What is your analysis of The Conductor?


#1

I can’t really figure out what The Conductor means other than it sounds like the speaker/singer/Davey is in love with someone and saying they want to lead/protect them?

I think I remember reading the 300,000 amps part just sounded good and there was no meaning behind it. But I still can’t figure out what parts like “drop like the needle” or “when they kill the lights” mean. Who are THEY? Does anyone have any idea about these parts or any other parts of the song?


#2

Oh, God, give me a day and I’ll have a full analysis for you.

Actually, make that two days. I have a panel I need to speak on tomorrow. But Wednesday. Wednesday I’ll try and break that song down for you because I need an excuse to do it.


#3

I LOVE topics like this. I was actually listening to this song on my way home from work tonight.

Now you’re making me want to analyze it too… tomorrow. :slight_smile:


#4

Okay @TheConductor… here’s my breakdown:

Drop like the needle
Today I felt it drain (felt it drain)
I’ll climb back up to you
On ladders of the rain (of the rain)

Break them down, shake their frail beliefs
I’ll show them, show them a believer
Three hundred thousand amps
And I’m your warm receiver

When they kill the lights
You’ll remain my conductor
And if they dare to drain your life
I’ll become your conductor
Don’t cut the connection

Bleed into black clouds
And I will lick them clean
Turn to a tourniquet
And cinch yourself to me

Strike down now, shake their frail beliefs
And make them newborn believers
Three hundred thousand amps
And I’m your warm receiver

When they kill the lights
You’ll remain my conductor
And if they dare to drain your life
I’ll become your conductor

When they kill the lights
You’ll remain my conductor
You’ll remain my conductor
You’ll remain my conductor

I picture a blackened sky, with lightning (1,000 - 300,000 amps is a lightning bolt) and the words take place high above. It’s clearly questioning and turning beliefs, but also doing it without fear (I’ll show them a believer - shake their frail beliefs). “When they kill the lights”, I take this as “daytime” and at night you’re (my love) my conductor (my lightning).

This has also brought closer to this song… :slight_smile:


#5

#6

Like I just mentioned in the Facebook post, this video gives basically very brief meanings… I think we’re trying to dig deeper.


#7

I wish I wasn’t sitting on this panel right now because I would totally go all English prof on it ASAP. I’m going to attempt to get to it tonight and give you guys an offering tomorrow. :wink:


#8

…anxiously waiting to discuss once you post it :slight_smile:


#9

Wow, yes! That would be amazing! :slight_smile:


#10

Likewise, I look forward to joining the discussion for this song, and other songs too, once I finish this draft of my thesis proposal… :laughing:


#11

Okay, I’m slightly saddened that no one has given me feedback on my take. LOL.

:frowning:


#12

I just got to read your response. Forgive me if there end up being any typos. I’m at dinner with a bunch of the panelists I’m stuck with for the next two hours and I honestly might die. ANYWAY, I really loved your take. Really interesting about a turn of beliefs. I definitely see that in the song. There is this incredible air of tension to it. The questioning of beliefs would fit that tone.

I’ll have more later, but I LOVE your take.


#13

@STORMS @TheConductor

Here it is. THE LONG ONE:

Okay, so I will shamelessly admit that before I went to the panel this morning, I printed out the lyrics. When I was bored, I played around with them. I will also shamelessly admit that every AM during the school year, as I get off my ungodly 5 AM train to NYC and step onto Grand Central Station’s platform to go teach college students, I blast this song and feel 100% more badass (this ritual started when they released the album during my first year of my masters program when I needed a boost to step into a writing workshop). So this song is near and dear to my heart.

That being said, I will admit that these are not my favorite Davey lyrics to analyze, but they seem to be loaded with meaning. I could be applying meaning, conjecturing, but I think it’s safe to say that Davey has infused these with a lot of meaning.

So, let’s get started.

