Interpretations:Am I Awake?

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Interpretation 1[edit]

I think this song is about the concept of grieving and the shock you feel when someone you know closely passes, you don’t feel like it’s real, It feels like your in a dream or nightmare Hense why it says “am I awake?”

-Cats&Boxes (2023)

Interpretation 2[edit]

I actually believe that this song is wider-reaching than that- I think it's a fairly accurate description of the effects of work in general, of the unseen toll a decent, well-paying office job takes on one's psyche. When one spends the majority of their life in a cubicle, the line between awake and asleep becomes drastically blurred.

"Am I awake? What time is it?"
Like a listless sleep, bursts of consciousness thought come only intermittently during the day, at random intervals. One has to look at the clock to get any hint of how much time has passed.

"When I get through this day
Can someone tell me how
And how much longer now
Am I awake?"
Sitting at the same desk, doing the same mundane tasks day in and day out eventually numb a person, to the point where, as far as personal experience is concerned, consciousness and sleep are interchangeable.

"The coffee's cold, did I forget to drink it yet
Did I forget?
My clothes are wet I don't remember drinking it."
You think you might have got that cup of coffee today, but you actually brought it to your desk two days ago. The way they're being spent, there's no way to tell the one day from another.

"Is it that time again?
Wasn't it already then?
So does it have to be
The time it was again."
"Quitting time" is a lousy phrase. You're only leaving work so you can sleep to prepare for work again. Like running on a hamster wheel, the only accomplishment for reaching the end of the day is to start all over again.

"When I get through this day
Can someone tell me how
And how much longer now
Am I awake?"
How the narrator survives this nonlife is a mystery to him. He might be able to figure it out, if he had any reasonable chance to do so. But before he can even get started, he's dragged back into his mindless task.

Not bad for a first entry, I hope.

Interpretation 3[edit]

I think that the man singing this is going through the same day over and over again. You know, like in "Groundhog day". "When I get through this day will the next one be the same?" As well, something along the lines of "the clothes i wear when I went to sleep aren't the same when I wake up." In the movie, Phil would always awaken in his bed with his pajamas on, no matter what he was wearing when he went to sleep.


Interpretation 4[edit]

I think this guy all of a sudden could see time. He can actually look into space and see his movements from yesterday and tommorow. When he tries to drink his coffee, he picks up the one from a couple of hours ago. When he moves, time is shifted in spontanious ways so that there is no way to tell the actual time. His body and clothes are also shifted throughout time, so his face and pajamas are different when he gets out of bed. -bigblargh

Am I Awake is essentially experiential[edit]

I hate to say it, but I think this is yet another experiential song. TMBG has a talent for considering a small slice of time or a small bit of experience and describing in such a way as to evoke it for the listener. It is not a lesson or a verbal message, like James K Polk, it is working to get you to experience something the artist experienced and wants to tell you about. Think E. A. Poe and his use of words to get you to experience his creeping horrors, only the artists in this instance want you to remember what it feels like to really need some sleep.

"Am I Awake" describes verbally the weird feelings you get when you're sleep-deprived. You slip in and out of a partial dream state, you have strange bodily sensations, you probably drink coffee, short term memory fails to consolidate, and if you are purposely staying awake, you spend lots of time wondering when the heck this is gonna be over.

The music re-creates that altered brain wave state - the creepiness, the hypnotic feeling of the vocals that are low and repetitive, the sound that pulses and moves back and forth between the channels, as sound does in that state - things sound muffled, far away, then they pulse back into the fore. The "ee" "ah" "ee" "oh" "ah" sounds remind me of a yawn.

There might be some grand metaphor here, but I think it's about the sensation itself. Christina Miller, April 2005

I agree with Christina up there, about this being a way to get the listener to know what it feels like to be severely sleep-deprived. It's definitely how I feel when I've lost a lot of sleep. Short-term memory loss, confusion, inability to concentrate, no sense of time...describes it to a T, I'd say. Plus it's really cool to listen to when you're only running on 3 or 4 hours. Spiraling Shape 22:56, 26 April 2007 (UTC)

