A Tour Guide to Anberlin’s “Cities”

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


From what I’ve read online, most people are either in love with this song or are very uncomfortable with it, but I think I fall somewhere in between. The lyrics are direct and unforgiving, and not at all what most people have come to expect from Stephen, but after reading about the state of emotional and mental fatigue that led up to the writing of this song, it makes sense. And for that reason, at the end of the day, I’m glad this song made the cut – it’s a great example of the human condition, evidence that even the most generous and optimistic of us can (and do) find ourselves at rock bottom every once and a while, and that’s okay, as long as we can identify what got us there and begin to climb back up.

STEPHEN SAYS:Reclusion was the song I didn’t want on the record. I wanted it as a b-side, hidden away on some random internet website that everybody hears about but nobody ever sees.” [2]

“It may be the most autobiographical song for me, because that was the stage of life that I was going through. Even when I got to Seattle, the guys were so very nice to let me get an apartment all by myself, and I just sat there, and I just got away, because I have to have solitude. I was just done with the crowds, I was done with the notoriety, I was done with fame, I was done with the Superman syndrome and the savior complex, I just needed to get away. And this was my rebellion against this outgoing, charismatic person that I had to be. There’s the Stephen Christian on stage, and that’s who I had to be twenty-four hours a day, and I was done with him, I was just done and tired, and so this was kind of my rebellion song.” [2]

“I got over it because I saw how self-centered it was, and how self-destroying, and the lyrics on this song are dark like none other on this record, or maybe on any of the records. It’s being a recluse and falling into myself. Here’s what the bottom of the well looked like – this was it.” [2]


Much like the transition from “Godspeed” to “Adelaide,” perhaps the ugliest song the band has ever written sits next to this, perhaps the prettiest song the band has ever written. Any song featuring guest vocals from Copeland’s Aaron Marsh is guaranteed to be beautiful, and he takes on the perfect role in this song, gently echoing Stephen’s words in the chorus and providing some warm oohs and aahs to set the mood. And the bridge is just flat out fun. The “making of” feature on the DVD that comes with the special edition of Cities includes video of the drums being recorded for the bridge, and it looks like it was one of the highlights of the recording experience.

As for the lyrics – sure, they’re sappy, but you need a little bit of sappiness to separate “Reclusion” and “Dismantle.Repair.” Oh, and another surprise – this one’s not about a girl, either. Well, not completely, anyway.

STEPHEN SAYS: “The verses are about my brother. They’re not even about a girl. Me and my brother used to play in boxes. My family didn’t have a lot of money and my father worked in an appliance company and he would always bring home boxes. Instead of toys, our toys were boxes. I mean, we had toys, but just not a lot, so our toys would be the cardboard boxes he would bring home, and we would kind of like, in our minds, build space ships. We’d assemble a whole bunch and build slides. I mean, we just had to be so creative with what we had.” [11]

“It’d be kind of odd to grow up with the love of your life… it’d be kind of awkward to be like, ‘Remember when we were just kids?’ But it’s not about that, it’s about my brother. Just the chorus is about my wife – ‘I want to be your last first kiss.'” [11]