And when I see you
I really see you upside down
But my brain knows better
It picks you up and turns you around
Turns you around, turns you around

If you feel discouraged
When there's a lack of color here
Please don't worry lover
It's really bursting at the seams
From absorbing everything, the spectrum's A to Z

This is fact not fiction
For the first time in years
All the girls in every girly magazine
Can't make me feel any less alone
I'm reaching for the phone
To call at 7:03 and on your machine
I slur a plea for you to come home
But I know it's too late
And I should have given you a reason to stay
Given you a reason to stay
Given you a reason to stay
Given you a reason to stay

This is fact, not fiction
For the first time in years


Lyrics submitted by minette, edited by TomAtMuse

A Lack Of Color Lyrics as written by Benjamin Gibbard

Lyrics © BMG Rights Management

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A Lack of Color song meanings
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  • +18
    General Comment

    The whole song is a study of reality through the lens of opposites: inside vs. outside, fact vs. fiction, heart vs. brain. When looking at something, which view shows the soul or the truth of the matter, and which is just a shadow or filter of the truth.

    In the midst of his loneliness in the aftermath of being left, he's perfecting his idea of what he had. He's longing for a perfection that he never really had. Is he longing for fact or a fiction he's created for himself?

    The first stanza sets this up with the heart vs. the mind contradiction. The eye with vision (just like the heart with relationships) is the first receptor, the first judge. Because, it's first, is it closer to the original and therefore more true? or is the brain more true after it's had time to correct our eye's vision. Our brain tends to do the same thing to our heart after a while in a relationship. The brain is always catching up with our instincts.

    By repeating "turns you around" several times, he's emphasizing that the brain does more than just a physical function of inverting an image, but the brain also locks onto the idea and dwells on it, dissects it, considers it over and over again and thinks it over constantly.

    But is all that thinking and interpretation bringing him closer to the truth, or further from the truth. Did he really have a perfect relationship, or is he weaving a myth of perfection. Which is fact, which is fiction? The heart or the mind?

    In the last lines of the song I think he realizes that he's longing for a false perfection. His reality is that he's alone now. That's the fact. The fiction is the relationship that's now over: they were together, but it couldn't work because it wasn't true. All the time they spent together was just a sham because at the heart of the matter it couldn't work.

    Alsatianon May 20, 2004   Link
  • +9
    General Comment

    I think the song's title sums up the song 'A Lack of Color'. That on the outside their relationship seems boring, uninteresting, stale and to not be trying too hard. But the character in the song feels that it's really bursting from the seams. He remembers her, thinking of how special that kind of love was. That it didn't need to be showy and colorful. It was true on the inside, a deep unconditional love. The kind of secret beauty to be envious over.

    But it was only him that felt this way. She didn't. She left him, and he's desperately trying to figure out why (why this keeps happening). After remembering what their love meant to him, he wants her (that kind of love) back. He calls her and leaves a message. But he knows it's too late. He knows that she didn't feel the same. To her their love was just a lack of color.

    After years of repeating this pattern, of others not feeling the same, he realizes that only a colorful relationship will work. One in which the love is on the outside, is shallow, where rather than absorbing all the colors of the spectrum, they only reflect color, and have no value on the inside. Obviously, that silent sweet love isn't enough for anyone else, he thinks. Hence, "I should have given you a reason to stay."

    "This is fact not fiction, for the first time in years." This is his resolution to the issue. The fiction was his fantasy of true love. The fact is that they leave you if you lack visible color.

    He realizes that the kind of purely abstract love he wants is unrealistic. He's no longer living in fantasy. Through the trauma, he's learnt a lesson. Now that he's not pursuing a path that's doomed to always fail (and get him hurt), he is now wiser. He's not going to turn anyone around from being upside-down to fit what he wants love to be. In future, he'll come closer than he ever could before to that kind of abstract love! No more will there be a lack of color here.

    david123on September 01, 2010   Link
  • +4
    General Comment

    "All the girls in every girlie magazine..."

    That's a great line. The porn doesn't make you any less lonely. None of the shit we try to distract ourselves with does.

    Gamaon December 24, 2004   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    reading these lyrics makes me want to sing "I should have given you a reason to stay, given you a reason to stay."

    a subtle allegoryon April 14, 2004   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    If you feel discouraged When there's a lack of color here Please don't worry lover It's really bursting at the seams Absorbing everything The spectrum's A to Z

    I imagine this to be about a girl who seems kind of dull and boring on the outside to most people. But he can see through that and knows that inside she's bursting with passion and idea's and stuff. So she's like a black object, an object that has actually absorbed all colors, it's just not visible to the eye. He's trying to comfort her, telling her not to worry about all those other people because he sees her for who she truely is.

    This is fact not fiction For the first time in years

    I think here he's saying this girl really is special to him. It's not one of those relationships for the sake of having a relationship.. when you're just telling yourself you love the other person, you know (fiction). This time his love is an actual fact.

