"Carry the Zero" as written by and Doug Martsch....
I'm not knocking your want
To carry that home

Took it with you
When you moved and got it broke

Found the pieces
We counted them all alone

Didn't add up
Forgot to carry a zero

I can't be your
Apologist very long

I'm surprised that
You'd want to carry that on

Count your blemishes
You can't
They're all gone

I can't see your response
Putting them back on

Like they're waiting for your guard to fall
So they can see it all and you're so
Occupied with what other persons are
Occupied with
And vice versa

And you've become
What you thought was dumb
A fraction of the sum

Yeah, you've become
Yeah, you have become

A fraction of the sum
The middle and the front

And now it's coming back
Hasn't it come too far?

I was trying to help but I guess
I pushed too hard

Now we can't even touch it
Afraid it'll fall apart

Lyrics submitted by numb, edited by skro

"Carry the Zero" as written by Doug Martsch

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Carry the Zero song meanings
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  • +9
    General CommentUm... I don't think it has anything to do with a relationship. It's about faking. Saying you don't like yourself and finding your faults and stuff, "putting back on your blemishes" and everyone else is just "waiting for you guard to fall so they can see it all" And then it says that you're so concerned with what everyone else is thinking, and vice versa... They're so vain, just thinking about how others view them. And you're just like them! "you've become what you thought was dumb"

    You try to help but there's really nothing you can do cuz you could push to far and everyone will just get pissed off and hurt.. so you just have to live with the guise and the tension and everyone faking.... you can't even touch it or it will fall apart. the friendships are all so fake and fragile.
    narsilon September 13, 2002   Link
  • +4
    My OpinionI think the first verse and closing line of the song uses the metaphor of a broken thin (which for simplicity's sake I will refer to as a vase from here on out) for a relationship that's suddenly fallen apart, and in spite of what the singer (from this point forward referred to as "he" or "him") see's as the best interest of the song's subject (from this point forward referred to as "she" or "her"), it has been shoddily repaired, but no longer retains any value.

    "I'm not knocking your want to carry that home" seems to refer to her remaining attached to a broken piece. The vase will never be repaired to it's original form, and the relationship is not salvageable.

    "Took it with you when you moved and got it broke," I think in this line he's talking strictly about the literal meaning rather than the metaphorical meaning. How often when you box things up to move a fragile item, regardless of how much newspaper you throw in there, do you open the box at the new place to find that it's broke?

    "Found the pieces, we counted them all alone. Didn't add up, forgot to carry a zero" She opens the box to find the broken vase, and even though theoretically every piece should be in the box, since it was intact the last time she saw it, she can't recreate it using the pieces in the box. It doesn't make sense why. Carrying a zero is absurd math. Saying that your forgot to carry a zero is not an explanation for why a math problem is wrong. It doesn't make sense why the relationship can't go back to the way it was. They're still the same people, but somehow there are pieces missing.

    At this point the metaphor is dropped, and he responds to her clinging to the broken relationship, and he's not happy about it. He can't keep making excuses for (I can't be your apologist very long), he's surprised that she is being so irrational (I'm surprised you'd want to carry that on), and he remembers a time when she would ridicule others for doing what she's doing now (You have become what you thought was dumb).

    And at the end he finally returns to the metaphor.

    "And now we can't even touch it. Afraid it'll fall apart." Apparently, she has decided to go back to trying to make the failed relationship work, and like a vase that's been glued together with parts missing, it's so fragile you can't touch it.
    aguywholikesmusicon October 25, 2011   Link
  • +3
    General CommentThis song is actually about my father who was a former band mate of dougs (pat schmaljohn aka pat brown) he is no longer alive and his cod is pretty obvious if you listen to the song. The song pat on their new album is about him also. They were wonderful friends and he is very missed.
    kiraschmaljohnon July 28, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General Commentno offense to the emo crowd... but that emo/pop-punk stuff usually deals with a relationship. this is more indie rock - and these guys are more cerebral than to be talking on and on about broken relationships. save that for bright eyes and other shitty bands. oh yea and of course the zero is the narrator or someone really close. because the first line he says im nnot knocking your want to "carry" that home. and then he says about infers that he is indeed the zero. i think its about losing faith in yourself, and the others around you. he constantly refers to "carrying" something. its most likely the weight of self-awareness, consciousness. because at the end he pretty much is speaking to himself. saying that he's become a lot more watered down as a result of carrying whatever it is hes carrying
    youeatpoopon May 05, 2004   Link
  • +2
    General CommentTo me, Carry The Zero is about a girl who is afraid to be herself, and it causes Doug sadness. Doug is the zero because he wants to be with her. But all she does is transform into whatever she thinks she should be, rather than what she is, and he's afraid to say anything or do anything because he think the relationship will fall apart.
    Apcryphaon April 13, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis is a good sunny day song, im not too sure what its about but its good!
    weezerflyon June 04, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think it's not that easy to understand that most of BTS songs are about... but hey sounds great :)
    MDMasteron June 10, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Commenttiiiiiny correction, in the line: "you're so occupied with what other" it should be "persons" not "people." Only serves to be more congruent with Built to Spill's usual method of song writing.
    shinjiikarion July 05, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentDoug said his first priority with lyrics, is that they sounds great with the melody(he writes the melody first). I think there is a little philosopher in Doug as well. It has also been said his lyrics often has a different meaning from person to person. To me this song is about how a hard melancholic mind can confuse(math) a person so much that he/she can't consentrate about possibilities in the future.
    y0ak1mon August 15, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI love this song it's probably my favorite off of keep it like a secret. I thought it was about a relationship that broke up and after they tried to make it work they realized it "didn't add up" or wasn;t worth it. So the guy see's how she is changing towards the end of the relationship He sais he is surprized by some of the things she is doing. And then when they are completely over she changes completely "you have become what you thought was dumb" and then he tries to make up with her but the relationship os so delicate they "can't eve touch it or it will fall apart" Great Cd if you don't have it get it
    Dai101on August 16, 2002   Link

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