Interpretations:Out Of Jail

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Um, this isn't really an interpretation, more of a note. I was in the library at Vassar College and I found a piece of paper with French writing on one side and broken English on the other. After looking at it for a little while, I decided the English was a translation of the French, and furthermore that it appeared to be talking, in an elliptical sort of way, about this song. I present the English here word for word as I found it.

"Xenia is located at the heart of Ohio. It is not in the geographical center of the state, but all Ohio is heart pure and knocking, and blood heats the knees without city more than Xenia.

Metropolis right! When one thinks of Xenia, one tastes the water of the public fountains; one feels dust to squeak between his toes. One hears the howl of the distant engines and the ignorable questions of striking fitted latticework on doors, and includes/understands. In Xenia, if you do not pay attention, you obtain the skyburn -- not sunstroke but skyburn -- and it seems that you can hear the crackle electric spirits with the continuation, or being continued, or pocket money, according to the circumstances.

Xenia has an at least little resident today than it when we all were little shorter and less tan. We draw aside! Like newsprint on idiotic cement, like stars in the sky, nobody can dictate and only the children and the old ladies should even dare envisage. She went now, perhaps again the object of a manhunt of a state to another; I mix my hot chocolate and test to continue as better I can. "I could say that she is the man in this tale of warning," a poet wrote, and does my stomach have wounds? I feel that we obtain more close to the truth all the hour."

Xenia, what sounds like a reference to screen doors, another possible reference to cars (distant engines?), and a twisted version of the chorus. Make of it what you will.


For more on Xenia, see the Wikipedia article on it. It is most famous for its destruction during the great outbreak of tornados in 1974.


I think that is the coolest thing I have ever read. Would you mind posting the french? I'd like to see what some of the more incomprehensible bits originally meant. But... wow. I want to find cryptic, beatiful references to TMBG songs in libraries! That is so not fair! -- Personman



Perhaps "Long before the screen door slammed" is a reference to "The screen door slams," the first line from Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road." Yay intertextuality! -- JohnReef

Or it could be a reference to the Joni Mitchell song Big Yellow Taxi. It's a weird connection, but I don't know why I didn't think of it before. Captain Red 10:51, 29 December 2007 (UTC)

Myself, I think it's pretty easy to interpret.

Long before the screen door slammed, she was out of Xenia
A stranger could have loved that town but she had to leave

Basically, she's been convicted for something, and she's on the run. In fact, she was running so fast that she slammed the screen door, but she was out of Xenia before it closed all the way.

I wish I'd gotten to know her before I fell in love
I could say who's to blame, say who's the man in this cautionary tale
But I swore I'd be true and I'll swear and I'll swear 'til Kitten's out of jail

The man who's singing is saying that he fell in love with her, but never knew her true motives. He could blame her for the whole thing, but he won't. In addition, he swore that he'd love only her, even when she was in jail.

It was like a TV show, the way she stole that car
Easy now to criticize, easy now to talk

In this part, he elaborates a bit on her crime--she stole a car. He's saying that after the fact, it's easy to criticize her decision, but who knows what was going through her mind at the time?

I thought my luck was changing, I guess I was wrong

He thought he'd be able to stay with her, but he wasn't able to.

Didn't want to be a slave
Just turned out that way

He didn't want her to take over his mind like she did. Now he can't stop thinking about her, but he's not blaming anyone--it just worked out like that.

In short, a girl gets sent to jail and her boyfriend's singing about it. It's that simple. Anna Ng 15:06, 11 Apr 2006 (CDT)


Yeah, one of their few songs whose meaning is entirely literal.


There's a little more to this. There are many songs about the singer having a lover in prison that the singer will always be faithful to. But this is the only one I've heard of where the singer is male.


A couple interesting facts: Xenia, Ohio is a few miles from Yellow Springs, which was where Antioch College (which Flansburgh briefly attended) was located. Also, Xenia means "stranger" in Greek ("a stranger could have loved that town.")


This is one of Flans' best songs. Love the line "I swore I'd be true and I'll swear and I'll swear..."


Fun fact: This listener lives in Xenia and had a heart attack when hearing this song for the first time.


Afterschool Special[edit | edit source]

Reading the Title Page for this song made it all click for me:

The story here (which has been well outlined above) really sounds like the plot of one of those Afterschool Special shows ABC did in the late 80's.

And the giveaway is "cautionary tale" because all those shows were about teens ruining their lives with poor decision making.

The narrator is probably comparing his situation to one of these shows and that's why he starts with the defense of "I didn't really know her" then moves to "but I promised" in the chorus. ChaosS (talk) 18:41, 11 September 2013 (EDT)