Interpretations:Cage & Aquarium

From This Might Be A Wiki

I always thought the meaning behind this song was obvious: A critique on an overly paranoid and over protective America. It criticizes the paranoia of Americans citizens (and westerners in general) with the lines

"Somebody's reading your mind Damned if you know who it is They're digging through all of your files Stealing back your best ideas"

They then go on about the over the top methods we use to protect ourselves and then to the chorus

"This is the spawning of the cage and aquarium Don't wait a moment too soon"

This is pretty straight forward. Cage and Aquariums are both ways in which we protect our animals, they are also synonymous with imprisoning animals. It's basically comparing our over-protective life styles to imprisoning ourselves.

"Used to be different Now you're the same"

A line about conforming. Duh.

"Yawn as your plane goes down in flames"

I found this line particularly interesting. I couldn't figure it out until someone said an offhand comment. We were talking about some murder that was in the news and someone said 'You know you're more likely to die in an Airplane crash than to be killed in your own home'. I guess they're trying to say it's stupid trying to protect yourself against something that will kill you if there are things out there that are much more likely to kill you.

Of note here is the line "This is the spawning of the cage and aquarium", which curiously echoes the line "This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius". That line is from a song whose meaning and mood are diametrically opposed to this one. That song sings of "Harmony and understanding/Sympathy and trust abounding/No more falsehoods or derisions/Golden living dreams of visions".

When my husband and I discussed this song, we decided that it was describing someone who was once enlightened and above the mundanity of modern life, perhaps a bit paranoid about society encroaching on their personal freedoms: "You used to be different, now you're the same." The "spawning of the cage and aquarium" is what happens when you give up the enlightenment that was esoterically linked with the Age of Aquarius for the secure entrapment that is modern society: you wake up, and then you have to work the whole day. For what? Well, for the right to work every day until you get too old to, or finally earn enough currency to retire after most of your life is finished already. The subject of the song seems to be someone who realized that modern society was "the cage and aquarium" and waited too long to escape from it, "a moment too soon". It would seem that either they know they are stuck in the cage, and are too lazy to do anything about it, or are totally oblivious to the desperation of the situation: "Yawn as your plane goes down in flames".

Sjaantze, Harbinger of Distraction
Ratatosk, Squirrel of Discord

I'm not going to go into as much depth as the other posters here, but I think the title of this song is the most important part. The "Cage and Aquarium" are both devices created to restrict freedom. The sound coming over the phone is possibly an individual realizing this - too late, as the "Yawn as your plane goes down in flames" line illustrates. ~ Crummy

Just continuing with your point. Not only are Cages and Aquariums used to restrict freedom, they are also there so that the prisoner can be viewed constantly, and has no place to hide. - Jack

You know, if they're trapped, like "cage and aquarium" would imply, it's not very likely that they'd be able to do anything particularly productive about the plane crashing. The person is being criticised for the fact that they're not attempting to futilly save himself.

-Mushroom Pie

The narrator of this song is an extrememly paranoid person (they're lookin' through all of your files) who has locked himself in his house and refuses to come out in fear.-- 23:46, 19 November 2006 (UTC)

I like to think that this song is about someone being stalked. I think that the lines that encourage this are too obvious to need to be pointed I won't. Also, I think that the person who's stalking is trying to murder the person. The lines "This is the spawning of the cage and aquarium-Don't wait a moment too soon-Used to be different-Now you're the same-Yawn as your plane goes down in flames" is actually the sound coming over the phone as that line is directly before these lines. The line "Yawn as your plane goes down in flames." is the stalker finally succeeding in killing the person by somehow sending his plane down. The victim has either gone insane from all the worrying so he yawns, or is actually relieved that he won't have to worry anymore. (I like the later more.) There are plenty of lines that go against this theory (or at least I don't see how they would go with it) so I'll just ignore those lines and live in my little ignorant world where the song means what I want it to.


I like the point about "Age of Aquarius," particularly given the other 60s-related malapropisms that TMBG was fond of at the time (a la "Purple Toupee").

I quite honestly think the only point of this song was the "This is the spawning of the cage & aquarium" joke. Seems weird, but then you realize that it doesn't say anything a lot of their other songs don't.

Just got something to say. Doesn't the line "Stealing back your best ideas" imply that the ideas were stolen in the first place?

It could be an indictment (or at least a poetic picture) of the cultural shift in Baby Boomers. They would be born at the right time to take part in the Hippy movement and supporting free love, world peace, communes, drugs, and ecological-mindedness. Those same people would spend the next twenty years turning becoming increasingly suspicious, covetous, militant, and Right-Wing ideals, turning into the polar opposite by the 1987 performance of this song: paranoid business people, obsessed with protecting their intellectual property (even if they took from someone else or once believed it belonged to everyone), that their hoarded treasure over the ideals they once professed. The "sound coming over the phone" might've been a reference to up-and-coming technologies like The Internet or cellular communications, but it's more likely that it's either friends talking about how they've turned into their McCarthy Era parents or their own kids talking to them as they once talked to theirs.

"Cage and Aquarium", as others have reasoned, could mean a new era of oversight and removal of privacy, in favor of perceived control and comfort. It seems like it points to the willing exchange of freedom for impressions of security, especially the line: "You cover your windows with lead", blocking out possible openings/senses in order to prevent "somebody" from "reading your mind" (a well-documented Delusion). It would suggest to me the victory of paranoia over the desire for light and outside stimulation. The subject willingly shutting themselves in (with toxic materials), to indulge and feed unhealthy fantasies.

To "yawn as your plane goes down in flames" would indicated apparent lack of concern toward the unrecoverable failure of a structure necessary to keep you safely aloft, despite being in absolute peril. This could allude to the abandonment of environmental ideals (where Earth would be our "plane"), or increased support for Reagan-style measures to proliferate and criminalize poverty (where the "plane" would refer to society and the social support system that is supposed to protect them as they age), or simply that they appear to be unconcerned with The State of The World.