The Mars Volta Drunkship of Lanterns Lyrics & Song Meaning

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In this article I reveal my interpretation of the The Mars Volta song ‘Drunkship of Lanterns’, track 5 of their album ‘De-Loused In The Comatorium’.

In Drunkship of Lanterns, Cerpin awakes from the vision of his mother, only to find himself in the middle of the sea surrounded by dead/broken ships and submarines.

He is pinned to a small raft by 3 Inch long staples. As he shouts out in anger from all that is happening to him, many live ships come and start knocking into him. Eventually one arm becomes free (as his arm was ripped through the staple) and he removes the rest of the nails.

 

Taxt stumbles upon an APL K19 russian submarine. When a heavy storm starts, he goes inside the submarine. Looking through the periscope, he sees all sorts of submarines crashing into each other.

When the Chaos subsides, he goes outside and finds a dead sub called “Ectos 333”. It is empty inside. On the side of the sub it says “It is decided that all Gods must die.. so as to maintain social and cosmological order, Moattilliatta remains merciful and vengeful”.

Cerpin does not know what language it is, or why he can read it.

Suddenly, Cerpin feels very alone and starts having a panic attack. He starts running through all the wreckage back towards the APL K19. At the same time, hundreds of Cessna’s and 747’s are crashing all around him.

Just as he makes it inside the sub, a plane crashes into the door and locks him inside. At this time it starts raining ice for 3 hours. Cerpin, realizing the gravity of his situation, starts going insane and curls up into a ball.

He continues to talk to himself.

 

The Lyrics Interpretation

In The Drunkship of Lanterns, Cerpin is nailed to his prison barge. He is screaming out, but no one can hear him. This is shown in the lines:

Is anybody there
These steps keep on growing long
Bayonet trials rust propellers await
Nobody is heard
Afloat with engines on mute

When he says “Bayonet trials” he is referring to the staples that are holding his arms and legs in place.

Cerpin then begins to describe the submarine collisions.

Spines in a row
These craft only multiply
Spine as an arrow
At the nape of ruins rust propellers await

He is referring to how the submarine “spines” are all lined up and shooting at each other like arrows. When they are done crashing into each other, their rust propellers await at the nape of ruins. This is simply saying how there is now a pile of rubble and all that exists of the old submarines is rusted propellers. These lines are also used later in the song to describe the Cessna’s and 747’s crashing everywhere.

Cerpin needs to get to the submarines. He says

Transoceanic depth in this earth in this cenotaph

The word “Trans” means across, or on the other side. And a “Cenotaph” is a ceremonial burial ground. So what Cerpin is saying with this line is that on the other side of the Watery grave is where he needs to go. He says this line Twice throughout the song. The First time, he is referring to his journey to the “Ectos 333” and the Second time he is referring to his journey from the “Ectos 333” back to the “APL K19”. He uses these words to describe how far the journey is, because he has to travel all the way to the other side of the ocean.

Near the end of Drunkship of Lanterns, all the airplanes come crashing down on Cerpin. To describe this, he repeats the line over and over again.

Carpel jets
Hit the ground

This line seems a bit self explanatory. The jets on the planes hit the ground as they crash….nothing more to it.

At the end of Drunkship of Lanterns, Cerpin taxt starts going insane as he is locked inside the APL K19. He says

Lash of one thousand eyebrows clicking
Counting the toll
Counting the toll

This describes that even his own blinking, or Lashing is torture. It makes it seem even more horrifying, that all the could do down there is to “Count the toll” which would just mean that he is so insane that all he does is count how many times he blinks.

Cerpin continues to sit at the bottom of the sub for the rest of Drunkship of Lanterns, waiting for what comes next.

 

The Music

The Song starts out with the sounds of….insanity. The closest thing I could describe would be some sort of jungle beat. It really is quite strange, but quite wonderful. It certainly attributes to the craziness that Cerpin must have been feeling.

When Drunkship of Lanterns breaks away from the jungle beats, the dissonant sound of the guitar almost completely describes the crashing and chaos that the submarines around Cerpin are partaking in. But the section is short lived, and it diverts back to the familiar Tarzan beats we remember.

After another verse and chorus, the song REALLY breaks down. This would be the time that Cerpin spends inside the “Ectos 333”. It really gives the impression of curiosity and bewilderment. It is the part where Cerpin reads a strange language that he has never seen before, but understands it in the full context. And this part of the song shows it. Heck, it even bewildered me…..

After the bridge, the song starts to get hectic, like the hero of a movie running to the finish line to deliver…a small puppy or some crap like that. At this point, Cerpin is sprinting through all the wreckage as all sorts of hell crashes around him.

As the song finishes, you can hear in Cedric’s voice that Cerpin is losing more of his sanity by the second. At the very end of the song, the ambient sound of drums (I didn’t know it was possible to make drums sound ambient, proved me wrong again haven’t you TMV?) really creates the atmosphere of a lost mind. It also helps create an awesome transition to Eriatarka in which….well….just keep reading.

 

Full ‘Drunkship of Lanterns’ Lyrics

Is there a spirit that spits
Upon the exit of signs
Is anybody there

(Spines In A Row)
These steps keep on growing long
(Spite as An Arrow)
Bayonet trials rust propellers await

Afloat with engines on mute
Sui generis ship spined around the yard
Is anybody there
These craft only multiply
At the nape of ruins rust propellers await

Nobody is heard compass wilting in the wind
Nobody is heard
Rowing sheep smile for the dead
Transoceanic depth in this earth in this cenotaph

Lash of one thousand eye brows clicking
Counting the toll

You’ve got the lot to burn
A shelve of pig smothered cries
Is there a spirit that spits upon the exit of signs
Is anybody there
These steps keep on growing long

Bayonet trials rust propellers await
Nobody is heard compass wilting in the wind

Nobody is heard rowing sheep smile for the dead
Transoceanic depth in this earth in this cenotaph

Carpel jets
hit the ground

 

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Andrew 'The Real Musician' Muller

I love creative art, music, television shows, movies, video games, and a good story. If you had to find me somewhere, you would probably find me down at O’Neil’s home cooking and eating an organic sweet-potato bun breakfast sandwich with ham. Among my friends, it's a "Muller Classic Move" to eat McDonald’s at 2am because it's cheap and open 24/7. The joke here is that I'm an idiot. I play drums, guitar, piano, and I write & perform music for My Goal Is Telepathy.