Every night my dream's the same
Same old city with a different name
They're not coming to take me away
I don't know why, but I know I can't stay

There's a weight that's pressing down
Late at night you can hear the sound
Even the noise you make when you sleep
Can't swim across a river so deep

They know my name because I told it to them
But they don't know where, and they don't know when
It's coming
When it's coming

There's this fear I keep so deep
Knew it's name since before I could speak
Oh, oh, oh, oh

They know my name because I told it to them
But they don't know where, and they don't know when
It's coming, oh when
But it's coming, keep the car running

If some night I don't come home
Please don't think I've left you alone
The same place that I must go when they die
You can't climb across a mountain so high
The same city where I go when I sleep
Can't swim across a river so deep

They know my name because I told it to them
But they don't know where, and they don't know when
It's coming, oh when
Is it's coming?
Keep the car running
Keep the car running
Keep the car running


Lyrics submitted by jmb2440, edited by mandorable, Ryuhza, drummmar

Keep the Car Running Lyrics as written by Jeremy Gara, Regine Chassagne, Richard R Parry, Tim Kingsbury, William Butler, Win Butler

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Keep the Car Running song meanings
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87 Comments

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  • +4
    My Interpretation

    Several commenters said the narrator seems schizophrenic, but that doesn't really seem to fit because his problem is a deeply unsettled feeling rather than specific delusions. I talked to a lot of schizophrenics as a volunteer at a suicide/crisis help line; most of them had multiple delusions, and most of those delusions were a lot more specific than the "men are coming to take me away." Besides, the narrator here is referring to a dream, not a waking delusion. And he's had the fear since "before I could speak," whereas I think the onset of schizophrenia is usually in one's 20s or 30s.

    Mattyedgeworth's interpretation is the best because it's the simplest. The narrator is living in fear of death. But not just death by getting shot or getting hit by a car. It's more like a fear of just suddenly being whisked into nothingness as if he never existed. And not into any kind of afterlife. It's the "same place animals go when they die," which is to say no heaven or hell.

    I think his fear is probably even less specific than fear of dying or of being erased. He's just fundamentally unsettled and untrusting. He's asking someone, maybe his girlfriend or partner, to keep the car running so the two of them will be able to speed away whenever the unspecified "They" shows up to grab him.

    cbagson July 28, 2013   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    i could hear bruce springstein singing this one, it's got a bruce kind of feel to it, not sure why the first time i heard the music i thought it might be him. anyway this song is definitely wonderful in many ways. well done,arcade fire

    Sleepagenton September 13, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    "If some night I don’t come home Please don’t think I’ve left you alone The same place that I must go when they die You can’t climb across a mountain so high The same city where I go when I sleep Can’t swim across a river so deep"

    There is a line here that is incorrect...

    "The same place that I must go when they die..."

    This line should be

    "The same place animals go when they die"

    It's on neonbible.com.

    mad_world87on March 05, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    "They know my name 'cause I told it to them / But they don't know where and they don't know when / It's coming" The second coming??

    "can't swim across a river so deep" sounds like an allusion to the River Styx, the boundary between life and the afterlife. So maybe the "it" that is coming is simply "death." This seems more likely, since he fears the "it" whose name he "knew . . . before [he] could speak." Of course, "fearing God" is also possible here. A little ambiguity makes for great lyrics.

    hoboghoston February 10, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    I sort of get a vision of a guy fleeing the Draft. Given the themes of Neon Bible, it's not far-fetched to believe that might be what the song's about.

    woekittenon February 13, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    the theme of 'keep the car running' makes me think of not staying in one place too long. it's like why settle down... you can try but you're always gonna keep the car running, your exit route always planned.

    ieatseedson February 25, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    I may be completely off base, but after reading over the lyrics a couple times I believe this is a song about giving up. Feeling inadequate against the challenges [of life] that the person must face. He's also feeling isolated -- they know my name because I told it to them, but they don't know where and they don't know when --in that people may know his surface, but nothing beyond that. They're not connected.

    I think "I don’t know why but I know I can’t stay" and:

    "If some night I don’t come home Please don’t think I’ve left you alone The same place animals go when they die"

    ...are him saying goodbye, he's gone.

    A common method of committing suicide is with carbon monoxide that's emitted from all car exhausts. This is usually done by closing yourself and car inside your garage and allowing the engine to run. Eventually the level of carbon monoxide will rise enough to kill you. Hence -- keep the car running.

    afireflyon July 25, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    Wow no comments!? this is prolly my favourite song off Neon Bible. I think its about doing what you want and just going away and not being tied down to the same things(same old city w/ a different name). Reminds me of Rebellion (Lies) quite abit.

    King of Some Islandon February 08, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    There a lot of illusion to death and the afterlife on Neon Bible. It kind of makes a bridge between it and Funeral. this album is way more upbeat sounding though. I agree though that it's kind of about freedom and doing what you want. At least that's what I think of when I listen to it. It's so good though.

    uncletrosson February 12, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    definitely this album's version of Rebellion (Lies). this and Neon Bible are my favorite songs on the cd.

    i haven't read too deeply into the lyrics yet but on the surface it sort of reads like someone metaphorically trying to flee death.

    geoffkon February 21, 2007   Link

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