I hear this and just think of a creepy dream that makes no sence what so ever.
This song is quite possibly one of the most hard to derive, falling along side “Dead,” or “Hearing Aid.” But it is not at all impossible. I will however attempt to derive the actual song as opposed to the demo; it is far more clear (change “camels have hard eyes and dead men don’t talk back” to “with a bottle in one hand and another in the other”).
First off, you must appreciate what the protagonist is doing: he is sitting on a porch. This, at least for me, paints a picture of idleness; he is not a very active or productive protagonist. This is supported by the bus going by, a symbol that most likely illuminates the escape from Cabbagetown; he misses his escape by sitting on a porch simply talking about potential ways to leave Cabbagetown. Also, the protagonist is very pessimistic, a characteristic most certainly acquired in consequence of his idleness; he doesn’t believe there is a way out of Cabbagetown.
So what is Cabbagetown? Well, judging from the conversations with his relatives, it is most likely a place of sorrow. Exploring further, if you appreciate motivations for alcoholism, it is also a place of poverty.
It is clear then why he wishes to leave. But, plainly, he doesn’t actively attempt to leave. And even when he eventual will leave, he only thinks that he will return to Cabbagetown. When he says “I will leave, and I’ll return,” he is saying that he will one day return to the place of sorrow and poverty; he knows that he will inevitably be as be as unsuccessful as his old granddad and his uncle Jack.
Now, let us explore the granddad and Uncle Jack. Falling into the sea is most likely a reference to death. Appreciating that, it can then be understood that “tide” is one’s death. It is also important to note that he says, "tide and time are one thing.” By labeling the two as one event, he indiscriminately appreciates the two as the same. Indeed, death is as inevitable as the passing of time. With his granddad’s only words being this phrase, we can see that he is very pessimistic, just like his grandson. Why try when you are just going to die. Likewise, Uncle Jack is also a very poor influence on his nephew. Obviously, he is an alcoholic. And as an alcoholic, he can provide no knowledge to his nephew; he can only try to talk to his nephew, not actually say anything. He serves as nothing more then vindication that poverty and sorrow attaches itself to alcoholism.
Plainly, we are presented with a very idle and pessimistic protagonist that is certain he will one day return to a life of poverty and sorrow, even after he has one day escaped it.
Before I address a theme to the piece, I should first address the meaning of the dog. The protagonist talks to the dog about thinking about himself. Although this may not makes sense, it is actually quite simple. The dog is the personification of his own mind. This personification is actually the best thing for him to talk, or, in other words, he can only talk to himself about whatever it is he wants to talk about. This can be easily understood when one appreciates the granddad and the uncle—the dog, his mind, is more thought exacerbation than either of these two. But why would Granddad or Uncle Jack be the persons he would talk to if there exists others that he could instead talk to? Well, one explanation is that everyone in Cabbagetown is exactly the same; everyone is diseased in the world of poverty and sorrow—the Cabbagetown.
So, the song illuminates the futility of one’s existence when enslavement in poverty, and the impossibility of its expungement when it was fated to you through another.