There is an intriguing sort of pleasure in seeing the maturation and development of a band and a poet. As someone who started writing poems as a child, and who still writes them on occasion when the mood strikes, I appreciate the poetry of others. The song I will be examining today is the second single from the latest Pearl Jam album, a balled called “Sirens” whose lyrics remind me of the sort of year that I have had. I’m not sure if that reminder is a very good thing, but at the very least it is intriguing to notice the way that song lyrics can relate to our life experiences, and how a band can speak to where we stand in life. I suppose I’m old enough to be able to relate very well to a song like this, and so I would like to share an analysis of the song lyrics with my readers.

Considering that this song does not have a traditional verse/chorus format, I will treat it like a previous analysis of a Bryan Adams song [1] and show the whole lyrics of the songs and then proceed to analyze them thought by thought:

“Hear the sirens, hear the sirens.

Hear the sirens,
Hear the circus so profound.
I hear the sirens,
More and more in this here town.

Let me catch my breath
To breathe and reach across the bed.
Just to know we’re safe.
I am a grateful man.

This life has been a light and I can see clear
Oh, I have to take your hand and feel your breath.

For fear that someday we’ll be over.
I pull you close. So much to lose
Knowing that nothing lasts forever.
I didn’t care before you were here.

I danced with laughter,
With the ever-after
But all things change.
Let this remain.

Hear the sirens
Covering distance in the night.
The sound echoing closer.
Will they come for me next time?

For every choice, mistake I made, is not my plan
To send you in the arms of another man.
And if you choose to stay, I’ll wait, I’ll understand.

Oh, it’s a fragile thing, this life we lead.
If I think too much I can’t get overwhelmed by the grace by which we live our lives with death over our shoulders.

Want you to know
That should I go,
I always loved you,
Held you high above too.
I studied your face,
And the fear goes away.

Oh, it’s a fragile thing, this life we lead.
If I think too much I can get overwhelmed by the grace by which we live our lives with death over our shoulders.

Want you to know
That should I go,
I always loved you,
Held you high above too.
I studied your face,
And the fear goes away,
The fear goes away,
The fear goes away.

Fear goes away.
Ah, ah, oh, oh [2].”

Let us note that the whole song is set in the context of a fearful and anxious man hearing sirens and thinking that the police are coming for him. He is not talking about the sirens of Greek myths, who led incautious sailors to their doom, but rather the sirens of police cruisers that lead people to jail. The singer/songwriter is not very clear about what he has done to fear the sound of sirens, but I know that this year I have had enough cause to fear such matters myself, and there are a lot of ways that someone can go wrong in this world. It is a terrible thing to live in fear, and a terrible thing to know that others are living in fear of oneself as well. Life is too short for us to be ruled by our fears and insecurities, but overcoming them is not a simple and straightforward matter at all. The singer, hearing the sound of the sirens, thinks that they are getting more and more where he lives.

In light of this fear, the singer takes pleasure in the simple joys of enjoying a beloved lady, whose steadfast love helps the fear go away, if only for a little while. We should all be so fortunate to have such love in our own lives. Knowing the temporary nature of life, the singer hopes that the love he enjoys will remain forever, even as our time vanishes into the air like breath into a cold morning. The presence of beloved people in our lives makes us realize how precious the time of our life is, and how easily we waste it and take it for granted as the years slip by without our care and concern.

Almost immediately after these reflections, though, the singer is back to ruminating on the sirens, wondering if they will come for him next time. Although the singer is not clear about what he did that would merit a visit from the police, it is clear that his fear is genuine, serious, and profound. Having been threatened at least a couple times in my life with unwelcome visits from the police [3], over matters where I had legitimate cause to understand that such visits could threaten my own freedom, I can understand how others would share such fears for their own reasons. The singer/songwriter too knows that he is in the wrong, and that the freedom he has is a better fate than at some level he knows he deserves, knowing that he has made serious mistakes. It is a feeling I know all too well.

In addition to the fears of imprisonment, the singer-songwriter is afraid that his errors will drive his beloved lady into the arms of another man, and he states that if she chooses to stay with him that he will wait for her and understand her own needs and concerns. In light of these very serious thoughts, the singer muses on the way in which moments of grace overwhelm us but that death and destruction loom for us constantly as well, and we can never shake them off entirely. In light of these concerns, the singer promises his beloved that he has always loved and cherished her, even if he has to go away (to jail?), studying her face to help the fear go away.

After an instrumental bridge, the last part of these lyrics are repeated once again as the song closes with an instrumental coda. What makes this song particularly intriguing is the way that it combines reflective lyrical poetry with effective rock balladry. The fact that many people in this world nowadays share such anxiety and fear, even if not always about unpleasant visits from the po-po, suggests that many people can potentially relate to this song. This factor probably accounts for the popularity of the song, even if people are not always very open about their fears and longings, their reflections and musings. Perhaps some of us are a bit too open about such matters, to our own shame, but finding the right balance is not an easy matter at all, and it is so easy to go wrong.




About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Love & Marriage, Musings and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Sirens

  1. steve88 says:

    “If I think too much I can’t get overwhelmed by the grace by which we live our lives with death over our shoulders.”

    It’s “If I think too much I CAN get overwhelmed by the grace by which we live our lives with death over our shoulders.”

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