Interpretations:See The Constellation

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I think this is just one of those songs that are about a dreamer. Lots of peole look to the sky, it's beautiful. I like how near the end the guy talks about how he switches places and is looking down like he was the constellation. I just think it's one of those beautiful songs that can mean alo of things... one of the reasons that i'm never without my TMBG songs... (jade from New Brunswick)


I see this song as a journey of reinvention. The singer is discontent with his life and so in the first verse resolves to commit suicide - he lays his head on the railroad track, waiting to be crushed. While laying down he notices the sky "all painted up" - the poetic description of the night sky shows that the singer is noticing the beauty of the stars. "Your train is gone/Won't be coming back" - the train passes by and runs him over. However, his consciousness still survives to sing the rest of the song. As he contemplates the sky, he draws inspiration from the constellations, whose life is not plagued by cigars or female escorts (signs of privilege and sophistication) - he's just a simple, bare-bones guy, made out of dots and lines. In the second verse, the singer laments his life of the past two years, when he lived in the city and was unable to see the beautiful night sky. His literal inability to see the night sky is also symbolic of his inability to see the beauty in simple things, such as constellations. In the third verse, he looks down on his mangled body and "sees his mind on the ghround below". This is an interesting wording, as most "out-of-body" experiences are worded as "seeing my body" not "seeing my mind". Perhaps this has to do with concept that the singer wants a simpler, more constellation-like life. His consciousness has left his "mind", the part of himself always conerned with logic and self-preservation, and is embracing a simpler state of just "being". He now abides in the sky, a simple and carefree existence. He has finally abandoned the plagues and worries of modern existence and found true happiness, reinventing himself as a series of stars. In the last section ("Can you hear what I see in the sky?"), the singer begs other people to understand his vantage point and live with contentment and simplicity just as the constellations do.


A very poppy song that sound like the B52s sound of the early 1990s. Apollo 18 was where Flans began to try and write more commercial songs like this. It doesn't really work, even though it should. It still stands Head and shoulders above the appalling Guitar!(Mr Tuck)

Nonononononononononono. ~ magbatz 22:18, 31 August 2008 (UTC)

Sidenote concerning this song: On the album "Bad Hair Day" by "Weird" Al Yankovic, the song "Everything You Know is Wrong" is said to be a TMBG style parody/tribute. But on that same CD, the song "I Remember Larry" seems to have the same basic chords and riffs as "See the Constellation" running through most of it. Coincidence? JoeMcDuck


I believe Flans has said the lyrics to this one are personal. A lot of it seems fairly self-explanatory--he's looking up at the night sky, and comparing himself to a constellation he sees in the sky. He's lonely ("no lady on his arm") and feels empty ("just a guy made of dots and lines"). It's a little unclear as to why he's laying his head on the railroad track, though. Is he trying to kill himself? Listening for oncoming trains? Just trying to get a better view of the sky? -VoVat


The song heard at the end sounds more like the first few notes from the theme song of the bus in EarthBound on the SNES. Is it just me? {Mavhunter}


I hope everyone loves this song enough to not interpret it. It is just a beautiful song about seeing the constellation. Don't look that hard into it; just appreciate it for what it is-- one of the best TMBG songs in creation.


I don't know if this is obvious to non-astronomy buffs or not, but if you're trying to use a telescope within the city limits, it can be difficult to see things in the night sky because there's so much ambient light. That's one interpretation of the lyrics in the second verse ("I was looking up past the city lights / but the city lights got in my way"). - LyleJohnson


This is probably obvious, but the constellation is of orion and how he is so lonley up there being the only human in the sky.

Breakup[edit]

I think it's another break-up song: "Your train is gone, won't be coming back". The empty feelings, loneliness, and suicidal depression seem to stem from that.

This song, like a number of others, features what I call a "comfort" solo -- Linnell's symmetrical accordion riff, which has the effect of soothing the harshness of the song's gloom.

Oops. That comment was meant for Narrow Your Eyes. --Nehushtan 21:14, 31 Mar 2006 (CST)

My sense is that the narrator, looking up at that lonely, empty frame in the heavens, imagines a person there he can identify with. So (to continue with the breakup interpretation) they both share the situation of having "no lady" on their arms. For "no cigar": a man wielding a big cigar escorting an attractive lady is living the high life out on the town - but our narrator will never have that. (Flans may also be referencing the American phrase "close, but no cigar", which means you failed at something & so you don't get a prize.)
Laying one's head on a railroad track is a conventional image of an attempt at suicide. I think the third verse means the attempt was successful: he has merged with Orion above and now is looking down on his brain (mind) splattered on the track below. He's disembodied now, like his sky twin, "made of dots and lines." And "dressed in black" - as one does for a funeral. --Nehushtan (talk) 12:01, 4 May 2020 (EDT)

I dunno how to interpret it, but I know that this lyric

'I found my mind By the railroad track It was looking up I was looking back I was in the sky all dressed in black'

was really inspirational for me somehow. I love this song so much. -Salioshy


Everything on earth was once in a star, but got flung out and cooled and then here we are looking up at those selfsame stars we were born in. I saw a great quote once about how we're stardust or the universe experiencing itself in third person. Though I can't remember the exact quote, that's what came to mind when the line about the mind being down on the ground and the rest of him was dressed up in black specifically to be observed by the mind on the ground.


