“dramamine” by modest mouse: an analysis

“dramamine” is a song by modest mouse that means a great deal to me. it’s one of those songs you don’t listen to often because of how beautiful and impactful it is. i just can’t. i can only listen when i’m ready and when it is needed. the song is praised by many, even finding its way into the car seat headrest song “the ending of dramamine” (with the lyric ‘the ending of dramamine scared david’). anyways, i really love this song & i thought i’d write about what the lyrics mean to me. i’m fully aware this may not be the “correct” meaning, but it’s my meaning– and that is more important in the end. this is what dramamine is to me.

“traveling, swallowing dramamine. feeling spaced, breathing out listerine.”

to start, dramamine is a medication that is used to treat nausea. listerine is a mouth wash. got it? good, let’s keep going. on the surface level, it is evident that our speaker is using dramamine to lessen the uncomfortable side effect of nausea. rather than working through it, he decides to muffle it. keep that idea in your head, it’ll be important later on. 

“i’d said what i’d said and i’ll tell ya, that you killed the better part of me. if you could just milk it for everything, i’ve said what i’ve said and you know what i mean, but i still can’t focus on anything.”

the speaker of this song has an evident grudge against the partner he is speaking to. the relationship they shared left him smaller than he was before. in their arguments, things are being used against the speaker over and over again. their relationship and arguments have left him broken and depressed. he cannot focus on anything after his partner and him have separated.

“we kiss on the mouth but still cough down our sleeves.”

this. this is my favorite lyric from the entire song. it is so powerful with such a small amount of words used. in their relationship, they shared intimacy and committed to all the easy things in life, but did not want to commit to the harder things. they still cough down their sleeves– they don’t want to share the serious parts of a relationship. they are cowards in their own romance. …instead of working through the nausea of their connection, they down dramamine.

“traveling, swallowing dramamine. look at your face like you’re killed in a dream. and you think you’ve figured out everything. i think i know my geography pretty damn well.”

his partner thinks they have everything figured out, but they don’t. these things they argue about are written on the speaker– he knows what is right and he knows what his wrong. his partner is arguing against something he KNOWS, most likely driving them either further apart during their arguments.

 “you say what you need so you’ll get more. if you could just milk it for everything. i’ve said what i said, and you know what i mean, but i can’t still focus on anything.”

his partner will use anything against him to win these fights, but deep down they know they’re wrong. no one is going to win here, and nothing is going to be fixed. their relationship is fundamentally flawed. they have to take dramamine to get through the ride.

so yeah! good song. listen to it if you want. that’s all for this month. bye.

Author: Erin Erter

erin (they/them) is a published writer who creates in their darkest moments.

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