Song of the Day: “Keep the Car Running”

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Nothing starts the week off wrong like a broken down car. This happened to me this morning, due to overheating. Understandably, cars were on the top of my mind when I went to pick out a song of the day, and landed on “Keep the Car Running”, by Arcade Fire. The irony of this choice is not lost on me. But there really aren’t that many songs about broken down cars that fall outside of the country genre, and even those are mostly trucks.

Still, I appreciate the tone and energy behind “Keep the Car Running”. It’s definitely the kind of thing I personally need right now. While I wouldn’t wish the same on anyone else, if you are going through a case of the Mondays (even if its not car-related), maybe you’ll be able to get some good energy out of this song too.

For those who aren’t familiar with Arcade Fire, we’ll do a quick overview of them before moving on to the song itself.

Arcade Fire

The Canadian indie rock troupe known as Arcade Fire came bursting into the indie/pop music scene with the release of their critically acclaimed 2004 debut album, “Funeral”. Their unique combination of baroque meets indie meets pop made them underground favorites. Arcade Fire’s subsequent releases cemented their status as one of the most prominent bands of the 2000’s. Their music has been included in soundtracks to films like “Where the Wild Things Are”, and “The Hunger Games”.

Our song of the day comes from Arcade Fire’s second studio album, “Neon Bible”, released in 2007. The album was nominated for Best Alternative Album for the 50th Annual Grammy Awards, and won the 2008 Juno Award for Best Alternative Album.

Keep the Car Running

Our song of the day today was the second single released in early 2007 for Arcade Fire’s sophomore album, “Neon Bible”. “Keep the Car Running” was released on along with the B-side “Broken Window”, and alternatively titled “Keep the Car Running/Broken Window”. It received a good deal of praise, being included on multiple top 100 songs of the year lists by the likes of Rolling Stone and NME.

On the UK singles chart, “Keep the Car Running” peaked at No. 56, and No. 32 on the Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart.

Lyrics

The lyrics in “Keep the Car Running” have absolutely nothing to do with car repair. Instead, they paint the picture of a dystopian land, and a protagonist who struggles against giving up, seeking to escape it. Let’s take a look at the first verse, and work our way through.

“Every night my dream’s the same
Same old city with a different name
Men are coming to take me away
I don’t know why but I know I can’t stay”

The protagonist here is living with a fear of death, and a paranoia that some unnamed organization or group is hunting him. This feeling is reiterated with the later lines, “There’s this fear I keep so deep / Knew its name since before I could speak”, and “There’s a weight that’s pressing down / Late at night you can hear the sound”. All of these lines serve to build up a sense of the oppressive atmosphere the protagonist is living in.

We first hear our title phrase in the chorus.

“They know my name cause I told it to them
But they don’t know where
They don’t know when, it’s coming
Oh when, is it coming, keep the car running”

Now, we can look at that line from a few different angles. We can see it as a symbol of hope, the car that will take our protagonist away from the oppressive regime and the men chasing him. But at the same time, the context surrounding the chorus seems to suggest that the protagonist is being motivated by fear. In this case, “keep the car running” may symbolize the need to keep one’s guard up. To not relax for a second, because you may need to act fast at a moment’s notice.

Final Thoughts

Even though the impetus in “Keep the Car Running” seems to be fear, there is still a persistent sense of urgency to it, as well as a hint of hope that creeps in around the edges. Hopefully there’s enough of it in there to help out anyone who’s got a bad case of the Mondays. I know just listening to it made me feel better.

Alright, that about does it for our song of the day. Hope you enjoy listening to Arcade fire’s “Keep the Car Running”. We’ll be back tomorrow with another one to help get you through the week.

 

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