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​ Liv Takes a Crash Course in Egyptian Mythology To Satisfy Her Compulsive Need to Know What Songs Mean

By Olivia Donohue and Olivia Donohue

By Olivia Donohue | 17/2/17 1:00pm


The Pica Beats isn’t the easiest band to find information about, but, after all, if the band you like has a Wikipedia page you lose indie points anyways. As the musical project of Ryan Barrett, they could arguably hail from Portland, Seattle, or Vermont depending on who you ask. In 2008 they released their first album, Beating Back the Cold, the most popular song of which remains their most popular song to this day. When I first heard “Poor Old Ra” I thought the music wasn’t anything to write home about but I knew (I knew) that I would spend the rest of my week obsessing over what the hell that song was about.

poor old Ra you were much better off as a sun god weren't ya

no one gives a shit about your falcon head anymore

Aten sunk down somewhere off the coast of New Brunswick or the arctic

Sektet sunk with Horus stoned at the wheel

The first thing I did at first was look up these gods whose names were familiar, but ultimate meaning escaped me. Ra was easy, he’s exactly how he sounds: a falcon-headed god of the sun. Aten was the name for the sun itself as a mystical glowing disk in the sky. So it would make sense that Aten would be sinking. At first, I thought the line “Aten sunk down somewhere off the coast of New Brunswick” was simply a joining of ancient and modern terminology but then I realized that the coast of New Brunswick is in the east which just made the whole verse and song sound even more absurdist. Sektet actually refers to the boat that Ra was supposed to bring the sun across the sky representing the hours between noon and sunset. Horus, also falcon-headed, is considered king of the sky and the gods.

The whole first verse is a very bizarre and roundabout way of describing a sunset which just makes everything feel very tired and washed out. Instead of flying the sun across the sky on a magic boat over the pyramids they’re driving it somewhere around New Jersey and smoking weed.

with every oil slick and passing barge, the chances that you go down

with your feet in the Egyptian sand, this weak little shell of a man falls away

The chorus, although it didn’t feel it at first the chorus is very straight forward. You will fade and eventually become nothing. This is meant to compare the slight overtime fading of ancient gods to the more rapid fading of your old friend from high school who never really did anything into nothingness.

The second verse and chorus are a lot less forward. It becomes a love song sung in first person rather than a tragic lament sung in third. It’s about two people who each feel like they’re too good for each other, and that, for different reasons, they feel the other is fading like the Egyptian gods of old.

“I am the tension, you are the tightrope” is the line that is repeated over the outro along with more references to Egyptian myths. This line, sung with the female backup singer, gives a suggestion of dependence between the two focuses of the song. They appear to be resigned to their fates and to be taking it with about as much stride as you can take oblivion. The weed helps, definitely.