I am an American aquarium drinker
I assassin down the avenue
I'm hiding out in the big city blinkin'
What was i thinkin' when i let go of you

Let's forget about the tongue-tied lightning
Let's undress just like cross-eyed strangers
Well, this is not a joke so please stop smiling
What was i thinking when I said it didn't hurt

I wanna glide through the brown eyes dreamin'
Take you from the inside baby hold on tight
Well you were so right when you said I've been drinkin'
What was i thinkin' when you said goodnight

I wanna hold you in the bible black pre-dawn
You're quite a quiet domino bury me now
Take off yer band-aid, 'cause I don't believe in touchdowns
What was I thinking when we said hello

I always thought that if I held you tightly
You would always love me like you did back then
Then i fell asleep and the city kept blinkin'
What was I thinkin' when I let you back in

I am trying to break your heart
I am trying to break your heart
Still I would lyin' if I said it wasn't easy
I am trying to break your heart

Disposable Dixie cup drinkin'
I assassin down the avenue
I'm hiding out in the big city blinkin'
What was I thinking when I let go of you

(loves you)

(I'm the man who loves you)

Lyrics submitted by jonesth

I Am Trying to Break Your Heart song meanings
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  • +8
    General Comment

    At first I was perplexed by the introduction to this song, "I am an American aquarium drinker, I assasin down the avenue." What is an aquarium drinker? What is Jeff Tweedy talking about? But the line that clarified things for me, and makes this an ingenius song is the line "you were so right when you said i've been drinkin'." It makes it apparent that this isn't just a song about a longing for lost love, but instead it is seems to be the thoughts of someone writing in their journal at the end of a night of drinking confused about the feelings he has for someone that continually lingers in his mind. It seems as though he is uncertain about his love for this person, wondering am I in love with this person or am I in love with the idea of having someone to love. In the end he thinks she is not the one, that he is only trying to break her heart because he can ... but will he be thinking the same the morning after?

    tubesockson May 15, 2002   Link
  • +6
    General Comment

    Awesome song...I don't believe it's backwards at all, though but forwards.

    REEFPADLER and PJ10 have it. He's driving around shitfaced "I assassin down the avenue" and visits is ex, drunkenly reminiscing about their time together, the city lights "blinking" at him.

    "Let's forget about the toung-tied lightening/ let's undress just like cross-eyed strangers" as she smiles pathetically at him.

    She ends up giving in and he stays over and "then I fell asleep and the city kept blinking"

    He wakes up feeling shitty and regretful (and she too, probably) but all he can think of is that childish desire to be the winner: "I was trying to break your heart" when in fact it was his heart (too?) that was broken.

    The sound blips and erratic drum beats connote that drunken feeling. It's a sad, beautiful song.

    walkinjingleon July 02, 2005   Link
  • +5
    General Comment

    I am a very new Wilco fan. This song is awesome - so complex but about such a common thing. First I thought the 'assassin' was clever because he's walking around drunk like an assassin would - zig zagging back and forth; probably leaning against a building for support every once in a while.

    But the band aid throws me off a little too. If the song is going backward and that's the verse where he's remembering their first hello, maybe it's him telling her to let down her guard (i.e. she's wearing a "band aid" from a being hurt before) because he's not just trying to score with her (i.e. touchdown)?

    hotminxon January 17, 2005   Link
  • +5
    General Comment

    I read through the comments and haven't noticed anyone mention at the end of the song, after it breaks apart and kind of drones along, he comes in, sort of right in the middle of the statement... "Loves you, I'm the man who loves you." Which, as you probably know is a song later on the album. It sounds so desperate and drunk. It kind of to me, seems like his desperate attempt at admitting to himself that he is a fuck-up, cause what it comes down to he loves them. But here he is, getting drunk and going about it all the wrong way.

