There's bound to be a ghost
At the back of your closet
No matter where you live
There'll always be a few things
Maybe several things
That you're gonna find really difficult to forgive

There's gonna come a day
When you'll feel better
You'll rise up free and easy on that day
And float from branch to branch
Lighter than the air
Just when that day is coming
Who can say
Who can say

Our mother has been absent
Ever since we founded Rome
But there's gonna be a party
When the wolf comes home

We're gonna commandeer
The local airwaves
To tell the neighbors what's been going on
And they will shake their heads
And wag their bony fingers
In all the wrong directions
And by daybreak we'll be gone

I'm gonna get myself in fighting trim
Scope out every angle
Of unfair advantage
I'm gonna bribe the officials
I'm gonna kill all the judges
It's gonna take you people years
To recover from all of the damage

Our mother has been absent
Ever since we founded Rome
But there's gonna be a party
When the wolf comes home

Lyrics submitted by fuckedupdog, edited by unspecialfish, Courtway, Mellow_Harsher

Up the Wolves song meanings
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  • +5
    General Comment

    Well according to John at a show :

    "I'm always trying to figure out what to say about this god *&@# song. Part of me wants to say look it's about revenge, but as soon as I say that... no, that's not quite it. Part of me wants to say it's about the satisfaction of not needing revenge... and i say no, that some new age stuff. I think it's a song about the moment in your quest for revenge when you learn to embrace the futility of it. The moment where you know the thing you want is ridiculous and pompous and a terrible thing to want anyway. The direction in which you're headed is not the direction you want to go, yet you're going to head that way a while longer cause that's just the kind of person you are."

    I love John's attempts to explain his songs :)

    ninjacow7on June 02, 2009   Link
  • +4
    General Comment

    Story of Remus and Romulus. Abandoned by their mother, raised by wolves, founded Rome. It's really about overcoming an obstacle like abandonment.

    Howiemaanon December 31, 2005   Link
  • +4
    General Comment

    I'm pretty sure the line is "our mother has been absent". Singular, not plural.

    I've always seen this one as John and his sister, left to their own devices in the "Rome" of his stepfather's house, and the resentment they must have felt towards their mother for not protecting them from him.

    "there'll always be a few things maybe several things that you're gonna find really difficult to forgive"

    MsMollyon November 24, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    I love it when men sing about smashing patriarchy. That's what gives me hope...

    pjaneon March 07, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    Really enjoyed hearing this on Sunday's ep of the Walking Dead, which was all about leaving your past behind-- your shitty, impoverished, and unfair past.

    thesovietonionon March 06, 2014   Link
  • +1
    General Comment


    In Roman mythology, Romulus and Remus were twin brothers that were abandoned and raised by a she-wolf. Eventually they founded Rome, and Romulus was the first king.

    I read the chorus as saying, effectively, "our mom hasn't taken care of us since we moved in with our step-father, but when she comes to her senses everything will be OK again."

    reagankon September 05, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    I really like this song, I haven't ever heard of the Mountain Goats, which shouldn't be so weird cause I live all the way in southern africa. My brothers girlfriend left him some of her cd's and he gave me this one to listen to, basically I wanted one song and wasn't even by them but now listening to it. It's really growing on me.

    RA2y5on February 24, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    This is my favorite song by him. I am getting a better grasp on it now; mentally, the meaning settled on the anger that comes from being raised in an abusive home, with a mother who looks the other way. Emotionally it speaks more volume for me, needing to destroy the way you were destroyed, needing to make the people who pretended nothing was happening feel the confusing despair a small child feels in that situation. For me, the wolf represented the bitter part of myself that luckily has not existed for a long time. In a way I don't associate with the song, because I recognized the revenge as self-destructive and less than what I could be; yet at the same time, it is not quite about any of it. It's incredibly difficult to explain.

    But the wolf could be the mother waking up and realizing what is happening, too. Either way, I feel so much more free after listening to this song.

    soadrocksk8er4lifeon December 31, 2011   Link
  • +1
    My Interpretation

    I think I remember John Darnielle saying this song is about overcoming adversity.

    MagicRat73on December 05, 2015   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    This is a Christian Song with much Christian symbolism.

    This Song is about the Pedophiles that invaded/infiltrated/destroyed the Catholic Church.

    Victims feel shame, later recover, eventually forgive and then victims go after the individuals who made the cycle possible, to prevent further destruction of children.

    Closet = self loathing/ shame

    Mother = Virgin Mary

    Float = forgive/letting go

    Rome = Vatican/Catholic Church

    Take Years/ Damage = going after pedophile ring and cover-up with a wrecking ball

    Mother has been absent/ Rome = Centralized Church/ Control

    The wolf = the second coming.

    Freeperon March 05, 2016   Link

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