A song by the Scottish twee pop group, Belle and Sebastian.

Ooh, get me away from here, I'm dying
Play me a song to set me free
Nobody writes them like they used to
So it may as well be me
Here on my own now after hours
Here on my own now on a bus
Think of it this way, you could either be successful or be us
With our winning smiles, oh us with our catchy tunes, and us
Now we're photogenic, we don’t stand a chance

Oh, I'll settle down with some old story
About a boy who's just like me
Thought there was love in everyone and everything
You're so naïve!
They always reach a sorry ending
They always get it in the end
Still, it was worth it as I turned the pages solemnly and then
With a winning smile the boy with naïvete succeeds
At the final moment, I cried
I always cry at endings

Oh, that wasn't what I meant to say at all
From where I'm sitting, rain
Falling against the lonely tenement
Has led my mind to wander
Into the windows of my lovers
They never know unless I write,
"This is no declaration, I just thought I'd let you know, goodbye"
Said the hero in the story,
"It is mightier than swords, I could kill you, sure, but I can only make you cry with these words"

I wrote an analysis of these lyrics a few years ago (1999) and thought, why not make it into a node?

The main appeal of this band is its mellow, atmospheric music and melancholy, creative, offbeat lyrics. One can immerse oneself in deep thought whilst listening to Belle and Sebastian. This song in particular is about their style and attitude as a band in comparison to the majority of musicians in their genre.

In this song, Belle and Sebastian use repetition, image-invoking language, and stylised word order. The theme is obvious though subtly stated: it has become “cool” to be cynical and misanthropic. To be old-fashioned-ly optimistic is looked down upon, particularly in the art community. In this song, the writer argues for old forgotten ways when everything was uncomplicated.

Repetition is used skilfully in many instances throughout the song. There are several parallels between the first and second stanza. For instance, in the second line of each stanza, the last word rhymes (“free” and “me”). In lines 8-9 (first stanza), he says, “With our winning smiles, oh us, with our catchy tunes…” and then in line 17 (second stanza), “With a winning smile the boy with naivete succeeds.” In other words, the words are reflecting the mood and the idea conveyed in the first two stanzas. The mood shift is stated clearly at the beginning of the third stanza: “Oh, that wasn’t what I meant to say at all.” There are also more simple uses of repetition, such as “everyone and everything” in line 12, and “You’re so naïve” in line 13, repeated in “The boy with naivete succeeds” in line 17. These are mainly used for emphasis, but they also show an idea in a new light by using it in a different context.

The writer also makes use of imagery throughout the piece. The “winning smiles” prompt images of a perfect cheesy photo, complete with the poof of the camera flash and airbrushed complexions. In lines 5-6, “Here on my own after hours, here on my own now on a bus,” invokes a mental image of someone sitting in an empty bar, dimly lit, with a janitor sweeping away peanuts and beer. The “bus” conjures memories of taking the bus late at night when you are the sole passenger. All images of solitude, they fit with the theme that Belle and Sebastian as a band are alone with their dying beliefs. In the third stanza the mood grows melancholy with pictures of “rain falling against the lonely tenement” and “my mind to wander into the windows of my lovers” (also alliteration). Again, these are images of isolation and being alone with one’s thoughts.

The author arranges words very cleverly in this piece. For example, in the second stanza, “I always cry at endings,” (line 19) ends the stanza and also ends one train of thought. As aforementioned, the first and second stanzas are very similar, but the third stanza stands alone. Another instance in which inventive word placement is used is in lines 7-8: “Here on my own now on a bus, think of it this way, you could either be successful or be us.” Here, the climax of the sentence is delayed until the end, so as to draw attention to the point they are trying to make. It jumps up on you and draws your attention to the line and the next couple that follow, which dictate a central theme of the poem:

Think of it this way, you could either be successful or be us
With our winning smiles and us, with our catchy tunes oh us,
Now we’re photogenic, you know we don’t stand a chance

Note also the repetition of the word “us,” which also draws listener’s attention and adds emphasis. The melody of these lines also reflects the musicians’ attempt to lure in the audience. The last four lines provide an excellent example of impeccable word placement:

They never know unless I write,
“This is no declaration, I just thought I’d let you know goodbye
Said the hero in the story,
“It is mightier than swords, I can kill you, sure, but I can only make you cry with these words”

These lines are rich with meaning. When you listen to the song, it produces the illusion that the “said the hero in the story” refers to the previous line, but when you read further, you realise that the line he actually says is the one that follows. The reason for this is that the person who is really saying, “This is no declaration…” is the narrator. The “hero” refers to the second stanza in lines 10-11: “Oh, I’ll settle down with some old story about a boy who’s just like me.” So, here, the hero and the narrator become one and the same. It is also interesting that the last quote alludes to the old expression “the pen is mightier than the sword,” because of the main theme of the poem: that they have adopted an old-fashioned way of thinking. But in the poem, he cleverly uses consonance with “swords” and “these words,” which shows that they embrace old ideas but add their own unique twist.

This song is too accurately true. Belle and Sebastian are too charming, genuine, distinct, and profound to ever be fully appreciated by the mainstream. It’s easy enough to write a shallow love song. Anybody can write about inner angst. These two emotions run rampant in the world of adolescence. But Belle and Sebastian are artists. This song demonstrates that fact by being what it says it is.

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