Some songs tell stories just as vivid and intricate as any film or TV show. The Storyteller Series highlights those special pieces of music with lyrics that captivate the audience from beginning to end.


When I first heard Becoming A Jackal, the debut album from Villagers, I certainly appreciated it as thoughtful, intellectual and poetic, but I have to be honest: I wasn’t really moved by it. I used “Home” as part of a selection of songs I put together for The Needle Drop in May, but after that the album sat in my iTunes library dormant.

Then I had the pleasure of hosting Conor O’Brien in my office this past July.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from his live performance, but at barely 5’3″ with big blue eyes that say a lot more than he does, the Ireland native quickly made believers out of every person in the audience. Those who hadn’t heard of him prior to that day left in shock and awe. Even I who had listened to the album and knew he was something special, was stunned at how intensely he committed to every lyric. We were all so completely enraptured that the silence between songs could only be described as dense and deafening. The entire set was incredible, but the one song that stood out for me was “Becoming A Jackal.”

“Becoming A Jackal” was already one of my favorite songs on the album, but seeing it live – I forgot I had ever heard it before. It could have just been the nature of the stripped down, acoustic set, but the song finally opened itself to me. O’Brien infused each word with such bitterness that I felt like I was alone in a car with someone having a very personal argument over the phone. Embarrassed, uncomfortable, stomach squirming – thankfully though in a way where I could still admire the brilliance of the lyrics and his performance.

As always, there are multiple interpretations one could take from the song, but I’m only going to offer mine. Maybe I chose this reading because the emotions evoked remind me of what I felt in a situation like this a few years ago. While it’s still a bit unclear exactly what the narrator’s relationship is with the person he’s singing to, I believe it’s a lover. Someone who he keeps being drawn to again and again even though it’s an unhealthy situation. The world outside the relationship is perceived as harsh, scary, dog eat dog – as often being alone can seem – and any bed to crawl into is better than no bed at all. Finally he decides it’s time to flee his “shackles” and see for himself.  In the end though it doesn’t seem like the narrator is better off for his departure. From a more world weary and jaded perspective, he reflects on the days when he was a dreamer, days that are now gone into the past forever – he has become a different person and there’s no way to go back.

Listen:

Villagers “Becoming A Jackal”

Watch:

Villagers – “Becoming A Jackal” from The Tripwire on Vimeo.

Lyrics:

The most familiar room
Every implement was leading to you
And your homely sense of disarray
Never once the same, always rearranged
But things would never change
In the scene between the window frame
Where the jackals preyed on every soul
Where they tied you to a pole
And stripped you of your clothes


I was a dreamer
Staring at windows
Out onto the main street
Cos that’s where the dream goes


And each time they found fresh meat to chew
I would turn away and return to you
You would offer me your unmade made
Feed me till I’m fed, read me till I’m read
But when the morning came
You would catch me at the window again
In an eyes wide open sleeping state
Staring into space, with no look upon my face


I was a dreamer
Staring at windows
Out onto the main street
Cos that’s where the dream goes


And when I got older, when I grew bolder
Out onto the streets I flew
Released from your shackles
I danced with the jackals
And learned a new way to move
So before you take this song as truth
You should wonder what I’m taking from you
How I benefit from you being here
Lending me your ears while I’m selling you my fears


I was a dreamer (I’m selling you my fears)
Staring at windows (I’m selling you my fears)
Out onto the main street (I’m selling you my fears)
Cos that’s where the dream goes (I’m selling you)


I was a dreamer
Staring at windows
Out onto the main street
Cos that’s where the dream goes.


Buy Villagers Becoming a Jackal on iTunes.