Welcome to "Behind the Lyrics" with Elise Chandler. Each week, I find a song that I feel is understated both musically and lyrically, and I analyze it through several critical lenses.
This week, I decided to focus on a band that has an English/Psychology major alum -- AFI, which stands for A Fire Inside. Davey Havok is the lead singer, and he is also the band's lead lyricist.
Since the very beginning, AFI has created interesting, compelling lyrics that seem to be intentionally vague. It leaves listeners trying to piece together what just happened and has left me and some of my Liberal Arts college friends in serious debates and banters. So, with this analysis, if it seems I am being intentionally vague, it is because I feel like their lyrics are left to leave listeners making the song speak to them and their needs.
"End Transmission" is the third track on AFI's Crash Love. The guitar and strong drum beat are the backings of this song, supporting the mystical lyrics throughout. However, it is very apparent by their support of the lyrics that we should be focused on the words.
Here's the chorus:
"This night has only just begun
If there's discretion that
You've not abandoned now's the time
We'll burn to best the morning's sun
Go grab your bag, I'll bring the gun, the gun"
Pretty vague, huh? By itself, it may seem like another "we've only got tonight" songs, but if we look at other more subtle clues throughout, we can piece together a bigger meaning.
For example, here are some key lines throughout:
"Pull the top down, use your knees to drive"
"We never can truly know who we are"
"With the light out and the night inside
The broken radio was playing suicide"
"And said, they'd call us stars"
We can gather by all the driving references, that the narrator is most possibly in the vehicle with someone, most likely someone he likes because there is kissing occurring throughout the song. However, using your knees to drive is not a safe combination, the top down making you feel wild and free. Again, alluding to that "we've only got tonight feel". Here's where it takes a darker turn.
"We can never know who we are" is a line that I feel most everyone can relate to. All of our lives we go chasing new parts and identities that make us, us. We never stop changing or growing, and it is through that growth that often times things can go sour -- fitting in, belonging somewhere, finding love, etc.
"With the light out and the night inside, the broken radio was playing suicide". These two lines paired are what convince me that "bring the gun" and leaving "discretion" are alluding to the star-crossed lovers are done and going to end their lives together. There's no more light; they can see no other way out. They don't need to hide what they thinking or feeling because they are going to die soon anyways. It's now or never to say what they need to. Even the radio is symbolically telling them they are in the right mindset.
"And said, they'd call us stars" line makes me feel that the pair feel that the only way they will be remembered and their lives hold any meaning is if they burn out rather than fizzle.
Then, we get the quietest part of the song delivering these fatal lines:
"Everything was burning bright
Everyone was frightened
You said, stay strong
Everybody knowing that what
We'd invited still remains when we're gone"
"Everything was burning bright" makes me think of two possibilities -- the usage and addiction of drugs. Do these two feel that the only way to escape drugs and their power is to end it and its magical effects? Or, is this simply how beautiful the world seems now that they have decided to leave it?
The last four lines here really stand out because the fear of losing life, yet they need to be strong, and this idea continues that while their bodies may be gone, their lives and good deeds will "remain when we're gone".
However, even with all of that, I was still not convinced that this upbeat song had such a dark message. I must be listening to this wrong. That is when I really paid attention to the title - "End Transmission". Their message, their lives would end when the song does. There is no continuation. "The broken radio was playing suicide." Pair that with all the past tense verbs...you got a pair of people thinking about themselves as already non-existent. Dark, yet beautiful lyrics.
AFI never fails to impress me and challenge my way of thinking about music and the world. But isn't that way good music does? Until next time.