Culture sucks down words
Itemize loathing and feed yourself smiles
Organize your safe tribal war
Hurt, maim, kill and enslave the ghetto

Each day living out a lie
Life sold cheaply forever, ever, ever

Under neon loneliness motorcycle emptiness
Under neon loneliness motorcycle emptiness

Life lies a slow suicide
Orthodox dreams and symbolic myths
From feudal serf to spender
This wonderful world of purchase power

Just like lungs sucking on air
Survivals natural as sorrow, sorrow, sorrow

Under neon loneliness motorcycle emptiness
Under neon loneliness motorcycle emptiness

All we want from you are the kicks you've given us
All we want from you are the kicks you've given us

Under neon loneliness motorcycle emptiness

Drive away and it's the same
Everywhere death row, everyone's a victim
Your joys are counterfeit
This happiness corrupt political shit

Living life like a comatose
Ego loaded and swallow, swallow, swallow

Under neon loneliness motorcycle emptiness
Under neon loneliness everlasting nothingness


Lyrics submitted by ecureuil

Motorcycle Emptiness Lyrics as written by Nicholas Jones James Bradfield

Lyrics © BMG Rights Management, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Motorcycle Emptiness song meanings
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  • +11
    General Comment

    The emptiness isn't personal as such though, it's more to do with the emptiness of the world we live in, or rather, how it breeds emptiness within people. Look at the words used throughout the song, and bare in mind the Manic's own Communist/Marxist political views.

    "Life lies a slow suicide" followed by "Orthodox dreams and symbolic myths From feudal serf to spender This wonderful world of purchase power" is about how our society and world guide us into lives that are empty, devoid, like a "slow suicide". It could also be seen as our "wonderful world of purchase power" on a "slow suicide", as Marx predicted that capitalism would eventually destroy itself. The "neon loneliness" is about how we're given so many things, such as TV, to distract us from the unfairness of society we live in. Our loneliness is "neon" because it's bright, colourful, and therefor distracting, but ultimately worthless. While we live "under neon loneliness" we'll always have "everlasting nothingness."

    MercyKilleron May 30, 2002   Link
  • +7
    General Comment

    This song is as strong as it was when I first heard it almost two decades ago. And you can't say that about many songs. Hence the extended analysis. Indulge me.

    CULTURE SUCKS DOWN WORDS Encapsulates the two key strands of the modern language dilemma. One, cultural appropriation renders language meaningless - hence 'no-one uses words like 'happy' and 'sad', do they? Unless they're in advertising' (Thom Yorke). Two, according to Foucault language always operates within the boundaries of acceptable discourse, hence in this present culture ageing, death and meaningless and the like are sucked into a void - or more literally, we catch the words in our throats and suck them back down rather than say the unacceptable.

    ITEMISE LOATHING AND FEED YOURSELF SMILES A key theme in the early Manics albums - consumerist goods equal degradation and self-loathing rather than self-empowerment as purported by advertising. 'Feed yourself smiles' emphasises the vicious circle of low-self-worth leading to consumer binges that allow only the briefest satisfaction - anything from a Big Mac to heroin, it's the same psychology.

    ORGANISE YOUR SAFE TRIBAL WAR This equals the Machiavellian doctrine of divide and rule. Consumer culture and material hierarchy create division between the people which weakens them and staves off revolution. But Richey is referring to the application of this principle across history, as the 'us and them' mentality has always been the most effective tool of social control.

    HURT MAIM KILL AND ENSLAVE THE GHETTO A difficult line. The violence suggests the brutality in a third world state, such as the anecdotes from my physiotherapist this evening about Gambian police beating citizens with no prevarication. But Richey was not afraid to use the Plathian technique of linking large scale atrocity to mental states of torture. So in this case the 'ghetto' is also a mental state, a feeling of enslavement or debilitation in an increasingly impersonal and dehumanising society.

    EACH DAY LIVING OUT A LIE LIFE SOLD CHEAPLY FOREVER, FOREVER Tying the first verse together. Consumerism, tribalism and culture all purport to empower the individual and confer a sense of identity, but in fact cheapen and degrade the individual and mask their worthless in a system that requires disposable robots.

    UNDER NEON LONELINESS MOTORCYCLE EMPTINESS UNDER NEON LONELINESS MOTORCYCLE EMPTINESS These lines really hit home when the song came on my Ipod randomly as I watched the sun rise over Shinjuku, Tokyo. Only later did I discover that the video for Motorcycle Emptiness was filmed here. What I saw from my vantage point 20 floors up was young Japanese dudes and their girls on these outlandish big motorbikes straight out of a comic book, Tokyo neon all around. Cool as f*ck - and devoid of any purpose or meaning whatsoever. Underneath all the clothes, the posing and the 'movie of my life' is the gaping awareness of our own significance and the sense of fruitlessness in a world teetering on the brink of self-extinction.

    Anyone fancy having a go at the next verse?

    Liminal2on January 12, 2011   Link
  • +6
    General Comment

    Its about loneliness and alienation as a result of our culture. In Blackwood when the four of them were teenagers, every other teenager had a motorcycle and they wre accepted because of this but the Manics, and some others, could not afford it because their father's were miners, and they were teenagers at the time of the miners strike. So, they're saying that because of their social position, they became lonely, alienated outcasts of their community.