    pigmaskson June 30, 2008   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    When Tweedy refers to being an "aquarium drinker" he is using it as a figure of speech for saying that he is a heavy drinker, seeing that an aquarium contains lots of liquids he is a person that drinks as much as an aquarium, then at the end of the song he refers to himself as a dixie cup drinker, now thorugh the whole song he has changed himself from being a heavy drinker to somewhat of a social "dixie cup" drinker. Feel free to email me if any of you have any questions or if you are tottaly confused on what the hell I just said!

    wilcofanon April 18, 2003   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    i assumed the "assasin down the avenue" part meant drinking and driving. i mean, if he just drank an aquarium's volume in alcohol, it makes sense.

    to quote icy40oz: I like the "I assassin down the avenue" line. he doesn't just shuffle, walk or stalk...he assassins.

    i like that interpreation a lot, but in my mind if he's assasining (um, pretend its a word), it really implies a sense of recklessness and disregard for anyone you might hurt, and for me that line is the one that gets across the alcoholism in this song the most strongly. i can just see a guy shitfaced and careening around in a car he can barely control

    PJ10on June 28, 2004   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    "disposable dixie cup drinker" perhaps indicates that the man in the song has come so apart that he's way beyond "aquarium drinking" and visiting a methadone clinic on the avenue regularly where it's dispensed in juice in a dixie cup, or alternatively in a mental facility where meds are dispensed by dixie cup. I love this song, I love this album, I love this writer.

    ommmmon September 29, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    To shed my own personal light on this, I will give a breif interperatation:

    "you're quite a quiet domino" - Naturally, we all know that dominoes are objects meant to fall in correspondence with eachother, one by one. So, Tweedy might be indicating that she (as with all other people) are meant to fall in a specific line, such as heartbreak. So he says that she is a "quiet domino" in that it is hard to tell the next time she is going to fall.

    "bury me now" - This coincides with the idea of him being a depressed drunk. As with the past line about her being a quiet domino, he might be saying "what the hell, you should just bury me now" since if her fate is inevitable, so is his, so it seems to say "we might as well seperate and just skip to our deaths". Then again, contradicting this is the way Tweedy sings it, as if he is shrugging it off. So it might not be "I might as well die", but more of a sarcastic phrase of "I'm done now".

    "take off your bandaid 'cause I don't believe in touchdowns" - These two seem to go hand-in-hand. Looking at this through a general male drunk viewpoint, a touchdown might be a quick and sweet sex session for a guy. You can just picture some ass talking to his friend like "Last night, she was crying, so I held her, and later man I made a touchdown. It was frickin' hot." So Tweedy here might be saying that she doesn't need to keep her guard up (protection, in other words. Because Band-Aids DO NOT rapair the wound, but rather, PROTECT it from infection) so he's telling her to take off her Band-Aid because he isn't gonna make a touchdown on her. Another piece suggesting the thought that their love is definitely over, because he doesn't really want her.

    I love Tweedy's lyrics, because they're so different than what I consider "casual" lyrics to be. He just puts adjectives and nouns together that would never belong, and makes them work, because we get the feel of this song and what it is saying to us.

    "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" is a perfect example of a complete Wilco song.

    edemaomegaon October 03, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    After plenty of time to think this song over, it seems to me that it's a story of what takes place over the course of one desperate night in the life of the protagonist. Each verse is an in-the-moment account of what is going on through the protagonist's head. Each moment is summed up by a generic question asking himself what he was thinking when he decided to do what he is doing in that specific moment. No matter what happens, he's insecure about it. I'll break it down as simply as I can:

    1. Pretty straightforward. He starts off with a night out in the city, begins drinking heavily, and starts to wonder why he allowed his previous relationship to fall apart. In his drunken state, he is certain that he knows what he wants--her back in his life.

    i am an american aquarium drinker i assasin down the avenue i'm hiding out in the big city blinkin' what was i thinkin' when i let go of you

    1. He shows up randomly at the ex-girlfriend's place, apologizes/says whatever it takes to attain forgiveness, tells her he seriously wants to be with her and that it hurts to not have her in his life. He may actually believe he means what he says.

    let's forget about the tongue-tied lightning let's undress just like cross-eyed strangers well this is not a joke so please stop smiling what was i thinking when i said it didn't hurt

