He's got his work and she comes easy
They each come around when the other is gone
Me, I think I got stuck somewhere in between
I wouldn't confide in the Prodigal Son
The die has been cast, the battle is won
The bullets were blanks, a double aught gun
I couldn't admit to a minute of fun

They come and they come and they come and they come
I accepted with a gentle tongue
No words spoken, no need to speak

Take it, stomp twice, ring the bell
Tether that ring and phrase
Enough with the rifle and talk already
We all know what it means
Take this conversation to your great divide
I can only swallow what I ate
And I don't hate him
And I don't hate her

They come and they come and they come and they come
I accepted with a gentle tongue
No heart broken, no need to speak

(Don't talk to me)
Don't talk to me about being alone
(Don't talk to me)
Don't talk to me about being alone
(Don't talk to me)
Don't talk to me about being alone

Reach for each other before you leave
Reach peace with a E-A-see
Don't threaten me with a gentle tease
Don't threaten me with angry
Please, please, please
Don't try to tell me what I am

(Talk to me)
Don't talk to me
(Talk to me)
Don't talk to me

Lyrics submitted by idiotic, edited by BWilde, PencilNeckedGeek

"Fretless" as written by Peter Buck Bill Berry

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Fretless song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentGreat interpretations for the most part. I also tend to think it's about a love-triangle situation - specifically between a couple and a third party. (Although according to Stipe he has addressed this scenario in other songs such as Pretty Persuasion and 7 Chinese Brothers).

    However, as far as the protagonist of Fretless goes... he seems to be the interloper in a three-sided relationship that may have begun merely as a bit of fun, but now it's all turning sour.

    The narrator now perceives the damage the situation has caused to his friends' relationship. Also he knows deep down that, although the other couple may be at odds, they really only have true feelings of love for each other - while he is the third wheel. ("Don't talk to me about being alone")
    Lantaon August 24, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAny ideas?
    For me it sounds like "the losing side of triangle" but there are to many things that escape me.
    especialy - what is E-A-C?
    amlethuson January 09, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis was written as a soundtrack for the incredibly poor movie "Until The End of The World" which flopped disasterously. Only a few seconds of the song appear. I often had the feeling that the song was about a man who was having an affair with a married couple, but neither partner knows what the other is doing. And even though the protagonist is having great fun, he still feels alone and used at the end of the day.

    Regarding amlethus' query about E-A-C, in my opinion, that line- "Reach for peace with an E-A-C" is emphasising which kind of peace (as opposed to P-I-E-C-E) which could be construed as a gun. Reach for the peace as opposed to reach for the PIECE! A great clarification!! Brilliantly moving song. I'm assuming the female vocalist is Patti Smith, but can anyone confirm that?
    driver08ukon February 16, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt's kate Pierson again, she did a few songs with them during the 'out of time' era, this nearly made it on the album but didn't fit.
    SwagBagon July 28, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think the song is written from the perspective of the child of a squabbling couple. His father is a workaholic and his mother is cheating ("He's got his work and she comes easy"). When they're together, they're fighting and the child has to accept it. (I think the lyrics above are slightly wrong. They should be "I accept it with a gentle tongue.")
    PencilNeckedGeekon June 08, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentGreat song! I like the line: Don't talk to me about being alone.. It's so deep, and mysteriously contradictory (or maybe just ironic as the protagonist asks in a somewhat cocky way to be left alone in the very matters of being alone. Nice touch in my opinion. Typical REM lyrics btw. (in a good way!)
    Hennebyon February 07, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentyeah i agree with the comment about it being about a relationship in trouble. maybe its written from the point of view of a thrid person observing a failing relationship; that or looking back at one that failed.
    ramshotelon June 19, 2007   Link
  • 0
    My Interpretation'hey maan tether that gun talk we all know what that means' I am a vulnerable person that hallucinates voices having a go at me when I'm felling anxious and the lyrics struck a chord with me. Bullies taunting the quiet guy in the corner...though I do realise it's probably in my head
    Dider79on December 24, 2016   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI always thought it was someone speaking from the point of view as the person who both people in a relationship go to in order to feel like they are on the right side of an argument, the deliberator or a moderator between two people who's relationship is failing. Thus he is the person who is alone and tired of hearing about the possibility from either person about being alone, they don't notice he already is and he finds that inconsiderate.

    I might be reaching too far but that's what I got out of it.
    Feendishon July 25, 2017   Link

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