The Past Is A Grotesque Animal – Unraveling the Complexity of Human Emotions

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for of Montreal's The Past Is A Grotesque Animal at
Article Contents:
  1. Music Video
  2. Lyrics
  3. Song Meaning
  4. A Mirror to Our Grotesque Reflections
  5. Decoding Love in Literary References
  6. The Duality of Need: Presence and Absence
  7. Memorable Lines: Visceral Imagery and Violence
  8. The Hidden Meaning: Apocalypse, Analysts, and Apocalypse


The past is a grotesque animal
And in its eyes you see
How completely wrong you can be
How completely wrong you can be

The sun is out, it melts the snow that fell yesterday
Makes you wonder why it bothered

I fell in love with the first cute girl that I met
Who could appreciate Georges Bataille
Standing at Swedish festival discussing “Story of the Eye”
Discussing “Story of the Eye”

It’s so embarrassing to need someone like I do you
How can I explain, I need you here and not here too
How can I explain, I need you here and not here too

I’m flunking out, I’m flunking out, I’m gone, I’m just gone
But at least I author my own disaster
At least I author my own disaster

Performance breakdown and I don’t want to hear it
I’m just not available
Things could be different but they’re not
Things could be different but they’re not

The mousy girl screams, “Violence! Violence!”
The mousy girl screams, “Violence! Violence!”
She gets hysterical because they’re both so mean
And it’s my favorite scene
But the cruelty’s so predictable
It makes you sad on the stage
Though our love project has so much potential
But it’s like we weren’t made for this world
(Though I wouldn’t really want to meet someone who was)

Do I have to scream in your face?
I’ve been dodging lamps and vegetables
Throw it all in my face, I don’t care

Let’s just have some fun
Let’s tear this shit apart
Let’s tear the fucking house apart
Let’s tear our fucking bodies apart
But let’s just have some fun

Somehow you’ve red-rovered the gestapo circling my heart
And nothing can defeat you
No death, no ugly world

You’ve lived so brightly
You’ve altered everything
I find myself searching for old selves
While speeding forward through the plate glass of maturing cells

I’ve played the unraveler, the parhelion
But even apocalypse is fleeting
There’s no death, no ugly world

Sometimes I wonder if you’re mythologizing me like I do you
Mythologizing me like I do you

We want our film to be beautiful, not realistic
Perceive me in the radiance of terror dreams
And you can betray me
You can, you can betray me

But teach me something wonderful
Crown my head, crowd my head
With your lilting effects
Project your fears on to me, I need to view them
See, there’s nothing to them
I promise you, there’s nothing to them

I’m so touched by your goodness
You make me feel so criminal
How do you keep it together?
I’m all, all unraveled

But you know, no matter where we are
We’re always touching by underground wires

I’ve explored you with the detachment of an analyst
But most nights we’ve raided the same kingdoms
And none of our secrets are physical
None of our secrets are physical
None of our secrets are physical now

Full Lyrics

In the world of music, few songs dare to dive as deep into the catacombs of the human psyche as ‘The Past Is A Grotesque Animal’ by of Montreal. Known for their eclectic sound and enigmatic lyrics, of Montreal presents a song soaked in the spectral hues of existentialism, love, and the fragility of human experience.

Kevin Barnes, the lead singer and songwriter, weaves an intricate narrative that challenges the listener to face the grotesque animal that is our past. Through a haunting melody and piercing lyrics, the track shapes a space where the juxtapositions of life—its lightness and its darkness—coalesce to form an unnerving truth about our existence.

A Mirror to Our Grotesque Reflections

The titular ‘grotesque animal’ is a multifaceted metaphor representing the mistakes and regrets that haunt our recollection. The notion that in the beast’s eyes ‘you see how completely wrong you can be’ serves as a gut-wrenching reminder of our fallibility and the dissonance between our perceived self and our actions.

The song doesn’t just stop at self-reflection; it delves into the impact of time on our perceptions. As the snow melts—yesterday’s certainty giving way to today’s doubt—it questions the purpose of our past woes and wonders.

Decoding Love in Literary References

When Barnes cites his infatuation with a girl who appreciates Georges Bataille’s ‘Story of the Eye,’ he’s not merely flaunting intellectual compatibility. This allusion paints a picture of love that is intense and cerebral, underlining the theme that our passions can often be as obscure and turbulent as Bataille’s infamous novel.

The relationship between love and intellectualism forms a unique dynamic in the song. It posits that perhaps understanding and connecting with someone isn’t simply emotional but also steeped in shared intellectualism and cultural references.

The Duality of Need: Presence and Absence

Barnes’s confession ‘I need you here and not here too’ encapsulates a tragic conundrum of human intimacy. It’s the push and pull of wanting someone close but also needing independence, reflecting a universal struggle within relationships where complete harmony often remains elusive.

The duality he expresses is not just intrinsic to romantic relationships, but a broader comment on human nature. We desire closeness, yet simultaneously we crave the freedom that solitude affords us, revealing the complex layers of human connection.

Memorable Lines: Visceral Imagery and Violence

Barnes masterfully employs vivid imagery to convey emotional intensity, such as ‘dodging lamps and vegetables’ hurled in a domestic dispute. The line ‘Let’s tear this shit apart’ then transitions that intensity into a desire for catharsis—a will to dismantle the very pillars of their shared existence to find some fundamental truth—or just to experience an unfettered moment of release.

The repetition of ‘violence’ spoken by the mousy girl underscores a theme of inevitable cruelty that plays out in human interactions, accentuating the song’s darker undercurrents and the cyclical nature of conflict, which can both fascinate and sadden us.

The Hidden Meaning: Apocalypse, Analysts, and Apocalypse

Barnes’s role as an unraveler—a bringer of ends—is fleeting, declaring ‘even apocalypse is fleeting,’ signifying that even in the undoing of things, there is transience. Similarly, his exploration of the other ‘with the detachment of an analyst’ contrasts the professional distance with the intimacies ‘raided’ at night. This juxtaposition exposes the layered complexities of how we comprehend and relate to one another.

The song ultimately posits that our secrets—our true selves—are non-physical, extending beyond the realm of the tangible and into the depths of shared experiences and emotional connections. Perhaps what we perceive as the apocalypse in our relationships is merely a passage to deeper understanding and unity.

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