Born inside the gates of the family
Hardened by a Roman machinery
Cast among the building sites
The coiling wires, the shots collected

Called out in the wake of a lottery
Held inside the family gathering
Mirrored beams and doglike stretch
The wandering association

Murmurs in the dark confessional
And it rides along the road, ephemeral
As in animal life

Rusting in the shade of the batteries
Hanging from a rope in the gallery
Pacing down the balance beam of half-remembered holidays

No rush of light, no sign of belonging
No joy in building, love in the finishing
Chasing down an anodyne and half-reflected radiance

To hide below the ancient barricade
In chambers like the rooms a swallow made
For an animal life

Charging down the maw of the ocean
I wanna come close, I wanna come closer
I held your name inside my mouth through all the days of wandering

But called out from the mouth of oblivion
Cast away like dogs from the shelter
I shed the dulling armor plates
That once collected radiance

And surging at the blood's perimeter
The half-remembered wild interior
Of an animal life

Lyrics submitted by inverarity

Animal Life song meanings
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  • +5
    General CommentOh my God this is a beautiful song, a beautiful record. I love Shearwater and have since I discovered them.

    This just further proves their brilliance. Also the Vinyl is coming in a blood red/black pressing ;)
    Fantastic song!
    TroilusBlueon February 08, 2012   Link
  • +2
    General CommentSuch great lyrics. Shearwater's music and lyrics always have a thread that speaks to the relationships between humanity and the natural world. Or maybe another way to say it, is that nature is part of their language. Other musicians may incorporate elements of nature, speak about nature, or use natural imagery to illustrate concepts or create feelings, but Shearwater speaks IN nature (if that makes sense). I don't know if I've ever encountered another musician or group who can do this so consistently and genuinely. Whether it is subtle references or quotes from important works of writing in the field, the use of specific descriptions of individual species, places, natural phenomena, structures, or the musical evocation of these specific things, they just nail it.
    This song seems to have a personal element, and I can't guess at what exactly it speaks to, but to me, there is a general theme about the process of recovering the true self (nature/animal self) and shedding the layers put upon one by culture/civilization, family, etc. The person ("your name") addressed in the song may in fact be the singer's true self.
    Rachelizabethon September 22, 2013   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationThe lyrics are obviously poetic, and they probably are meant to be open to a variety of interpretations. A couple of themes seem to be consistent among several verses, however. One of them is described above by Rachelizabeth, a theme of transformation from the artificial to the natural that presents itself in the verse"I shed the dulling armor plates that once collected radiance, and surging at the blood's perimeter, the half-remembered wild interior". Family, holidays or family gatherings are mentioned in 3 places, "Born inside the gates of the family", "Held inside the family gathering", and "Pacing down the balance beam of half-remembered holidays". There are also multiple references to either shelter, the sense of being safe and covered, or nudity, and the shedding of barricades. Having shelter versus being exposed or nude is a very fundamental concern for any animal: "Murmurs in the dark confessional", "Rusting in the shade of the batteries", "hide below the ancient barricade", and "I wanna come close, I wanna come closer" are all images of shelter, closeness, and comfort, whereas on the other hand, "Cast away like dogs from the shelter, I shed the dulling armor plates", "Charging down the maw of the ocean", "rides along the road, ephemeral", and "surging at the blood's perimeter" evoke images of freedom and escape from confinement. Some of the "freedom" verses are sung in the same breath as the "shelter" verses, so there's obviously a sort of mixing of the two themes in the song... and isn't that what any animal wants? To be both sheltered and free?

    Ultimately, the song defies analysis, because the passion that he sings it with and the beauty that it evokes aren't something that can be logically analyzed or figured out.
    kevinroyon February 07, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI'm not sure about the first two verses, but the last one sounds like a spawning salmon to me. They instinctively return to the stream where they were born, after years of wandering the ocean, only to literally rot (losing beautiful scales) as they spawn and die.
    odsockon May 30, 2015   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationIn my opinion this Song about "animal life" is grouped in three parts that cover the life the artist.
    The first part is about his home and origin and how he mirrorerd the expectations of his family due to a promising future.
    The next part gets introduced by "murmurs in the dark" it's about a phase in life which yet has to be born and thus throws the writer in a world ruled by despair where half remembered holidays and nostalgia palliate his pain.
    In the next lines he is the wanderer exlcuded from others without a position in this world.
    In the following lines he's aware of the of a new dimension to his existence "the ancient barricade" but still dwells in the rooms were he had to take a hard lesson "chambers a swallow made".
    In the next lines he follows down a path of choice triggered by another person which is somewhat responsible for his journey.
    But as his journey moves on just like life his feelings fade so does his knighthood fade "shed the dulling armor plates" for this person.
    The last lines let him reflect over his animal life phase.

    d0lphinon January 22, 2017   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationI'll give it a go analyzing this song. As always, shearwaters songs are full with symbols of nature, personal change and succint but very powerful lines that leave a lot of room for interpretation.

    Born inside the gates of the family
    Hardened by a Roman machinery
    Cast among the building sites
    The coiling wires, the shots collected

    "Roman machinery" could be the way how to shape children to behave and fit into society in general. The same happens to him, he is growing up, having a hard time to fit in "the shots collected". And they are "cast among the building sites" as if they are placed in the middle of the world, not really knowing what to do to.

    And then the "Murmurs in the dark confessional" are the long awaited calls of the "animal life" to be finally freed by this "roman machinery". But they are only murmurs. It is like an awakening you have expected, but you can't quite grasp it. So it just "rides along the road, ephemeral".
    martin1074on July 31, 2019   Link

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