I’m going to analyze this through a Marxist perspective- ie. I’m taking “his” environmental factors into it: what he hinted that he was going through, what he has said about the album, the climate around AFI at the time. I don’t think separating the man from the art is the right thing to do, especially because of what he’s often said about his lyrics (“No, Havok is upset with himself, frustrated that he couldn’t pull away from the darkness long enough to write an album that didn’t focus solely on his personal pain.”- Davey Havok, Radio.com.)

I did a wee bit of research before diving into this song (I should have been going over my panel notes, but this was far more fun). I read over this succinct but interesting little article on radio.com that I had saved years ago (http://radio.com/2013/10/23/interview-davey-havok-disappointed-about-afis-new-album-burials/) and what Davey said about this album really bolstered by longstanding opinion on this song.

So Storms already touched upon this being a track that has a lot of juggling with beliefs. I do see that there. I actually see two ways of interpreting the song (there are a ton of ways to interpret it, but these are the two I like best).

Let’s start with the first.

This seems to be a loss of love in something, maybe music, and a plea for someone to hang on with him- the fans, the hypothetical listener.

I’ll break down that perspective first before going into the other one.

You have that whole first verse:

Drop like the needle
Today I felt the drain
I’ll climb back up to you
On ladders of the rain

He’s starting something, starting his show and how he’s feeling drained from the show, from the music, from the performance, but he’ll keep coming back. The “ladders of the rain” could reference this integral sorrow that is in all AFI music, the sorrow we all use as a catharsis (I’ll get into that catharsis thing in a few moments…why do I sound like I’m speaking? Jesus, anyway) It’s this need to climb back up. If we all recall the lack of momentum surrounding Crash Love (if you don’t, then watch the Yahoo videos on the different albums. Their level of self-derision is oddly endearing…and Jade is hysterical when he brings it all into perspective), they were a little disheartened by that. Coupled with whatever personal tragedy Davey was suffering from (again, watch the Yahoo video on Burials. He talks about Jade taking care of him, and Jade says that Davey needed the catharsis that came with making Burials), it’s understandable that Davey started questioning music and its integral and therapeutic role in his life.

Now, the following bit really hits home in the sense that he’s trying to awaken the masses again (ie. the fans who so FAILED THEM EPICALLY DURING THE CRASH LOVE ERA. COME ON, PEOPLE. THAT ALBUM WAS GOLD….both literally and figuratively. The color of the album art…I’ll keep going).

Break them down, shake up their beliefs
I’ll show them, show them a believer
300,000 amps
And I’m your warm receiver

So here he’s coming in and saying that he’s going to break them down. We all know the effect AFI has on fans emotionally (again, I will admit, when “This Time Imperfect” played, I sobbed; when “Feed From the Floor” played, I lost my damn mind). It breaks us down. He’s saying that he’ll show us that he still believes in this and that he does have that power over us. And we need him to feel that emotion and catharsis: he’s the “warm receiver” the way we heard the music, our conduit.

When they kill the lights
You’ll remain my conductor
And if they didn’t drain your life
I’ll become your conductor
Don’t cut the connection

Okay, then we get that bit. “When they kill the lights…” When they stop listening to him, when the record company stops promoting, when the marquis are no longer lit, we’ll still listen. There will still be this hypothetical listener- a fan, a lover, something- still listening, still conducting him, guiding him, but also giving him a path to release that music and feeling (if we interpret “conductor” both ways.) He’s also saying if they don’t take away that person’s life- vitality, love of music, belief in something-then he will also be that person’s conduit, providing a mutually beneficial relationship.

Sounds cute.

Ah, but this is AFI and nothing stays cute and pretty for long.

Bleed in to black clouds
And I will lick them clean
Turn to a tourniquet
And cinch yourself to me

That whole “bleed in to black clouds” bit speaks more to my other interpretation, but it does serve a purpose here. If you give him your pain, he will drink it, lick it, clean it off of you, implying that you are pure and he is covered and now must be rid of it through another catharsis that we will take in and give back to him.

