“Virginia” recounts a dream that is at turns nostalgic and regretful, musing about the relationship between an unbeliever who blissfully resists the preoccupations of her world’s moral concerns with some peers who, perhaps, missed out on a real or deeper friendship and community because of a naïve view of religious and moral distance. “Wolves at the Door” is a rebuke to those who would lower certain walls, letting a rabid enemy in at the expense of those they expose to danger. To Bazan, lines must be drawn, but we seem doomed to cling to the wrong ones (as in “Virginia”) and to carelessly ignore the others. “Future Past” describes the constant mix-up:
You only trust the foxes when they’re cooped up with the hens
You’re sticking to the black and blue around you when you should be making friends
One reason these split allegiances are so poorly navigated is that the people behind them are selfish, foolish, and generally rotten. Bazan repeats a judgment he made in CYB: blaming sinfulness on Eden’s fall is a copout. But he doesn’t deny the reality of human depravity, regardless of where it originates. “Messes” is a look into the dark, where relationships with addictions and lusts eat at and spoil the relationships with loved ones. “Don’t Change” cynically dismisses most self-improvement as superficial or hopeless.
Bazan seems to think there is a lack of a principled way out of a fragmented society. He sings in “People”:
You’ve gotta find the truth, and when you find that truth don’t budge;
Until the truth you found begins to change, and it does. I know.
Truth for Bazan used to be a divine person (Jesus) who lived by and supplied absolute and total guidance for his followers, but now Bazan views the relationship between truth, himself, and others as inescapably complicated and difficult to carry out (“You’ve gotta take your lumps,” sings Bazan of the times when the truth gets you into unavoidable trouble).
But for all of the stern gazing into the broken nature of people, the album ends on an optimistic note. Bazan sings to his wife on “Won’t Let Go,” a sweet rejection of any obstacle that threatens the flesh-and-blood closeness of their relationship. Only death will ultimately divide their communion, and it will still have to, by Bazan’s promise, “pry my fingers loose.”