The Ballad Of The Sin Eater
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists Lyrics


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When you run, digger, runner
Listener, thief, you carry it all with you
Today I woke up uncertain
And you know that gives me the fits
So I left this land of fungible convictions
Because it seemed like the pits
And when I say, "conviction" I mean it's something to abjure
And when I say "uncertain" I mean to doubt I'll not turn out a caricature
So I set off in search of my forebears
Coz my forbearance was in need
But the only job I could get in dear old blighty
Was working on the railway between selby and leeds
So I took a ferry to belfast, where I had cause to think:
They wanted none of my arm-chair convictions
But nobody seemed to mind when I was putting on the drinks!
And you didn't think they could hate you, now did you?
You didn't think they could hate you, now did you?
You didn't think they could hate you, now did you?
Ah, but they hate you, and they hate you 'coz you're guilty
So...I stayed out all night in Ibixa
By way of San Sebastian, where they said
'Yanque, you better watch what you're saying, unless you're sayin'
It in Basque or in Catalan!"
So all the way east to novi-sad
Where narry a bridge was to be seen
But mother Russia, she laid her pontoons on down
So I crossed over, if you know what I mean...
Then on the road to damascus, yes
The scales, they fell from my eyes
And the simplest lesson I learned at the mount of olices: everybody lies
And the french foreign legion
You know they did their best - but I never believed in t.e.
Lawrence, so how the hell could I believe in beau gest?
And you didn't think they could hate you, now did you?
You didn't think they could hate you, now did you?
You didn't think they could hate you, now did you?
Ah, but they hate you, and they hate you 'coz you're guilty
So...I spent a night in Kigali in a five diamond hotel
Where maybe someday, they'll do the wa-tutsi down in hutu hell
And I fell in with a merchant marine who promised to take me home
But when I woke up beaten and bloodied
I couldn't tell if it was Jersey or Sierra Leone!
And you didn't think they could hate you, now did you?
You didn't think they could hate you, now did you?
You didn't think they could have you, now did you?
Ah, but they hate you, and they hate you coz you're guilty...
And the knocking in my head, just like the knocking at my door
And maybe it was me or maybe it was my brother
But either me or me and him went down to the bar
Where I got seven powersin me for to give me the cure
But when seven powers failed to spin me
I had to get me seven more
And when I say, "me" I mean my brain
And when I say "give me the cure" I mean to kill the pain
And when I say "kill the pain" I meant to get the devil out
And when I say "devil" I mean the manifestation of doubt!
And you didn't think they could hate you
Now did you you didn't think they could hate you, now did you?




You didn't think they could hate you, now did you?
Ah, but they hate you, make no mistake - they hate you...

Overall Meaning

The Ballad of the Sin Eater is a song by Ted Leo and the Pharmacists that speaks about self-discovery and the journey taken to unlock secrets that lie within us. The opening lyrical verse mentions several different individuals, such as runners, listeners, and thieves, who carry their past with them and their uncertainties affect them. The singer sets off in search of his forebears, seeking inspiration from them to find a path forward. However, he encounters roadblocks, such as his "arm-chair convictions" being unwelcome in Belfast and being beaten in Sierra Leone. He tries to remove the doubt burrowing within him through drink and drugs, using them as a tool to escape the inevitable self-reflection - but ultimately, the journey leads him to the realization that doubt is the greatest enemy.


The song seems to describe a journey both literal and metaphorical, where the singer travels through different places, searching for something significant. The lyrics showcase the frustrations of living with doubt and uncertainty and the lack of conviction that can cripple one's beliefs. The verses also highlight the relationship between how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us, with the singer wanting to shape his conviction based on his ancestors, but struggling to find acceptance in doing so. The song is particularly poignant in its exploration of self-doubt and self-discovery, with the singer seeking a way to navigate life's challenges, but ultimately failing to find the solution.


Line by Line Meaning

When you run, digger, runner
Whether you're a runner, a worker digging in the dirt, or just someone trying to escape, you are always carrying your problems and baggage with you.


