They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From the Dead!! Ahhhh! by Sufjan Stevens Lyrics Meaning – Unraveling the Eerie Allegories


You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Sufjan Stevens's They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From the Dead!! Ahhhh! at Lyrics.org.
Article Contents:
  1. Music Video
  2. Lyrics
  3. Song Meaning

Lyrics

I-L-L-I-N-O-I-S!
Ring the bell and call or write us
I-L-L-I-N-O-I-S!
Can you call the Captain Clitus?
Logan, Grant, and Ronald Reagan
In the grave with Xylophagan
Do you know the ghost community?
Sound the horn, address the city

(Who will save it? Dedicate it?
Who will praise it? Commemorate it for you?)

We are awakened with the axe
Night of the Living Dead at last
They have begun to shake the dirt
Wiping their shoulders from the earth
I know, I know the nations past
I know, I know they rust at last
They tremble with the nervous thought
Of having been, at last, forgot

I-L-L-I-N-O-I-S!
Ring the bell and call or write us
I-L-L-I-N-O-I-S!
Can you call the Captain Clitus?
B-U-D-A! Caledonia!
S-E-C-O-R! Magnolia!
B-I-R-D-S! And Kankakee!
Evansville and Parker City

Speaking their names, they shake the flag
Waking the earth, it lifts and lags
We see a thousand rooms to rest
Helping us taste the bite of death
I know, I know my time has passed
I’m not so young, I’m not so fast
I tremble with the nervous thought
Of having been, at last, forgot

I-L-L-I-N-O-I-S!
Ring the bell and call or write us
I-L-L-I-N-O-I-S!
Can you call the Captain Clitus?
Comer and Potato Peelers!
G-R-E-E-N Ridge! Reeders
M-C-V-E-Y! And Horace!
E-N-O-S! Start the chorus

Corn and farms and tombs in Lemmon
Sailor Springs and all things feminine
Centerville and Old Metropolis
Shawneetown, you trade and topple us
I-L-L-I-N-O-I-S!
Hold your tongue and don’t divide us
I-L-L-I-N-O-I-S!
Land of God, you hold and guide us

Full Lyrics

Sufjan Stevens’ cryptic anthem ‘They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From the Dead!! Ahhhh!’ defies conventional interpretation, much like the tangled cornfields and the historic depth of Illinois itself. This track from his critically acclaimed album ‘Illinois’ operates on a multifaceted plane of personal introspection and communal memory, portraying a nocturnal journey through a landscape of the forgotten.

Wispy voices, a haunting brass section, and galloping percussion form the spectral backbone of a song that seems to echo from the annals of history, commanding attention to the restless spirits of past lives as they rap on the windows of the present. Stevens’ mesmerizing repetition of ‘I-L-L-I-N-O-I-S’ is less a cheer and more a séance, invoking the state’s past to manifest in the now.

An Elegy Disguised as a Roll Call

At the surface level, ‘They Are Night Zombies!!’ plays out like a quirky, energetic roll call of Illinois locations and historical figures. Yet, embedded within these names is a somber recognition of mortality and the fear of being forgotten. Each place, each referenced soul, once vibrant and contributing to the framework of the state, now lies dormant, buried beneath layers of ongoing life, yearning for acknowledgment from the collective memory.

Stevens’ vocal delivery oscillates between a ghostly whisper and an urgent plea, underscoring the duality of wanting to celebrate these entities while also mourning their passage. The ‘zombies’ are, therefore, not just undead creatures but symbolic of histories and cultures at risk of vanishing without due commemoration.

The March of the Forgotten

Stevens does not merely recite history; he inhabits it. By invoking names like Logan, Grant, and Ronald Reagan, the song collides the contemporary with the historical, challenging the listener to find continuity in discontinuity. This ‘march of the forgotten’ suggests that our grasp on the past is as tenuous as a spirit’s touch. This creates a soundscape that feels like a parade traversing the liminal space between celebration and dirge.

The brass and martial beats drive forward as if to defy the entropy suggested by the lyrics—there is a determination to preserve, to save these pieces of history from the ‘night of the Living Dead at last.’ This march carries with it both the resolve to remember and the anxiety that perhaps we cannot hold on strongly enough.

A Mirror to Our Morality

Stevens uses the concept of ‘night zombies’ as a mirror, reflecting our societal morality and our responsibilities to the generations that paved the roads we walk. The zombies, then, critique our cultural amnesia, nudging us to look beyond the myopic viewfinder of the present. How we engage with our past speaks to our values, and Stevens’ repeated line ‘I know, I know my time has passed’ becomes a personal acknowledgment of one’s own future obscurity.

Through this introspective lens, we question the legacy we will leave behind and who, if anyone, will pick up the axe to keep our memories alive once we too have joined the ranks of Stevens’ ‘ghost community.’

Decoding The Hidden Message: Illinois as Metaphor

There’s an enigmatic quality woven into ‘They Are Night Zombies!!’ that suggests Illinois is merely a canvas for a larger message. With a state known for its variety, Stevens seems to imply the diversity of American life and death —the various ways communities, traditions, and idiosyncrasies exist in a grander national narrative. The ‘ghost community’ is every small town and little-known hero whose stories contribute to the mosaic of collective history.

‘They tremble with the nervous thought Of having been, at last, forgot,’ serves as a chilling reminder that our present existence is fleeting. It’s a cautionary whisper to pay heed to these stories and lives—even when they seem to recede into the night—lest we lose a part of the human chronicle to the advancing dark.

Memorable Lines That Transcend The Craft

‘I’m not so young, I’m not so fast’ —these words resonate on a frequency that transcends Sufjan Stevens’ haunting composition. They are a stark reminder of impermanence and a lament over lost vibrancy. Yet, they also reflect a shared human anxiety about becoming irrelevant or inert amidst an ever-changing landscape.

In these lyrics, Stevens masterfully intertwines the specific and the universal, creating an anthem that doesn’t just stick with you—it haunts you. It compels introspection about our own places, histories, and inevitable ends, bridging the temporal with the eternal, and cementing the song as a vessel for peering deeper into the human condition.

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