Little Black Submarines

This is “Little Black Submarines” by The Black Keys which is one of my favorite bands of all time and is definitely my favorite contemporary band.  This track comes from their album El Camino (cover shown below).

This album came out in 2011 and contains several radio hits such as “Lonely Boy” and “Gold on the Ceiling.”  The song begins with a quiet, solemn, and slow acoustic part.  After about a minute of this, it suddenly explodes into a powerful, fast, and intense song.  The lyrics communicate a message of heartbreak and loneliness.  The singer keeps addressing the “operator” asking and eventually pleading with it to let him back on the line or reconnect him.  This could mean that because of his heartbreak, he feels like he can’t live properly anymore, and he just wants to be able to go back to the way things used to be.  One line in particular shows what seems like denial when he says “told my girl I’d be back.”  This could mean a few different things, but based on the chorus about a broken heart, I believe that this means that the singer is in denial and refuses to believe that his girl left him.  Several times the singer refers to his mind either being destroyed or removed from him.  This heartbreak seems to have destroyed his mental and emotional well being.  Later on, he says that his own plans all disappeared because of this girl and because of his broken heart.

The exact words in the chorus are “Oh can it be, the voices calling me?  They get lost, and out of time.  I shoulda seen it glow, but everybody knows that a broken heart is blind.  That a broken heart is blind.”  By this line, it’s clear that he can not forget about this person, and that he should have been able to see this sorrow coming, but when it comes to love, the heart is blind.  He repeats that line about the heart being blind to relate to people everywhere who have been in love and had their heart broken.  At those times, it is impossible to see fault in the other person; one only sees fault in himself.  The entire first part conveys sorrow, misery, and regret, as well as a bitter hope that he can go back.

Then, 1:06 happens.

The song transforms completely and becomes way more energetic.  The drums pick up significantly and the guitar switches from acoustic to electric and loud.  Instead of sounding distant and shameful, the voice of the singer changes to clear and confident.   Now the lyrics change meaning and seem to become about how youthful dreams (treasure maps) evolve into depressing reality (fallen trees, disease).  The singer is not wallowing anymore, he is lashing out.  He is upset at himself for being ‘blind’ and at whomever the girl is for leaving him.  This attitude and feeling is shown in the lyrics and in the angry and harsh guitar.

In general, the song represents moving on and the grief process at the end of the relationship.  It began with denial, depression, and bargaining, and with the second part of the song, it swung quickly into anger.  It can be assumed by the stronger sound toward the end of the song, that the singer is on his way to the final stage, acceptance.  Anyone who has ever been broken up with unexpectedly or liked a girl (or guy) who didn’t like him or her back would be able to understand and appreciate this song.

Besides, if you’re not into all that mushy stuff, the band is freaking incredible anyways.


One comment

  1. This is a good song! I bet you are aware of the song similar sound to “Stairway to Heaven.” Do you know if The Black Keys every said they were influenced by “Stairway to Heaven”?

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