Listener, thief, you carry it all with you
No matter who you are or what you do, you always carry your issues with you - whether you're listening to someone's problems or stealing from others.


Today I woke up uncertain
The singer is feeling unsure about things that they used to be sure about.


And you know that gives me the fits
Feeling uncertain makes the artist anxious and uncomfortable.


So I left this land of fungible convictions
The artist decided to leave a place where people had opinions that could change easily or were not thought out thoroughly.


Because it seemed like the pits
The place the singer left was terrible and unpleasant for them.


And when I say, "conviction"I mean it's something to abjure
The singer believes that having a conviction means abstaining from something, and they do not want to be someone who is so sure of something that they refuse to listen to others.


And when I say "uncertain"I mean to doubt I'll not turn out a caricature
The artist's uncertainty leads them to question if they are becoming a stereotype or exaggeration of themselves.


So I set off in search of my forebears
The artist goes on a journey to learn more about their ancestors and heritage.


Coz my forbearance was in need
The artist needs to be patient and endure difficulties they will encounter on their journey.


But the only job I could get in dear old blightywas working on the railway between selby and leeds
The singer had to take a less than desirable job, working on a railway in a less than desirable place.


So I took a ferry to belfast, where I had cause to think:They wanted none of my arm-chair convictions
The artist goes to Belfast where they realize that people did not want to hear opinions from someone who was not participating in the situation at hand.


But nobody seemed to mind when I was putting on the drinks!
People were happy to have the singer help with making and serving drinks.


And you didn't think they could hate you, now did you?You didn't think they could hate you, now did you?You didn't think they could hate you, now did you?Ah, but they hate you, and they hate you 'coz you're guilty
The singer is facing hate and judgement for something they are guilty of doing.


So...I stayed out all night in IbixaBy way of San Sebastian, where they said'Yanque, you better watch what you're saying, unless you're sayin'It in Basque or in Catalan!"
The singer goes to Ibixa after stopping in San Sebastian but is cautious about what they say or do because of the potential negative consequences.


So all the way east to novi-sadWhere narry a bridge was to be seenBut mother Russia, she laid her pontoons on downSo I crossed over, if you know what I mean...
The artist travels to Novi-Sad where they have to cross a river with the help of the Russian army.


Then on the road to damascus, yesThe scales, they fell from my eyesAnd the simplest lesson I learned at the mount of olices: everybody lies
The artist has a realization while traveling to Damascus and learns that everyone tells lies.


And the french foreign legionYou know they did their best - but I never believed in t.e.Lawrence, so how the hell could I believe in beau gest?
The singer talks about the French Foreign Legion and expresses their disbelief in the actions of T.E. Lawrence and Beau Gest.


So...I spent a night in Kigali in a five diamond hotelWhere maybe someday, they'll do the wa-tutsi down in hutu hellAnd I fell in with a merchant marine who promised to take me homeBut when I woke up beaten and bloodiedI couldn't tell if it was Jersey or Sierra Leone!
The singer spends a night at a hotel in Kigali before meeting someone who offered to take them home but ends up getting hurt and not knowing where they are.


And the knocking in my head, just like the knocking at my doorAnd maybe it was me or maybe it was my brotherBut either me or me and him went down to the bar
The artist has a headache and hears knocking sounds both in their head and at their door. They go to a bar with either themselves or their brother.


Where I got seven powersin me for to give me the cureBut when seven powers failed to spin meI had to get me seven more
The artist drinks alcohol to cure their pain but needs more than what they have already had.


And when I say, "me" I mean my brainAnd when I say "give me the cure" I mean to kill the painAnd when I say "kill the pain" I meant to get the devil outAnd when I say "devil" I mean the manifestation of doubt!
The artist is focused on getting rid of their pain which they liken to exorcising their doubts and fear.


You didn't think they could hate youNow did you you didn't think they could hate you, now did you?You didn't think they could hate you, now did you?Ah, but they hate you, make no mistake - they hate you...
The singer repeats that someone hates them, and emphasizes that this is the case despite the listener's disbelief.




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