Song Analysis – “Wishing Well” – The Airborne Toxic Event

Standing on a bus stop

Feeling your head pop

Out in the night

On the kind of night

Where you want to be out

On the street, on the street

Crawling up the walls

Like a cat in heat

[He expresses an anxious mood. He conveys a sense of anticipation. The waiting at the bus stop and the longing to go out suggest a kind of itchiness to move.]

And the air is thin

And it blows through your skin

And you feel like something

Is about to begin

But you don’t know what

And you don’t know when

So you tear at your hair

And you scratch at your skin

[This part suggests to me a phenomenon that doesn’t have a name in English. It’s like anticipation in that the person feels like something is about to start. But unlike in anticipation, in which a person knows either what’s about to happen or when it’s about to happen, if not both, in this feeling, there’s no sense of that. It strikes me as being closer to anxiety or tension. Anxiety is somewhat problematic because it has such negative connotations, so much so that modern medicine treats anxiety as a symptom of illness.  I prefer tension because it’s more neutral. Tension can be bad when it’s connected to stress. But tension can also be good, even essential, like physical tension or dramatic tension.]

You wanna run away, run away

Just get on the f*&^ing train and leave today

And it doesn’t matter where you spend the night

You just might end up somewhere in a fight, in a fight

Or caught in your room on a concrete shelf

Fighting all alone, with yourself, with yourself

And you just wanna feel like a coin that’s been tossed

In a wishing well, a wishing well

A wishing well, a wishing well

Well, you’re tossed in the air

And you fell and you fell

Through the dark blue waters

Where you cast your spell

Like you were just a wish that could turn out well

[This part is about aimlessness and wanting to escape. The simile comparing a person to a tossed coin is intriguing. The speaker wishes he were a wish. (Is that sentence Dr. Seuss-y?) It suggests to me a longing to return to innocence and childhood. When people are young, their parents are filled with hopes and dreams for them. I also get a sense of lightness, the idea of being thrown in the air as if light as a feather]

So you stand on the corner

Where the angels sit

And you think to yourself,

“This is it, this is it,

This is all that I have

All I can stand

Is this air in my lungs

And this coin in my hand

That you tossed in the air

And I fell, and I fell

All the way to the bottom

Of the well, of the well

Like those soft little secrets

That you tell, that you tell

To yourself, when you think

No one’s listening too well”

[It’s a secret of the wise that sometimes to really make people listen, you have to speak really quietly. The speaker lowers his voice, baiting the audience to perk up their ears. Ironically, just as everyone is listening closely, he says, “No one’s listening too well.” Secrets are a significant idea that he’s introducing here and will explore further as the song continues.]

And the walls spin

And you’re paper-thin

From the haze of the smoke

And the mescaline

The threat of your brow

Under unmade sheets

In your ear with the noise

From the darkest streets

We ran far and wide

You screamed, you cried

You thought suicide was an alibi

But you were always a mess

You were always aloof

Yeah, it’s awful, I guess

But it’s the awful truth

It was truth from the first

To the last words that she read

[At the end of this part, the audience finds out that someone is reading from text, which turns out to be a set of personal letters. There’s definitely drug use going on as the speaker refers to “smoke” and “mescaline,” a hallucinogen. I’m quite taken by the lines, “You thought suicide was an alibi/ But you were always a mess.” It’s unclear who’s addressing whom but clearly someone is suicidal and someone else is utterly unsympathetic. Suicide is a pretty extreme alibi, although it’s definitely air-tight.

And she emerged from the dark

Like a ghost in my head

She said, “I haven’t forgot

Any words that you said

I just stare at the clocks

And I cry in my sleep

And I tear up your letters

And I burn them in heaps

And I gather the ashes

In that hole in the ground

Where we fell”

[I’m not sure if I’m piecing this together correctly, but it seems to me that this guy has written letters to this girl that are powerful and brutally honest. She says that she hasn’t forgotten any of the words which imply they have a profound impact on her. But she’s unhappy with what he’s written so she tears them up and sets them on fire. Yet even the ashes are somehow sacred to her. So she ritually gathers up the ashes and takes them to a special place, possibly the place they met. The final word “fell” seems to be doing a lot of work. It carries a host of meanings from “hit the ground,” to “made a mistake” to “mortally sinned.” ]

  1. #1 by DJ remixes on September 15, 2011 - 3:56 am

    Thanks for the piece, keep on writing.

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