If they’re tied together this way, it’s just…tragic, which is a way that Davey has described this song. They need each other’s pain in order to function, but the pain is stopping them from functioning properly. It’s this mutual need that is tearing our speaker- Davey) apart.

Strike down now, shake their frail beliefs
And make them new born believers
300,000 amps
And I’m your warm receiver

And now he’s shaking beliefs again, but this time there are new believers, telling us that he’s turned whoever he is speaking about. Whether these believers are believing in something good or something cynical is up to interpretation (I think it’s believing in a shared despair), but there is this dark triumph at the end.

Okay, now for the second interpretation and the one that I have personally thought about since the song came out.

Interpretation two: A sick relationship and catharsis

“But Havok isn’t precious about the music and asks fans to take these songs, these terrible memories, off his hands, ending the note with the message: “They’re exactly as we’d hoped, yet they’re no longer ours. Take them.”- Davey Havok, Radio.com

Davey has spoken a lot about the songs being gifts to the fans and for the fans to take them and make them theirs. There is this sharing of meaning, of a catharsis. He may have meant one thing with the songs, but we can apply them to our own lives and make them ours.

What I find interesting about “The Conductor” is the way it really paints this sort of sick, symbiotic relationship between the speaker and the listener/reader. The lyrics were apparently written in steam of consciousness and after Jade had brought the music for it. Davey heard the tension in that music and wanted lyrics to match.

So already we know the tone is going to be tight and waiting to explode/implode.

Let’s start from the beginning lyrically.

Drop like the needle
Today I felt the drain
I’ll climb back up to you
On ladders of the rain

Again, we have this beginning, the beginning of a record, the beginning of a song. He feels drained of life, but he’s crawling back on that pain, on “ladders of the rain.” The pain is what brings him to the forefront. Remember, he views this as a lyrically dark album, a very dark album, probably on par with Black Sails (though Jade does mention that he doesn’t think it’s too dark musically).

Every album is based on pain. Most of us listened to AFI because of that pain, because we could relate to it. Davey sings of that pain because he needs to, because, as he says in the article I’ve been quoting, he feels the need to be honest.

Break them down, shake up their beliefs
I’ll show them, show them a believer
300,000 amps
And I’m your warm receiver

Again, I think Davey was going through some level of existential crisis. There’s this almost rage and bitterness to that line “break them down, shake up their beliefs.” It’s like, go ahead, make them think, make them hurt. And then he’s like, “I’ll show them…a believer.” So he’ll get up there and show them the hurt and the music and allow them- the reader- to take that same pain and music and bring it into themselves and out of them. Then they can give it back to their “warm receiver.”

It’s almost like he’s painting himself as this vessel through which pain and despair flow back and forth: from him to the fans, from the fans to him.

A lot of this is pseudo-biblical, Christlike, particularly the bleeding black clouds bit.

So of course we get into chorus:

When they kill the lights
You’ll remain my conductor
And if they didn’t drain your life
I’ll become your conductor
Don’t cut the connection

I can’t get the fact that Davey called this song tragic out of my head, which really pushes me to believe that this song is about a mutually self-destructive, cathartic relationship. It almost feels like Bonnie and Clyde gone even more wrong. There’s this feeling of emptiness, when the hope is gone “when they kill the lights” that there will be someone or something there to ground him- the catharsis, a lover. And he’s saying if that thing is still there, he will try and ground that person to keep him or her alive. Going back to that being drained and going back on “ladders of the rain” I keep thinking that these people are killing each other but keep coming back for more.

Again, this could be a relationship with a person, a group of people, or even art.

Art sucks sometimes.

Then we get to my Christlike lines:

Bleed in to black clouds
And I will lick them clean
Turn to a tourniquet
And cinch yourself to me

These lines, juxtaposed with what came before, make this feel VERY dark. It’s almost like he’s saying, give me your woes and I will take them from you. There’s the despair into the black clouds- the bleeding into them. It also harkens back to Silver and Cold with the idea of pouring sins into someone, this time it’s pouring despair into someone. He’s taking the blood and the despair into himself. Then there’s the image of the tourniquet. This is a violent hold, one that could lead to a loss of a limb- a loss of self. By having this relationship, each person is in danger of losing parts of himself to the other.

