Ruin – Unraveling the Global Tapestry of Discontent


You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Cat Power's Ruin at Lyrics.org.
Article Contents:
  1. Music Video
  2. Lyrics
  3. Song Meaning
  4. The Nomad’s Lament: Beyond Borders and Complacency
  5. The Bittersweet Taste of Complaining: An Indictment of Privilege
  6. A Ruin of Our Own Making: The Song’s Hidden Meaning
  7. From Earworm to Anthem: The Song’s Memorable Lines
  8. Voyage of Melancholy: How Ruin Captivates and Motivates

Lyrics

I’ve seen gypsies who made it all the way
And kept going, kept rolling with nowhere to go
Nowhere to go.

As far as I’ve seen, from the bush
In the wilderness, to every known city
I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, dug up Calcutta
So I went to Mozambique, Istanbul, Rio, Rome
Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Taiwan, Great Britain
Belfast, to the desert, Spain
Some little bitty island in the middle of the Ṗacific
All the way back home, to my town
To my town
Bitching, complaining, yet some people who ain’t got shit to eat
Bitching, moaning, so many people you know what they got

What are we doing?
We’re sitting on a ruin
What are we doing?
We’re sitting on a ruin

As far as I’ve seen, from the bush
In the wilderness, to every known city
I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, dug up Calcutta
So I went to Mozambique, Istanbul, Rio, Rome
Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Taiwan, Great Britain
Belfast, to the desert, Spain
Some little bitty island in the middle of the Ṗacific
All the way back home, to my town
To my town
Bitching, complaining, yet some people who ain’t got shit to eat
Bitching, moaning, so many people you know what they got

What are we doing?
We’re sitting on a ruin
What are we doing?
We’re sitting on a ruin

What are we doing?
We’re sitting on a ruin
What are we doing?
We’re sitting on a ruin

Full Lyrics

In the sprawling geographical odyssey of ‘Ruin,’ Cat Power, also known as Chan Marshall, invites her listeners on an introspective journey. The song’s hypnotic melody belies a profound commentary on dissatisfaction and privilege that transcends borders. With her characteristic poignant lyricism, Marshall weaves a tale of travels far and wide, only to find a universal sense of unrest lurking within the human condition.

Through its catchy refrain and soulful intonations, ‘Ruin’ asks its audience to reflect on their own place in the world. It isn’t merely a travel log; it is an introspection and a societal critique, harmonizing the personal with the global. And amid Marshall’s own experiences, she confronts us with the stark contrast between the trite complaints of the privileged and the dire struggles of those with ‘shit to eat.’

The Nomad’s Lament: Beyond Borders and Complacency

Marshall’s lyrics paint a portrait of a seasoned traveller whose experiences span continents, cultures, and classes. The ‘gypsies’ she mentions, who ‘made it all the way,’ symbolize a relentless pursuit of motion — whether driven by wanderlust or necessity. Despite the diverse locations cataloged, from ‘Saudi Arabia’ to ‘a little bitty island in the middle of the Pacific,’ there is a common thread: a persistent disenchantment.

Yet, despite the thrill of travel, the song captures a deeper yearning for purpose and understanding. Marshall taps into this universal sense of searching, a quest that’s not just about geography but about the human heart’s rambling journey. It’s an exploration that uncovers more questions than answers, leaving the traveller sitting on the ruins of their assumptions about the world and their place in it.

The Bittersweet Taste of Complaining: An Indictment of Privilege

Cat Power juxtaposes the vastness of her travels with the pettiness of privilege, embodied in the lyrics ‘Bitching, complaining.’ The visceral bluntness of her words serves as a jarring reminder of the often overlooked luxuries enjoyed by those who have the freedom to express such discontent.

In highlighting the distinction between trivial inconveniences and existential hardships, Marshall casts an unflattering light on complacency. She suggests that our ‘ruin’ is, in fact, a construct of ingratitude, hinting at a greater ruin beyond—the decay of empathy and understanding in a world where not everyone has the luxury to voice their dissatisfaction.

A Ruin of Our Own Making: The Song’s Hidden Meaning

The repetitive chorus, ‘What are we doing? We’re sitting on a ruin,’ serves as the haunting crux of the song, asking listeners to consider their own complicity in sustaining social and economic disparities. The ‘ruin’ is both literal and figurative, representing the rubble of failed systems and the moral decay of indifference.

By questioning ‘What are we doing?’ Marshall challenges her audience to reflect on their actions, or lack thereof, in the face of global issues. It’s a plea for self-awareness and change—a call to rise from the ruins of passivity and engage in creating a more equitable world.

From Earworm to Anthem: The Song’s Memorable Lines

Marshall’s delivery of the lines ‘Bitching, moaning, so many people you know what they got’ transforms a simple observation into a relatable experience. These words have a way of worming their way into the listener’s psyche, replaying long after the song has ended.

In their stark simplicity and rhythmic cadence, these lines become a memorable mantra for mindfulness of one’s place and privilege in a multicultural, diversely experienced world. They’re lines that stick and resonate, driving the song’s message home with unwavering clarity.

Voyage of Melancholy: How Ruin Captivates and Motivates

Cat Power’s ‘Ruin’ is not just a song; it’s a soundscape of somber reflection, a narrative embroidered with Marshall’s gritty, expressive vocals that captivate the listener. Its meticulous mix of bluesy melody lines and restless percussive beats replicates the inner turmoil of recognizing and confronting one’s own dissatisfaction.

Yet, this melancholic voyage also serves as a vehicle for motivation. Through her candid storytelling and raw, emotional delivery, Marshall doesn’t just aim to unsettle—she intends to inspire action. It’s in this duality that ‘Ruin’ finds its true power, as an aesthetic experience that molds the mind and moves the spirit towards change.

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