    1. He successfully gets the girl to sleep with him, and below are the thoughts going through his mind as they have sex ("take you from the inside"). He sees what he's still attracted to as they're having sex, but as soon as they finish, he begins to get scared and blames drinking for his actions. He expresses his self-doubt by thinking, "What was I thinking when you said 'goodnight'?"--meaning that when she tried to tell him goodnight, he wishes he would've listened to her rather than continuing to try and get her to sleep with him.

    i wanna glide through the brown eyes dreamin' take you from the inside baby hold on tight well you were so right when you said i've been drinkin' what was i thinkin' when you said goodnight

    1. In the aftermath of the sex, he can't run out right away, and feels that he must stay through the night and do everything a good lover would do (cuddling, holding, whispering sweet nothings). However, his insecurities ("what was I thinking...?") and embarrassment ("bury me now") about what has happened are starting to take over, and he's ready to run out the door as soon as the sun comes up.

    i wanna hold you in the bible black pre-dawn you're quite a quiet domino bury me now take off yer bandaid 'cause i don't believe in touchdowns what was i thinking when we said hello

    1. This is when he begins to transfer his insecure thoughts to thoughts that place the blame on her, all in preparation to justify to himself the reason to again run away from the relationship. He's convincing himself that it's her fault that she doesn't love him so strongly anymore (although it's implied that it's most likely his own fault). It's also her fault that sleeping with her didn't turn out as magical as he had drunkenly thought it would, even though his own negative thinking and drunkenness are what made it less magical. Once he's succeeded in convincing himself of these things, then he can ask himself, "What was I thinking when I let you back in?" and answer it the way he truly wants to be able to answer it.

    i always thought that if i held you tightly you would always love me like you did back then then i fell asleep and the city kept blinkin' what was i thinkin' when i let you back in

    1. However, convincing himself of the above rationalizations doesn't work perfectly, so he has some guilt. Deep down, he knows what he did and how it impacted her.

    i am trying to break your heart i am trying to break your heart still i would lyin' if i said it wasn't easy i am trying to break your heart

    i am trying to break your heart i am trying to break your heart i am trying to break your heart i am trying to break your heart

    1. The last bit, to me, makes the story come full circle. He now drinks less, but still feels remorse for having lost the girl. However, he learned his lesson after the last big drinking night and won't do that again. Unfortunately for him, he's still telling himself that he's the man who loves her. Most likely, by now she wouldn't have anything to do with him anyway. So he's stuck, just drinking, hiding out, and unable to move on with life.

    Disposable Dixie-cup drinking I assassin down the avenue I'm hiding out in the big city blinking What was I thinking when I let go of you?

    loves you I'm the man who loves you

    As one previous poster mentioned, the beginning of the song is pure chaos, which fades into the structured song/story, which fades back into utter chaos at the end (as the protagonist goes back into hiding after the emotional chaos he's created). IMO, this provides a perfect feel for the insecurities and emotions portrayed in this song.

    carleiuon May 11, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    Jeff Tweedy has dealth with precarious relationships also expressed in songs like She's a Jar and Shot in the Arm. With this in mind, Tweedy is dealing with the complex jaded emotions that come with a messed up relationship. He obviously expresses overdrinking in the first line "aquarium drinker" which is slang for he can drink a LOT. Tongue tied lightning refers to the arguments between couples, and afterwards he expresses the desire to start again. Let's undress like cross eyed strangers. So many of these songs refer to the desire to renew love lost and this song is definitely in line with those. I love this song, Jim O'Rourke did an amazing job producing and the writing is as it always is, from the heart. These songs are amazing because they so honestly express our emotions when we are going through a breakup. The rage, the hatred, the guilt. My FAVORITE Wilco song is At Least That's What You Said, the guitar solo exemplifies a breakup fight better than any words would ever suffice. The raw emotion is beautiful and spinechilling. So many of Wilco's songs are about holding on to a love that's dead. Yet no one expresses the pain so honestly.

    sjones44on May 05, 2011   Link

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