The Dead Flag Blues song meanings
Add your thoughts


sort form View by:
  • +9
    My InterpretationIn the beginning, we are following an observer in the modern day.

    "The car is on fire, and there's no driver at the wheel
    And the sewers are all muddied with a thousand lonely suicides
    And a dark wind blows"

    The car is society, and the fire is greed. If this car had a driver to control it, then perhaps it could be safely stopped and the fire extinguished. But with no driver, all it can do is run amok until a terrible car crash which will kill everyone involved. A sewer is designed to transport filth away from an area, but the lack of generosity (the "thousand lonely suicides" of optimists who discovered the West to have no place for their kind) has blocked them. The narrator thinks there is now way to escape the grime and filth of modern life. The "dark wind" is an omen of the future. He predicts complete disintegration of integrity and can see nothing but corporate whoredom.

    "The government is corrupt
    And we're on so many drugs
    With the radio on and the curtains drawn"

    This suggests to me that the narrator is very sceptical of the government's integrity and interests. "We're" (as in "everyone") is on so many drugs, sold to them for obscene profit by corporations because the corrupt government told everyone they needed them. They close their windows, through which they might get a clear view of the world, and listen to advertisements and pop music marketed and spoon-fed to them by the RIAA and co.

    "We're trapped in the belly of this horrible machine
    And the machine is bleeding to death"

    Here he re-affirms what he said in the first section. He believes that there is no way to escape modern civilisation. No matter what he might do, it will surround him and then when it finally comes to a stop it will destroy everything with no regard.

    "The sun has fallen down
    And the billboards are all leering
    And the flags are all dead at the top of their poles"

    This gives the first impression of a Fallout-type world, but it easily describes any modern town in the West. Marketing is everywhere, and the narrator hates it. He hates that giant billboards (which represent selfishness and greed) are always displayed for absolutely everyone to see, but the flags (which represent comradeship and duty to others) are allowed to hang limp and obscured from view high up in the air on thin poles.

    "It went like this:
    The buildings tumbled in on themselves
    Mothers clutching babies
    Picked through the rubble
    And pulled out their hair"

    Here we take a shift back in time for a parallel plot. Now the narrator is describing the tale of the fall of the American Indians. Colonials and, later on, USAmericans used to utterly destroy the Indian towns and encampments and scalp them for profit due to governmental bounties. This is why the mothers are picking through rubble - they are collecting the scalps of dead Indians to claim the bounties on their scalps. The system had forced them into capitalism, so without money their babies will starve; this money can only come with the misery and death of others. He believes this is a parallel to modern society. The only difference is that instead of Whites it is Corporations, and instead of scalps it is free thought, and instead of destroying town it is hypnotism.

    "The skyline was beautiful on fire
    All twisted metal stretching upwards
    Everything washed in a thin orange haze
    I said, "Kiss me, you're beautiful -
    These are truly the last days""

    This depicts the burning of an Indian village. This was a common tactic to get the women and children out of shelter, since they were easy targets. In the middle of this fire, two lovers stand face-to-face. There is no place for an emotion like love in the world of money and greed. So they give up fighting, and wither away in the fires of greed and selfishness.

    "You grabbed my hand
    And we fell into it
    Like a daydream
    Or a fever"

    Capitalism does not feel like "the real world". It is divorced from empathy, only concerned with making profit at all costs. It's a fever, dangerous and noticeable but which receives very little attention or concern from those that matter. In the Lovers' case, it's the ennui which their giving up their traditional life has caused. In your case, it may be your boss scoffing at fever being your reason for not coming to work. For the narrator, the fever is the blatant manipulation of people through marketing techniques and the lack of action from those same people to prevent it. They're so deep into the daydream fantasy world of capitalism they don't realise what's happened to them. Even the money is fiat - it's imaginary. It's not backed by anything.

