Source Decay


All Hail West Texas




the Mountain Goats



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Source Decay is the 13th song on the album All Hail West Texas.


Once a week
I make the drive
two hours east
to check the Austin post office box
And I take the detour
through our old neighborhood
See all the Chevy Impalas
in their front yards up on blocks
And I park in an alley
And I read through the postcards you continue to send
Where as indirectly as you can
You ask what I remember
I like these torture devices from my old best friend
Well, I'll tell you what I know
like I swore I always would
I don't think it's gonna do you any good

I remember the train headed south out of Bangkok 
Down toward the water

I always get a late start
when the sun's going down
and the traffic's thinning out
and the glare is hard to take
I wish the west Texas highway was a Möbius strip
I could ride it out forever
when I feel my heart break
I almost swear I hear it happen
It's that clear and that hard
I come in off the highway and I park in my front yard
I fall out of the car
like a hostage from a plane
Think of you a while
Start wishing it would rain 

And I remember the train headed south out of Bangkok 
Down toward the water

I come in to the house
Put on a pot of coffee
Walk the floors a little while
I set your postcard on the table
with all the others like it
I start sorting through the pile
I check the pictures
and the postmarks
and the captions
and the stamps
for signs of any pattern at all
When I come up empty-handed
the feeling almost overwhelms me
I let a few of my defenses fall
And I smile a bitter smile
It's not a pretty thing to see
I think about a railroad platform back in 1983

And I remember the train headed south out of Bangkok 
Down, down toward the water

Comments by John Darnielle About this SongEdit

  • "Well, there are two stories in the song: the present-day one, in which a person relates how he makes a weekly trip to Austin from somewhere two hours west, which he does specifically to retrieve mail from a P.O. box. He takes a long route there so he can drive through a place where he used to live - “our old neighborhood” - presumably the “our” is him & whoever he’s talking to, though that’s neither explicit nor certain. Then he drives home, brews some coffee, “walks the floors” (this is a reference to an old Ernest Tubb tune; Tubb was from north Texas) to sort out his thoughts, and, adding the one he just brought back from Austin, examines an ever-larger pile of postcards on the table, trying to put together the story he hopes they’re trying to tell. That this story, the backstory, the ones the postcards don’t tell, is obscure and uncertain — that’s kind of the point of the song. The backstory blurs and won’t cohere, the evidence mounts and is available but it just won’t gel into a satisfying narrative, which is a longstanding theme of mine, this way you sometimes really deeply and desperately need to get a clean narrative line through some story in your life, and when life won’t give you that, you finally have to smile about it, but it’s a pretty bitter smile, not the kind you smile when you’re feeling good about something. The second story in the song is the one that refuses to come clear; the above is just a parsing-out of the extant detail in the song, but to fill in the outlines of the second story would be very uncool of me because the song is about how those outlines are like blurry shapes in fading light that you eventually have to just accept as they are." -- tumblr

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