    Little_Baby_Nothingon August 12, 2002   Link
  • +6
    General Comment

    MOTORCYCLE EMPTINESS = FUCKING BIG STINKING SHINY VOID - ON WHEELS. That is what the band wonderfully reduced consumerism to. How can you flaw this song when it speaks the truth so beautifully. Liminal2, you made some great observations about this song, but your first line analysis maybe a little off. I think what CULTURE SUCKS DOWN WORDS means is how generally our language is cohearsed or guided by what we hear through the media. We bend words and their meanings to fit with our personal bias's/viewpoints which in turn are adopted often thoughtlessly via reporting/advertising etc... ITEMISE LOATHING AND FEED YOURSELF SMILES - I think you nailed this one. ORGANISE YOUR SAFE TRIBAL WAR - Again you made some excellent points about this lyric. It could also be talking about peaceful protest and how it has become a token activity while leaders in 'free consumerist countries' continue to slowly crush our liberties and offer miniscule rewards to maintain the notion of fair play.

    LIFE LIES A SLOW SUICIDE Some might say most of the things that are supposed to satisfy us - ultimately kill us.... And we know it but choose to ignore. The underlying reason? We are deeply unhappy (talking generally about consumerist cultures) and have decreased personal value but increased ego. We feel invincible on one level when surrounded by safety of 24 hour shopping, just about every distraction possible on demand, reinforcment from equally unhappy friends and family etc... Yet the fundamental awareness of our mortality clashes with our ego and we feed it by acting in what we know will be ultimately destructive ways. Its like regaining control of mortality by letting the ego take over and subconsciously say "I will not accept my mortality is out of my hands - I alone will decide when I've had enough."

    ORTHODOX DREAMS AND SYMBOLIC MYTHS Well this is typical human egocentric behaviour. Tying so much meaning into symbolism (see Astrology, religion) as a way of trying to identify with whatever spirituality is supposed to mean. A religious person for example will look at a cross and pray holding onto one because that symbolises spirituality to them. Why? Because that's what they have been told spirituality is or is symbolised by and that's good enough to to keep the ego fed. Spirituality is such a nonsense word that vast amounts of symbolism can be attached to it and accepted as actuality. The idea that life after death is better is a powerful one as long as the notion that deep seeded unhappiness with how we live in consumerist cultures exists.

    FROM FEUDAL SERF TO SPENDER I am not terribly well informed on the Serfs, so its difficult to comment, but I understand that they were essentially slaves who built an enormous amount of infrastructure for the upper classes but had no rights to use what they created. I think I can see where the Manics found room for that reference in this song.

    THIS WONDERFUL WORLD OF PURCHASE POWER Whereas the class divide once determined how much u could possibly own depending on what side of the fence you came from, credit and loaning etc... has meant consumerism is wider spread than ever. Just because your near-broke doesn't mean you should miss out on spending loads of money on crap you really don't need. You can feel like your keeping up with Joneses - while spiraling into debt. The level of importance put on ownership is kind of absurd. Especially considering how most of your crap will be around a lot longer than you.

    ....Okay, anybody want to have a go at the last verse?

    lateleighon March 24, 2011   Link
  • +4
    General Comment

    Nicky Wire: The ultimate early Manics statement of longing for something you're never going to get. There's a slight sense of melancholic hope, accepting defeat and making something of it. It was one of the first songs we [Nick and Richey] sat down at the table and wrote together which was pretty special. It still gives me goose bumps thinking about it. There are so many lyrical ideas in "Motorcycle Emptiness" you almost get swamped in it: too much of everything. Even today it sounds like no other band.

    Liverpoolon August 12, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    i dunno the video was shot in japan i think its about the increasing isolation and competition in society today. thats what it means to me anyway

    Johnnoon April 28, 2003   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    It's the song me and my bf call "our song" and it was a great feeling to watch them in Cardiff in Jan'05 and see them perform that with my bf close by holding me. The lyrics aren't that black and white, but are interpretated according to what the listener perceives it to be. Again themes of capitalism, consumerism are echoed throughout the whole song - people being dazzled by artificial desires. The theme of the motorbike being no form of escapism from forced spending and consumerism, nothing in life is therefore free!

    twilight25on March 09, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    My interpretation is that no matter how much you buy, you can't buy happiness. "Motorcycle emptiness" reminds me of the feeling you can get on a motorbike, like everything's passing around you and you're just sitting there. It's a bit like the book Zen and the Art of Motorycle Maintenance describes - you can retreat into your innermost thoughts while the world whizzes by, part of it yet detatched from it.

    nahdogg555555555on July 18, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    I know this is the science geek inn me taking, but to add to MercyKiller's comment, neon is an inert gas, and so does not react, maybe something to do with a lack of energy used (as energy is needed for a reaction) and so a lack of motivation (probably political, in the idea of starting a revolution) because everyone would rather watch TV and succumb to the distractions.

    countcube69on May 20, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    It's about (social) alienation as a result of consumerist culture and commodification of pretty much everything (including people). I think the line "Orthodox dreams and symbolic myths" may refer to postmodern relativism and plurality of discourses in contemporary world, which lead to even greater feeling of emptiness and as a result strengthen the consumerist attitudes in the society. But maybe I'm reading too much into this.

    "Yes" explores similar ideas.

    Sometimes I think these are the best song lyrics ever written. Guy Debord would probably be proud.

    cuddlecoreon June 19, 2009   Link

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