I break the surface so I can breathe
I close my eyes so I can see
I tie my arms to be free
Have you ever been free?
She's not breathing
She's not moving
She's not coming back

I burn a fire to stay cool
I burn myself, I am the fuel I never meant to be cruel
Have you ever been cruel?
She's not breathing
She's not moving
She's not coming back
Shut the door so iI can leave


Lyrics submitted by PLANES, edited by Ozpl

Shut the Door Lyrics as written by

Lyrics © ROUGH TRADE PUBLISHING

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Shut the Door song meanings
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26 Comments

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  • +4
    General Comment

    I think this song is about how taking drugs to feel good or 'free' is as absurd as to 'build a fire to stay cool' is. You can't cool yourself down with heat, so how can you make yourself feel better with something that harms you?

    elscorchedon January 17, 2010   Link
  • +4
    General Comment

    In the documentary Instrument, there is a video of them performing the song, and when Ian MacKaye starts to sing, "I break the surface so I can breathe" He touches his inner arm in about the spot where a drug needle would be inserted(Go to youtube.com/watch and fast forward to about the 4:25 mark. Not that this makes the song definitely about drugs, but it lends evidence that this was the bands intention. Considering MacKaye's straight edge stance, a song about a drug related tragedy makes sense, and I would guess that was his original intention.

    Of course, the song is worded so that other interpretations are possible, and if it means something else to anyone, I wouldn't say you're wrong to interpret it that way.

    aguywholikesmusicon May 27, 2012   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    This song is so obviously about heroin to me. I break the surface so I can breathe- putting the needle into the vein so the addict can get well and feel alive again like they can breathe. I close my eyes so I can see- Shooting heroin usually causes you to nod out and close your eyes for atleast 10 or 15 minutes or so when you initially shoot it. I think its also a comment on how heroin addicts use the drug to escape from reality and therfore not have to see and deal with whats going on. Tie my arms is obvious of itself. This is definantly an anti-heroin song but you can tell Ian wrote it about a girl he was friends with who was a junkie and diedl

    MethaDonJohn13on September 27, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    I still think it's drugs. "break the surface" of his skin with a needle. "I tie my arms" --> tying off before shooting up. She's not breathing -- overdose. Even the paradoxes seem to reflect the paradox of freedom through drugs, which end up being their own prison. And that links back to the tortured way Ian yells "Have you ever been free?" in a way that makes it obvious he doesn't feel free at all. It's about a woman's overdose, and the last line is him trying to get away from it.

    shadowwiththeeyeson January 12, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    It's about a grug overdose. Imagery's pretty clear, once you get the initial idea.

    shadowwiththeeyeson June 18, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    I mean DRUG. Sorry. Stop laughing at me.

    shadowwiththeeyeson June 18, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    this song is about the drug overdose of one of ian's good friends Toni Young.

    myseveredhearton March 09, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    this song is amazing. fugazi at their finest.

    IGotStraightEdgeon August 03, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    i dunno if it's about drugs really....i'm not sure what it's about but i don't immediatly get the drug vibe...

    punkrockchick217on October 19, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    i think it's about the confusion you're in when someone you love dies, nothing makes sence anymore, you're thoughts are all screwed up, what would explain a lot of the contradictsions in the lyrics.

    Ralphon January 04, 2005   Link

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