I Was Shocked to Learn What the Band Brand New’s Song “Limousine” is About

I Was Shocked to Learn What the Band Brand New’s Song “Limousine” is About
Image Credit: Universal, Interscope Records
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There must hundreds of thousands of songs where a lyricist crafted an imaginary heart-wrenching tale; Brand New’s “Limousine” is not one of those.

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My introduction to the band Brand New was probably similar to most with “The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows,” their lead single from their 2003 sophomore album Deja Entendu, and most popular single to date.

I think “Quiet Things” is a decent song, and a pretty good representation of alt-rock at its time of release. Because of that sentiment, for more than a decade I lumped Brand New in with the rest of the era’s middling depth emo-ish rock bands.

Man, was I wrong.

Sometime around 2015, while perusing through a Modest Mouse Facebook Group, “Good News For People Who Love Modest Mouse,”  I stumbled upon a few songs from their followup to Deja, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me. Instantly upon hearing the songs my view of the band was swayed. That year I listened to the album sporadically ten times or so and then forgot about it until recently.

This time, ever since I have revisited it, I haven’t been able to stop listening to it. Upon every play, I hear something new, but my biggest revelation to date, was when I discovered what the song “Limousine” is about.

Take a moment, to listen to the song “Limousine.” (The entire album is fantastic, considered one of its release year’s best on many lists.) Search for the song on your own or use the link below. Listen without looking at the lyrics.

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The song is clearly about loss, but possibly due to the fact that the genre is littered with songs about lost love, a natural first inclination is to think that is the case here. Especially since much of the last lyrics we hear are variations of the lyric below, repeated eleven times (from my count).

Well, I love you so much

But do me a favor, baby, don’t reply

‘Cause I can dish it out

But I can’t take it.

The first dozen or so times I heard the song it was within the context of the entire album. More than really breaking down much of what was said I was just taking in the epicness of the nearly eight minute, chorus-less song. It wasn’t until I did a YouTube search to listen to this song specifically that I learned what it was about.

What It’s About? (Warning – This is pretty fucking heartbreaking)

I was at the library one day procrastinating instead of doing what I should have been doing and the song popped into my head. Naturally, I decided the only way to scratch that itch was to listen it. Typing in “Brand New’s song Limousine” on YouTube, the video below is the first thing that popped up. Initially, when I saw the still of the man I thought he was part of some imagery from what might be ‘the official music video,’ but he’s not, and the video is definitely not ‘official.’

The video below is a fan creation of spliced clips with captions and news segments, detailing the happening that the song is written about. Listen and watch:

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Here is a description of what the song is about from songfacts.com:

This song is about the death of 7-year old Katie Flynn. Hours before her death, Katie was the flower girl at her aunt’s wedding, spreading petals down the aisle. As they left the wedding, they all got into a limousine and headed home. Martin Heidgen, 25, had had at least 14 drinks that night and his blood alcohol content (0.28) was more than three times the legal limit in New York (0.08). He drove more than two miles north in the southbound lane containing the Flynn family. Both the driver of the limousine, Stanley Rabinowitz, and Katie were killed instantly. Katie was decapitated and her mother held her head as rescue workers helped the rest of the family out of the vehicle.

Pretty heavy stuff. I definitely don’t listen to the song that same way I did before. After learning what exactly the song was about I wanted to dig deeper into the lyrics.

Digging Deeper

There is of course going to be a lot of subjectivity, but here are some of my interpretations.

The First Section

It seems pretty widely accepted that the song is told from three perspectives, but in my research, I had trouble finding consensus about whose perspectives exactly each section was from. I think there might be four views, but Jesse Lacey, the singer of Brand New, seems to have never spoke more than minimally on the song.

There seems to be the most consensus that the ‘first section’ is told from Katie Flynn’s mother’s perspective. It took me a while to really come around to this view, as I always found some lyrics that don’t fit that mold, but I eventually realized that this is not a straightforward interpretation. It is Lacey’s fantastical interpretation of Jennifer Flynn’s tragic experience.

Something that has always stuck out with me about this first section is that I believe Jesse seems to be relating Katie Flynn and Martin Heidgen’s fates to being wedded. That interpretation is something I have not really seen anywhere else in my research, so maybe it’s insightful, or perhaps it’s rubbish.