(Sorry if this is long and pretentious, this is just how I see the song) Going off how Flans said it was personal, and how Apollo 18 came out just after the band gained national fame, I would guess that the song's about his own creative struggles and issues with fame. The first verse could be about the pressure and emotional stress of his career at that point in time, as laying his head on the railroad track has strong suicide imagery and the leaving train would be him realizing how his expectations for fame may not have met the reality of his career.

The second verse about moving from his “town” would be about TMBG’s success with Flood and their elevation from an indie band to a big-time national sensation. The “city lights” could then be about the pressure and ego of being in the national spotlight, and how worrying about this adversely impacted Flans’ creativity which got him there in the first place (“But the city lights got in my way”).

The chorus is then Flans looking up at a constellation (a legendary figure) and realizing that being great is more than the glamour of fame, and that great people are still human (“Just a guy made of dots and lines.”)

The third verse about finding his “mind on the ground below” would then be about him coming back down to earth and realizing where he stands in the bigger picture. It’s kind of open-ended verse about moving forward and keeping a realistic perspective.

"Can you hear what I see in the sky?" might then be a self-referential statement of how he's changed over the course of becoming famous (or just some reference to his revelation).

Whether or not this interpretation is right, it’s a beautiful song.


The song is about the singer: He sees himself as the constellation; not a popular person, not good with the ladies or his love left him or so, pretty much most of the stuff Vovat already said. "Can you hear what I see in the sky", maybe nobody's listening and he's seeing if anyone can hear what he's saying about himself? I, uh, didn't really get that part ^_^;; Ryussia


Ignoring whether it's really supposed to be autobiographical or not, this song makes me think of a singer or other kind of celebrity recounting how they got to where they are today. It works if you consider the song in some kind of chronological order.

In the first verse, you've got the narrator as he was when he was younger. He sees all of the famous people / stars of his time and wishes he could live that glamorous life, but he's convinced he won't be able to, because earlier on he missed a promising opportunity to pursue it and he doesn't think he'll get another ("your train is gone, won't be coming back"), so he's more than a little despondent - as mentioned in an above interpretation, note the suicidal connotations of laying your head on a railroad track.

Then, two years ago from the "present" day, the narrator has an epiphany: he'd constantly been looking up at all those famous people, but the obfuscating media hype / city lights surrounding them had prevented him from seeing that he could just work for his fame if he wanted to. Moving out from his town can be associated with starting anew, in a way.

Finally, the now-famous narrator thinks back to the beginning, picturing himself looking down on his younger self from the sky. His life isn't as romantic or dazzling as the one he used to dream about - no cigar, no lady on his arm, he's still just a guy - but he knows he's taken his place among those stars, and maybe someone else can hear him now, just like the stars in the sky of his time inspired him.

(On an even more personal note, I also think this song is beautiful. Take some powerfully evocative imagery, add it to a ridiculously catchy tune, and isn't that just the band at its finest?) ~ blitzente (talk) 18:17, 3 May 2009 (UTC)


The guy leads a very busy life. One night, he misses his train, and uses this opportunity to lay back and look up at the stars, as he so wanted to do two years ago, when he moved to the city from the small town he lived in before, where he probably looked at the stars often as a child. He looks up and sees who is most likely Orion, and contemplates how lonely the life of a constellation must be. He falls asleep with this thought in his head, dreams that he is a constellation, and sees himself lying on the ground, looking up at him. Throughout the rest of his life, he tries to share this breakthrough with his friends; "Do YOU hear what I see in the sky?"

I'm still trying to decide whether this is my favorite TMBG song or not.



Some great interpretations here. I'll only add that laying your head on a railroad track was a popular method of suicide in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, at least in blues/southern American folk songs. I've always wondered if the actual practice of that method was as popular in real life as it was in song. I suppose with the lack of tall buildings at the time, it could've been.

Although it as it's moments this song fails to work. Mainly because it's a (failed) attempt to write a hit single rather than a proper song. Overly reliant on studio effects, Flans forgets that the song needs a message and I disagree with the above interpretations. It's mainly just random images thrown together. It lacks a soul. (Mr Tuck)


I think it's all a bit simpler. Technology begets technology. Our intrepid narrator enjoys looking at the stars. It's difficult to do so in the city; so, he moves to the country where there is less light pollution. When he finds his mind, he observes that we project our own images on the apparent pattern of stars...the constellation. The constellation, by the way, is not like a group of Hollywood stars, who might smoke cigars and escort attractive young women. It's mostly a connect the dots guy. He also wonders if radiotelescopy sees constellations.