Sunday, January 28, 2007


There's a great song called "Spilt Needles" on The Shins' latest album, "Wincing The Night Away." I'd never really listened to The Shins before, but I really like the album and that song, which says this in a couple places:

"It's like I'm perched on the handlebars/of a blind man's bike"

That section of the song always kind of gave me the stomach, if you know what I mean. I felt something emotional and deep when it got that part--the song just sound cool, the melody for those lyrics is moving yet controlled, etc.

But as I walked around singing it to myself, it occurred to me--this lyric doesn't really make much literal sense, yet I like it very much. I mean, why would a blind person have a bike?

Blind bikes

I suppose in general, blind people don't have bikes just like they don't have cars. I tried to think of situations in which blind people might have bikes and came up with the following (hat tip to my man Mik Davis for a couple of these):

1. Someone blinded later in life
2. An exercise, or stationary bike
3. A blind person who uses echolocation to get around

Anyway, while any of those is a likely explanation for why a blind person might have a bike, I think most people would agree that blind people, while possibly owning bikes, don't generally ride them.

The hypocrisy of personal taste

And that's what struck me about The Shins' lyrics--they don't really make any sense.
In fact, if those same lyrics were in a song I didn't like, I would use them as an argument against the song. I'd say something like, "Yeah, that song sucks--I mean, even the lyrics have something about a 'blind man's bike' or some nonsense--it's just weak writing, man. Blind people don't have bikes."

But since I like the song a lot, I not only excuse what common sense tells me are not great lyrics, I try to make them make sense. You know, like write an entire blog entry about them citing certain conditions under which blind people might have bikes. Now why someone might get on the handlebars, I have no idea.

I guess it's just the hypocrisy of personal taste.


Brenna said...

You need to listen to the rest of the song in order to interpret what the song is talking about.
Starting off the song, it says "I found myself an impossible crime. I have to paint myself a hole."
When interpreting the idea of someone being perched on a blind man's bike, you must understand that this man is in for some consequences. What would happen to you if you relied on a blind man for a ride? You would be headed in a dangerous direction, I'd think.

Just a visitor said...

The Shins have very metaphorical lyrics, you can't try to make literal sense out of them. The specific line you're referring to I thought made the some of the most sense. As Brenna said before, he feels like he's headed for trouble, like being perched on the handlebars of a blind man's bike. It's obvious he's going to crash, but not to the blind man who's in control. You can interpret this a number of ways. Maybe he means he's not in control of his life and heading for destruction, or perhap's he feels like the country is like the bike and the blind man is its leaders, and he's trapped riding along, but that might be making the message far more political than it should be taken. Anyways, just try not to think of the Shins lyrics literally, it's one of the things I like best about the band.

Anonymous said...

Let's be honest here, there isn't even much everyday conversation that could be understood in a completely literal sense. How can you judge a song by whether or not the lyrics literally make sense. This song is great, the blind man's bike line is fantastic and metaphors are fun.