The Signal Interrupted

The next section is small. Those lyrics are:

The signal interrupted

My baby’s frequency not strong enough

Remain in my hands and smile

If the first section of the song is likely from the perspective of Jennifer Flynn, then where does that first section end? Does is end at, “…one more night to be your mother.” Or with, “…smile”?

The use of, “My baby” is a clear indicator that this is from the perspective of one of Katie’s parents, but is it from her mother or father? The reason why I think there may have been a perspective switch is because there is a tonal change in the music with the lyrics, “The signal interrupted.”

As far as my interpretation of this section, my takeaway is that whomever is crying out that Katie’s “signal” was not “strong enough” was to garner the attention of some higher being to intervene. Two songs earlier on the album there is a song titled “Jesus Christ.” That fact gives me comfort enough to know that Lacey is comfortable writing religious content, even if the song “Jesus Christ” is about his religious discomfort.

Hey, Beauty Supreme

The lyrical beginning of this section is actually almost impossible to pin. The actual lyrics “Hey, beauty supreme,” are very hard to hear. They are slightly overlayed with the section before. If it were not for the lyrics website I personally would have never figured those words out.

This section is generally perceived as being from the perspective of Heidgen. I can think of some reasons why it might not be, and why it might be coming from the view of a higher power in general, but the case for this being Heidgen’s view feels stronger.

As the story goes, Heidgen had gotten in a fight with his significant other and was drinking about it at the time. The most revealing line here I feel is, “He was bored and tired of my laments.” Lacey probably assumed that this was not Heidgen’s first rodeo, and that if there is some higher being he had tuned the man out. Differentiating the most revealing line from the most interesting, the song then goes, “I died for you one time, but never again…” (and then “never again” repeats a bunch of times on it’s own). In most of the lyrics, I found there are quotations around the “I died” line. Who “died one time”? Whether or not we all believe in Jesus Christ, we all know the story. The quotations there for me are another indicator that this is from Heidgen’s POV.

I Love You So Much, Do Me A Favor Baby Don’t Reply…

This next section I believe is from a Jesus, or higher being perspective. Interpreting this way ties directly into the lyrical section before it. So, now we are back here:

Well, I love you so much

But do me a favor, baby, don’t reply

‘Cause I can dish it out

But I can’t take it.

It is my interpretation here that Lacey is saying ‘Jesus’ is apologizing. Jesus done fucked up and wasn’t paying attention. He dished it out, but doesn’t want to hear about it.

Furthering the biblical themes, Lacey in the ‘almost’ repeated verses changes the “Well” to “One’ll,” which then reads like “One’ll love you so much.” This is continued with “Two’ll,” and so on, up to seven, which is a common biblical number.

Another interpretation is that each number is for a year of Katie’s life, ending at seven when she died.

Lyrics in the Background

Near the end of the song there are some layered lyrics. It was not until a few good listens through that I even noticed them. Did you notice them? Here are those lyrics.

I’ll never have to buy adjacent plots of earth

We’ll never have to rot together underneath dirt

I’ll never have to lose my baby in the crowd

I should be laughing right now

These lyrics seem like they are from a life unfulfilled or cut short, which obviously would be Katie’s. Judging by the thoughtfulness in which the album is crafted, it seems intentional that Lacey would give her the last word.

Thoughts?

Manslaughter or Murder

Heidgen got murder, and I think that is fitting. It’s not a smart decision to drink and drive, but I feel like there was more here than just being inebriated and the courts seem to agree. Heidgen drove the wrong way for more than a mile and passed other cars. Really fucking drunk or not, he knew what he wanted to do.

Want to Learn More About This Tragic Story?

Here is a link to a Snopes page which give the most amount of information in a single place on the subject, that I have found.

Where to Purchase

Purchase the song “Limousine” or the album, The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me through Apple Music, by clicking here.

Citations

Brand New. “Limousine.” The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me. Interscope Records 2006.

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Steven Richard

Steven Richard is the publisher here at Unruly Stowaway. He has written a memoir which will be released one day.

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