Bankrupt On Selling – The Piercing Critique of Modern Disillusionment

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Modest Mouse's Bankrupt On Selling at
Article Contents:
  1. Music Video
  2. Lyrics
  3. Song Meaning
  4. The Sardonic Sermon of Swinging Apostles
  5. Infernal Businessmen and the Market of Souls
  6. The Hidden Meaning: Seeing Through the Charade
  7. Louder Isn’t Always Prouder: The Irony of Education and Eloquence
  8. Nostalgia and Sobriety: The Heartache of Personal Evolution


Well all the Apostles-they’re sitting in swings
Saying “I’d sell off my Savior for a set of new rings,
And some sandles with the style of straps that cling best to the era”
So all of the businessers in their unlimited
Hell where they buy and they sell and they sell all their
Trash to each other but they’re sick of it all
And they’re bankrupt on selling
And all of the angel

They’d sell off your soul for a set of new wings and anything gold
They remember
The people they loved their old friends
And I’ve seen through’em all seen through ’em all and seen through most everything
All the people you knew were the actors
All the people you knew were the actors
Well, I’ll go to college and I’ll learn some big words

And I’ll talk real loud
Goddamn right I’ll be heard
You’ll remember all the guys that said all those big words he must’ve

Learned in college
And it took a long time
I came clean with myself
I come clean out of love with my lover
I still love her
Loved her more when she used to be sober and I was kinder

Full Lyrics

In a landscape of endless commercial churn and personal vendettas masquerading as enterprise, Modest Mouse’s ‘Bankrupt On Selling’ serves as a poignant and artful reflection on the decay of authenticity in contemporary society. The track, both musically unadorned and lyrically rich, echoes the frustration and disenchantment faced by a generation barraged by the lure of materialism.

Issac Brock, lead vocalist and lyricist of Modest Mouse, has a knack for creating music that cuts deep into the psyche of middle-class American malaise. ‘Bankrupt On Selling’ is no exception, revealing a subtle, grating despair that a mere cursory listen might not unveil. This analysis dives into the nuanced layers of the song, unearthing the deeply embedded meanings behind its lamenting prose.

The Sardonic Sermon of Swinging Apostles

At the crux of the song lies the motif of apostles on swings—an allegory that hits a religious nerve. Cleverly conjuring this image, Brock satirizes the commodification of spirituality and faith. The apostles are ready to trade their savior for material baubles, the very antithesis of religious piety.

Beyond the critique of corrupted spiritual leaders, there’s the suggestion of cyclical, aimless motion. Swings move back and forth but go nowhere, mirroring the futility of constantly seeking satisfaction in the next best thing, only to remain unfulfilled.

Infernal Businessmen and the Market of Souls

Delving into the chorus, the reference to ‘businessers’ in their ‘unlimited Hell’ is impossible to ignore. It is a scathing denunciation of the corporate gluttony that fuels an endless cycle of mindless consumption and the hollow exchange of ‘trash’—a metaphor for meaningless goods and the superficial values they represent.

Moreover, the characters, including angels, are not exempt from this indulgent betrayal; they too would sell a soul for wealth, showing that the rot has penetrated deep into society’s moral core.

The Hidden Meaning: Seeing Through the Charade

Brock’s narrative strips down pretense to reveal a sobering truth—that authenticity is scarce. He confesses to ‘seeing through ’em all,’ coding his weary understanding of life’s theatricalities. Everyone, from prophets to peers, is reduced to actors playing their part in a scripted existence.

The notion of coming clean with oneself, a turnaround from playing along, suggests a desire for redemption or, at the very least, a starting point for realignment with one’s truer values.

Louder Isn’t Always Prouder: The Irony of Education and Eloquence

The verse that delves into ‘college’ and ‘big words’ is dripping with irony. Education, intended as an enlightenment path, is co-opted here as another tool for flaunting and posturing. The loud proclamation represents a plead for relevance in a world that values volume over content.

Though claiming to be heard, the listener can’t help but recognize the emptiness echoing through these ‘big words.’ It’s a culture where the appearance of intelligence is valued more than wisdom itself.

Nostalgia and Sobriety: The Heartache of Personal Evolution

In the closing verse, Brock touches on a more personal note. He mentions a lover—once sober, now the partner of a kinder past. The transformation he sees in her, paralleling his own, emphasizes the loss that accompanies growth and change.

It’s a lament not just for a relationship’s shift but for the simpler versions of ourselves before the world taught us to value the shiny over the genuine. It’s a powerful end to a song that questions the very fabric of the society we partake in.

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