, brain matter splattered onto himmler's coat, causing him to vomit. gross, yes, but also a very visceral feeling of disgust, but more importantly, created by himmler himself. "you're himmler in your coat" could mean "you disgust yourself, but you're the oen who did it."
    cmb296on July 17, 2007   Link

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