    But I know it's too late I should have given you a reason to stay

    He had a chance with this girl, but he blew it, because he didn't realize how special she was from his first impression of her (like everyone else). Now he does, but it's too late and she's moved on.

    Maybe not the actual meaning, just my interpretation. I love, love, love this song. The lyrics are just.. perfection. I actually had a dream about this guy who has rejected me. He gave me a mixtape and this was on it. A very nice dream indeed. Gehe.

    chocolatesprinkleson April 28, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    I'm kind of going to repeat and build on ideas from some of the previous comments (a lot of really helpful and interesting thoughts, by the way). What I think I have to add is the connection between the first stanza, and the second, which sort of confused me at first.

    I read this song as an attempt by someone who doesn’t know how to say what they feel to explain themselves while still holding back a lot.

    "And when I see you I really see you upside down But my brain knows better It picks you up and turns you around Turns you around..."

    What's happing with his eyes and brain is a metaphor for how he understands her. Things with her aren't as they initially appear, and the adjustment he makes to his perceptions is so ingrained that it’s instant, like as the adjustment your brain makes to what you see.

    But she isn't able to do the same for him:

    "If you feel discouraged When there's a lack of color here Please don't worry lover It's really bursting at the seams"

    It seems as if he's saying that she should do what he does when he looks at her, and be aware that the ‘fact’ of who he is may be the opposite of what he appears to be... assuming that ‘here’ refers to either him or their relationship. As in the previous stanza, there are two conflicting ideas. What she observes troubles her (“Please don’t worry”). It’s a fiction, though. He explains that lack of color isn’t really a lack of color, but proof of everything that’s hidden and held in. He explains that she is not what she appears to be upon first viewing, and neither is he. Actually, they're both the opposite. His lack of color, which may also be referring to the subdued tone of the song, is a fiction that conceals the true nature of his feelings, which I imagine include everything that isn’t really hashed out here in detail, like rage, pain, and passionate love. He can only say little things, tiny clues that barely touch on the true depth of his emotion. The song seems to end abruptly, like more unspoken thoughts. He can’t tell her all that he feels because his authentic and true emotions are the ones that he keeps inside.

    He sounds like a very difficult person to be in a relationship with.

    piscsmoonon May 06, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    I think this song is about how men and women hurt each other in relationships, because of all the fiction they learn about each other through culture, through the media, through whatever.

    And when I see you I really see you upside down But my brain knows better It picks you up and turns you around Turns you around Turns you around

    he has to unlearn what he's learnt about her.

    If you feel discouraged When there's a lack of color here Please don't worry lover It's really bursting at the seams Absorbing everything The spectrum's A to Z

    she is worried that he doesnt love her. yet he cannot express it fully enough that she can trust him. yet he is bursting at the seams with love.

    This is fact, not fiction For the first time in years

    for the first time, he understands a relationship is something deep, and not about things like 'scoring as many hot chicks as possibe'

    All the girls in every girlie magazine Can't make me feel any less alone

    this is the most perfect example of the FICTION. how many men fantasize about some woman in a magazine, fashion or porn, and neglect their own girlfriends. yet does that woman that you pay to stare at give you ANYTHING real in life? NO. he now realizes how stupid all that crap is - this is fact not fiction.

    I'm reaching for the phone To call at 7:03 And on your machine, I slur a plea For you to come home But I know it's too late I should have given you a reason to stay Given you a reason to stay Given you a reason to stay Given you a reason to stay

    wow- this line is the real tear-jerker. he lived that FICTION, and he lost her. now she is gone. he never gave her a reason to stay. he took her for granted. he never SAID how much he loved her. but now she's gone.

    This is fact, not fiction For the first time in years...

    finally coming clean with himself, about all those wasted disillusioned years.

    gomenon September 11, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    I cried the first time I heard this song. I have loved Death Cab for Cutie for a long time and just recently heard this song in particular.

    Reading through these comments, most people think this song is about a loved on in some shape or form, but personally, I think this song, on some level, is about suicide, or overcoming it.

    "And on your machine, I slur a plea For you to come home But I know it's too late I should have given you a reason to stay"

    I can't listen to this song in public, I cry to it every time I hear it.

    ThePoeticHermiton April 01, 2011   Link
  • +2
    My Interpretation

    The first part references the "fun fact" phenomenon that our vision is upside down but then reversed by out brains. As such, I believe that he part about the lack of color references the fact that black is perceived as black because, unlike any true color, it absorbs light instead of reflecting it selectively. I believe that the second bit is simply saying that, although it appears to be black, in reality it's "bursting at the seams" because it's absorbed the entire color spectrum.

    He's using these two commonly propagated little known facts as a metaphor, but I'm not quite certain what that metaphor is.

    Dufflepudon March 25, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    best song ever, the way he opens himself up for so much, the way he whispers what we all think.

    "all the girls in every girlie magazine cant make me feel, any less alone. I'm reaching for the phone, to call at 7:03, and on your machine i slur a plea for you to come home" (this is where i die, over again)

    cheFFyon April 09, 2004   Link

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