This is perhaps not the best known Pixies song, and even on the album Doolittle, it is probably not as well known as Monkey Gone to Heaven, or Wave of Mutilation. After years of listening to the Pixies, this song struck me as perhaps the most condensed example of Pixie songwriting, as well as currently being my favorite song.
Outside there's a boxcar waiting
Outside the family store
Out by the fire breathing
Outside we wait til face turns blue
I know the nervous walking
I know the dirty beard hangs
Out by the boxcar waiting
Take me away to nowhere plains
You never wait so long,
you never wait so long
Here comes your man
Here comes your man
Big shake on the boxcar moving
Big shake to the land that's falling down
Is it the wind makes the palms start blowing
A great big stone comes and breaks my crown
We could look at this song as three portions: the narrative, the imagery and the meaning. The images are extremly vividly and specifically illustrated. The first four lines all begin with the same word, reiterating the fact that this is all taking place "outside". After this, there are two lines, beginning with "I", inserting the narrator and thus creative a narrative. The story then pauses for the chorus, and returns with a sudden plot twist, such as it were. The narrator is now riding the boxcar through a windstorm, and gets hit on the head, to what effect we do not know. The song then ends by repeating the rather plaintive chorus twice.
We can look at the structure of imagery, narrative and meaning various ways. It could be that the imagery and narrative both give the meaning, or that we have to look inside the imagery to discover the narrative, which then gives us hint on the meaning. Although the narrative has a clear meaning in my mind, it would seem that objectivly their would be many ways to reconstitute the narrative out of the imagery, which makes the search for meaning even harder. Another factor is the music, which despite the lyrical imagery of decay and disaster is happy and upbeat, being well suited for a junior high romance song.
It is also interesting to notice that the first verse, as well as the first half of the second verse, deal with slow decay, gradual injury (through cold), while the song's climax brungs a sudden, dramatic disaster. The music here, rather then sounding morbid, seems to release itself as the narrator is relased from consciousness by having a stone dropped on his head.
There are lots of questions about the narrative: Where are the people waiting? What are they waiting for? Who is the man they are waiting for? What is the family store? Where are the "nowhere plains"? Why is there a windstorm? I have heard various theories about what this song "means", but I think that anyone who hears the startling imagery and moving, if mysterious narrative, will be able to know what it means, even if it means nothing at all.