I also agree, and I would just like to say how I think that applies to some lines. "Am I awake" obviously is the narrator being in a state between falling asleep and waking up, when he really can't be sure whether or not he's conscious. "What time is it? Is it that time again? Wasn't it already then? Does it have to be the time it was again?" When he get's back enough consciousness to see how much time has passes since he last remembers being awake, he see's that almost no time has passed, maybe just a few minutes or even less than 1. But that interval of semi-consciousness felt so much longer. Time is going by far to slowly. "When I get through this day, can someone tell me how, and how much longer now" With things going by so slowly and with him barely able to stay awake, he doesn't know how he's going to make it through the day when it feels like an eternity, and even if he does make it he's so out of it that he'll need someone else to tell him how he did it, because he won't remember it. "The coffee's cold did I forget to drink it yet? My clothes are wet I don't remember drinking it." He got some fresh coffee but now it looks like the coffee is cold, no longer fresh and it looks like there's less of it. He doesn't remember drinking any but he doesn't know how it's gone, and his clothes are wet opening up the possibility that he just spilled it and didn't drink any. "When I get through this part, will the next one be the same, will I be wondering, if I'm awake." No moment is distinguished from another. Everything is just a semi conscious haze. If he finally get's through this interval of time, will it just be to find himself in the same place, struggling to stay conscious, wondering if he's awake? Sorry, that's longer than I meant it to be.

Interpretation 6[edit]

This song reminds me of how you are supposed to invoke lucid dreaming. If you get into the habit of checking the time and determining if you are awake, and if normal things are going on, you will be able to know your dreaming in a dream. This is supposed to allow you to control your dream, because you know its a dream! Look up Lucid Dreaming on google.

-M Stuefen

Interpretation 7[edit]

This all reminds me of a quote from the fantastic film "Waking Life", revolving around the theme of lucid dreams, as mentioned above. The quote:

I had a friend once who told me that the worst mistake that you can make is to think you are alive, when you're really asleep in life's waiting room. The trick is to combine your waking rational abilities with the infinite possibilities of your dreams. 'Cause if you can do that you can do anything. Did you ever have a job that you hated? Worked really hard at? A long, hard day at work, finally you get to go home, get in bed, close your eyes, and immediately you wake up and realize that the whole day at work had been a dream? It's bad enough that you sell your waking life for … for minimum wage, but now they get your dreams for free. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Anklepants (talkcontribs) 01:23, 12 March 2006

Interpretation 8[edit]

I always like to think this song is about somebody who is a werewolf. - jordan c.

Interpretation 9[edit]

Actually, this song has always reminded me of the general idea of Slaughterhouse 5, and someone who has become "Unstuck in time," but especially in his dreams. The narrator is getting flashes of his future in his dreams, and then is confused during his waking time if he's dreaming of the future, or living in the present.


Interpretation 10[edit]

Great Linnell song with all his fave themes - disorientation, dislocation and paranoia. Brilliant techno production that one suspects was record sans Flans. Amazingly cast aside on an EP when dross like "It's kickin' in" was allowed on the Spine. Linnell at his best.

(Mr Tuck)

Interpretation 11[edit]

Based on the life of a typical coffee-fueled American. It's that simple. --Dunklekuh81

I agree with Dunklekuh81 above. This is someone stuck inside a life that is monotonous, always the same, a endless loop of sleep, work, coffee, work, sleep, etc. He is tired of the daily-drill, and his days and hours are blending together ("The coffee's cold, did I forget to drink it yet? Did I forget?" and "And when I close my eyes it looks the same as when I open them again").
Every day is the same, even waking up and going to sleep ("Is it that time again? Wasn't it already then?").
He doesn't sleep much anymore, and thus can't break the barrier between real sleep and real wakefulness.
He is deteriorating under the stress of work, his busy schedule, and he doesn't know now how long he can keep it up ("Can't someone tell me how, And how much longer now, Am I awake?") --Jane Strummer

Interpretation 12[edit]

I think it reflects a lot of the feelings associated with insomnia, sleeplessness, etc. Anyone college student who has pulled an all-night study session followed by a day of classes or professional who has done late-night work followed by early-morning work with fewer than four hours of sleep has probably expressed a lot of these sentiments. Living in a mental fog, no clarity or focus, with the only thought being about how much longer until you can finally sleep? Yeah, I've been there several times during college.

"The coffee's cold, did I forget to drink it yet?" No kidding,because he's at that point when coffee just stops perking him up.

"These are not the clothes I had on when I went to bed/ And something else besides my hair is growing from my head." Someone went to bed, didn't sleep, and now has to dress up for work, with probably a little bit of stubble he neglected to shave.

"When I get through this day/ Can someone tell me how/ And how much longer now/ Am I awake?" At the end of that 24, 30-hour rope, you probably are wondering how you did it. And you probably do desperately wonder how much longer you have until you can finally sleep.


Am I awake is another example of a bizarre trait of leaving A1 material off albums! Bizarre. Lyrically straightforward it's about hallucinating through lack of sleep which is a dark joke from Linnell given that this accompanied a show about doctors! From a musical perspective he recycles the bridge (I think almost note for note) from my Till my head falls off ("Don't interrupt me as I struggle to complete this thought") for the Am I Awake Bridge? ("these are not the clothes i had on when I went to bed). It's such a good song that we don't mind John! (Mr Tuck)