The relationship is mutually beneficial because they are offering one another a catharsis, but it is also mutually self-destructive because they are willingly entering a pact where the currency is suffering.

Strike down now, shake their frail beliefs
And make them new born believers
300,000 amps
And I’m your warm receiver

There’s something so much more violent than “break them down” in “strike down now.” There’s a great deal more anger here and an accusation in “frail beliefs.” And now he’s going to change people. It’s really a dark pair of lines- to strike someone down and change their beliefs is violent and chauvinistic and it stinks of anger and a need for revenge.

Again, here he paints himself as the only way the listener is going to get a catharsis- he’s the receiver. He’s making himself absolutely necessary while also prostrating himself before the listener saying “you’ll remain my conductor.”

When they kill the lights
You’ll remain my conductor
And if they didn’t drain your life
I’ll become your conductor

Again, we have this back and forth of promising to be the conduits for emotion, followed by this emphatic plea:

When they kill the lights
You’ll remain my conductor
You’ll remain my conductor
You’ll remain my conductor

The repetition drives home the speaker’s need over and over and one wonders if all that power play mentioned in the above lines is all bravado. Who needs whom more?

Again, this reading of the song about the mutual catharsis and the dangers of the back and forth of pain is something that I’ve been incredibly interested in.

So, to summarize, I saw this song primarily in two ways: 1. As a sort of conversion speech about an existential crisis over music and his waning faith in it
2. as a plea for release and catharsis and a pact to keep passing the pain back and forth (but really admitting that he needs the person to be his conduit, his conductor so that he can get rid of the pain).

I don’t know. There are other ways to read this- a loss of love, a loss of innocence- but I picked these two specific ones because the imagery really does lend itself to a rich discussion on these points.

Anyway, thanks for sticking with me this long. Let me know what you think.

-Toni


#14

Holy shit… this post is gold. You actually inspired me too… with the project I just mentioned.

But this breakdown, you even have it formatted very well. Wow, thank you. Damn…

EDIT: btw @_tonibell this is sick


#15

Glad you liked it. I was afraid it was a bit much. And all my books look like that piece of paper. It’s a problem.


#16

I feel your presence drain
Try as. I may, cannot climb ladders of rain
For water but slips through fingers
Remembrance of past but lingers

Break me down, shake my false belief
Show me you believe
For the conductor here kills the light
The conductor now kills the life


#17

This is a really thorough analysis (and, just sayin’, might be a good sort of thing to include in the book project I’m putting together…), and an interpretation that hadn’t really occurred to me. Obviously, we all have our own interpretations and personal associations with different songs. I’ve always been able to compartmentalize AFI songs into “Davey meant one thing by this” and “This is how I connect this song to my own experience,” preferring to focus on the latter over the former. I think when you get so used to attaching a song to your own life, it can be hard to step back and dissect it from the songwriter’s perspective. Was this an interpretation that came to you quickly, or did it take a while to arrive at this view?


#18

Yeah, I mean, I’m a college English prof, so it’s kind of my job to do these objective analyses. It didn’t take me long. I think I spent 15 minutes all together with the lyrics; as soon as I really thought about them, the two interpretations came to me. Then it took about 25 minutes to write.

This song in particular was one I had a tendency to listen to to drown things out. I have severe social anxiety, so any time I have to go to work or any time I had to go to a masters class, I blast this and just get lost in the instrumentals, not so much the lyrics. I mean, I always felt this was a song about Catharsis (I never truly analyzed it in detail, though, until last night), but its personal stake to me was a song that gives me an escape.

But, yeah, I’m sure we’ll never know what Davey truly meant with this song. This was just my take.


#19

OMG…this is amazing.


#20

Ah, cool. I once considered a similar path (only for history), but my artistic side won out.