    "We woke up one morning and fell a little further down
    For sure it's the valley of death"

    Sometimes, the lovers become aware of the truth. But they are too weak, and cannot bear to shoulder it - everybody is a fool, and everybody is willing to be conditioned to want to gain luxuries they are told they want to gain even at the expense of their own lives, happiness or integrity.

    So they fall further down; they become cynical and hardened, and begin to take advantage of the people they slowly begin to hate. There is no going back from the valley of death. Now they can only go forwards, and forget helping others and treat it as a remnant of the past.

    The story of the Indian lovers is a parallel to the story of the narrator; we can only come to the conclusion that he himself did the same thing.

    "I open up my wallet
    And it's full of blood"

    We leave the lovers and go back to the narrators. After telling his story of the Indian lovers who became everything that destroyed their own life, he examines his own life. Maybe up until that point he did not even know how bad he was, and - like Lady Macbeth and her hands - discovers that there is no money in his wallet. It's stuffed with notes, but those notes are not money, and they are not the happiness that we are told money and new things will always be able to bring us. There is only the blood of innocents, the despair of a million raped souls. There is only death, and selfishness, and greed, and horror.

    That's my interpretation of this song. It's condemning corporations and the people who allow them to do what they do.
    TheOwlWBUon May 03, 2012   Link
  • +4
    General Commentyour drug storys are unimpressive...why do you with we care?
    the song is haunting...leave it at that.

    no one wants to read about how you snorted sea monkeys while masterbating to a britney spears song anymore than they wish to read your "dxm" storys...cut the s--t already
    Selling Absolutionson April 14, 2004   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI have an extremely vivid picture in my mind every time I hear this song, and it's a fucking amazing scene. Creepily enough, it's the same every time. Other GYBE songs create pictures, but with other songs the pictures vary. I've gotten at least three hallucinogenic-quality images out of 'Moya'. If only I could draw...
    seventyfouron April 20, 2004   Link
  • +2
    General Commentcolourblind, the record was actually recorded and released in 1997 so it's definetly not about september 11th.
    the theory about the native americans is quite good, but myself i'm more on the side of the apocalypse. btw, the vinyl version has a small piece played on a banjo (i think) after the last happy part with violin and glockenspiel. it also has one of the member saying stuff like "what am i supposed to do" "what am i doing" "where's my motivation" i could transcribe the later if there's need for it.
    proximaon April 14, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentAnother theory:

    I open up my wallet
    and it's full of blood

    This adds to my theory about the end of governments and countries. One holds money in their wallets, and money always clearly designates what country it is from. Like I said about the dead flags - perhaps the money has 'died' as well because of the end of government.
    Glomeon August 04, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis is one of the greatest songs i've ever heard. Although it was kind of creepy the first time i heard it. i believe this song is talking about how the world has gone/is going to shit. But this Truely is great.
    IndeeRyanon March 29, 2003   Link
  • +1
    General CommentSelling Absoultions why don't you calm down. I want to hear if the song was really good on DXM because one day I might listen to it when I am on DXM.

    The monologue is actually by Efrim, one of the guitarists. He has been working on a movie script for five years or something like that.
    leafsmack0on May 31, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song is amazing.
    Brought tears to my eyes the first time i heard it,
    I think distopiandreamguy has a good theory to the song.
    I think the songs about things ending and how corrupt the society we live in is. Everything being so manufactured and government run.
    I'll think of this song in my next social class haha.
    goollogoon October 03, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe first time I experienced this CD was on my senior cross country camp trip, and the four others there had went to sleep, but I could not get to sleep. I had just bought the CD and brought it with me. I was freezing cold and in a tent and it was a really interesting and odd experience. That doesn't mean anything but it was just a cool way to get introduced to their first full CD.
    cerealiscoolon February 04, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Commentmy fav parts are:
    "you grabbed my hand and we fell into it
    like a daydream or a fever

    we woke up one morning and fell a little further down -
    for sure it's the valley of death

    i open up my wallet
    and it's full of blood"

    amazing song
    Narayanon March 14, 2008   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

Back to top