Portishead, Roads: the hidden meaning of an introspective song

Posted by

This story is part of the book:

Mama Mia Let Me Go!
A journey through the most intriguing lyrics and stories in rock music

Buy it on Amazon

There is a moment in life when we see clearly all the arteries that the body of life is made of: millions of roads, millions of wasted opportunities, compromises and choices, victories and bets.

This is life, branching off in countless directions, driven forward by a river of energy that never stops. Once you choose your road, you have to deal with its twists and turns.

Then, there is a second moment in life when you realise that you are alone in this choice. You reach a crossroads with your life’s baggage accompanying you; your failures and gratifications, your unexplained or rational circumstances, your expectations and certainties.

Frozen to myself
I got nobody on my side
And surely that ain’t right

What happened before that moment doesn’t matter anymore. No one can see. You are alone, rival and ally of yourself, victim and executioner of wrong choices, benefactor and beneficiary of your success.

Oh, can’t anybody see
We’ve got a war to fight
Never found our way
Regardless of what they say

Roads is Portishead’s best trip hop number from their first album Dummy. The prayer of Beth Gibbons, who delicately balances her vocals atop a storm of bass and reverberation that resembles a flashbacks, with sound distortions that float like bubbles in a calm sea.

Storm, in the morning light
I feel
No more can I say
Frozen to myself

Frozen, petrified, the singer tells us of the awareness of her inevitable and necessary solitude, and that loneliness that soon or later arrives in the life of everyone. It’s a sign of growth, not just a condition. It’s the moment when you choose your road, and let it become your own.

The song is Gibbons’ battle cry. The moment when she recognises that she is alone and she’s ready to go on and become invincible, for herself and for others.

This is the moment in life when she discovers her road.

How can it feel, this wrong
From this moment
How can it feel, this wrong

This story is part of the book:

Mama Mia Let Me Go!
A journey through the most intriguing lyrics and stories in rock music

Buy it on Amazon

Rating: 5.0/5. From 8 votes.
Please wait...

Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.