Took a drive into the sprawl
To find the house where we used to stay
I couldn't read the number in the dark
You said "let's save it for another day"

I took a drive into the sprawl
To find the places we used to play
It was the loneliest day of my life
You're talking at me, but I'm still far away

Let's take a drive through the sprawl
Through these towns they built to change
And then you said "The emotions are dead"
It's no wonder that you feel so strange

Cops showing their lights
On the reflectors of our bikes
Said "Do you kids know what time it is?"
Well, sir, it's the first time I felt like something's mine
Like I have something to give

The last defender of the sprawl
Said "Well, where do you kids live?"
Well, sir, if you only knew what the answer's worth
Been searching every corner of the earth

Lyrics submitted by firstgreenroom

"Sprawl I (Flatland)" as written by Regine Chassagne Jeremy Gara

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Sprawl I (Flatland) song meanings
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  • +2
    My InterpretationI find this to be one of the more touching songs on this album. The last lines are particularly moving, although, if you listen to them without the rest of the song, with the heavy, weighty minor chords, they almost seem too sentimental. The journey from the first line is essential.

    "Took a drive out to the sprawl"

    He doesn't say suburbs. The sprawl is a more negative term, suggesting a sort of wasteland. To be sprawled is also to lay supine. The fact that "sprawl" figures both in the title and another song suggests that he's talking about more than just a place. He's visiting a state of mind. Given the context of the song, darker times. Or perhaps the darkness is just that he cannot retrieve these old memories.

    "To find the house where we used to stay"

    A house, not a home. Stay and not live. He is introducing impermanence; for a brief time, we jst existed here, now we've moved on.

    "I couldn't read the number in the dark"
    "You said 'let's save it for another day'"

    Question: is the "we" of this song a companion that used to live with him? It seems not because the speaker feels alone. His companion is someone he met later in life. It's not hard to imagine this is Win and Regine, but it could be any couple.

    Can't read the number -- of course this just refers, in a literal sense, to the house, but in the context of the song, it seems to fit with the general sense that he can't quite revisit the past. Being physically there doesn't help. If we imagine the dark to be a depression, a dark time, he's saying he can't quite get a hold of the feelings he used to have here. His companion doesn't feel the urgency he feels to get at those feelings, which intensifies his loneliness.

    The next few stanzas reiterate these themes, but with increased loneliness. He tries to make the journey again but alone (the "I" is emphasized) which only increases his loneliness, and then finally is exhorting his companion to come back with him. S/he offers the neutral observation (still not engaging with him) that "the emotions are dead". But is she saying that the emotions he is experiencing are death, or is it that whatever they refer to is past and therefore the emotions don't mean anything?

    The next stanza is interesting. Suddenly the protagonists are on bikes, and are called kids by the police. Clearly a flashback. We have broken through to memories. The speaker has none of the uncertainty of the current days, instead he confidently says to the police that he's, just now, found some kind of great purpose, something within himself.

    The last stanza is perplexing because this conversation between cop and kid continues, but somehow shifts back into the present. This is indicated because it's "the last defender of the sprawl", which seems to indicate the passage of time; the sprawl is now dying. In literal terms, perhaps there are no budgets for police any more. Metaphorically, if the sprawl is him revisiting a troubled youth... I'm not sure what "last defender" means.

    We also know we're back in the present because the protagonist refers to "searching every corner of the earth", which only makes sense for a person of experience, and the mood seems to shift back into his current melancholy, not his former naive confidence.

    This song is paired with Sprawl II. It's apparently a simpler, happier song. But note that it also refers to the sprawl, darkness, and suburban encounters with the police. In some ways it's the flip side of this song. Instead of from 30somethings of the present looking towards the past, it's about teenagers looking towards the future. They long for the city to give them a kind of purpose, a kind of meaning, that the sprawl doesn't give them. So perhaps this is the source of the protagonist's sudden feeling that he "has something to give". He escaped the suburbs for a time, found people with whom to ally, people who seemed to share the same emotions and needs that he did. That day he returned to the sprawl filled with a sense of purpose.

    What does the protagonist feel now? Perhaps he once again feels emptiness, and longs to feel the way he felt when he was young. Except now he can't blame geography; he's been *everywhere*, and there is some hole that can't be filled. In his mind, he struggles with the guardians of the sprawl, the parts of his mind that say it's foolish to have ever gone on such a quest. He left the sprawl, but it hasn't wholly left him, and he hasn't managed to build the new home that he thought he could out there. And now he can't even say *where* he lives.
    MrGlasson March 14, 2011   Link

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