Wednesday Question: Band With Deepest Lyrics

Naming some specific tunes would be nice, too...

Ultimate Guitar

For this week's traditional Wednesday Question, we'd like to kindly ask you folks to focus on all the bands and artists with deep lyrics and answer this:

Which band or artist has the deepest lyrics?

It would be cool if you could share a few examples of those cool lyrics as well.

THE RULES - post only one suggestion per comment after checking that your favorite wasn't already nominated (Ctrl+F and all).Multiple nominations of one artist create heavy confusion, since on one hand it's unfair to the given act to take into consideration only the most upvoted nomination, but seeing that multiple nominations allow one user to give two or more votes to the same group, it's also unfair to other nominees not to discard it.

Finally, vote up the ideas you support and vote down the ones you dislike. We'll sum up your votes by Friday and bring you another traditional UG top list. Show us what you got now!

737 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Simon and Garfunkel
    "In the naked light I saw, ten thousand people, maybe more, people talking without speaking, people hearing without listening, people writing songs that voices never share"
    "Hello darkness my old friend" sounds really profound, but in fact Simon wrote it sitting in his bathroom with the lights off - literally "hello darkness" A lot of his other lyrics are as deep and amazing as they seem, though, heh
    Massive Attack
    Since you've mentioned trip-hop, Portishead definitely deserve a place here. I nominated them in pretty much every other Wednesday Question, but they're just too good.
    Yes and yes again!!! Too sad that that it was nominated so late.
    Gojira Examples: The Art of Dying, Liquid Fire
    LOW LANDS : this song is a wonderful good bye song to their mother. THe emotion and the raw power of the lyrics always almost makes me cry. "All those voices in my head / Let them all blow in the sky"
    The Axe is my favorite of their songs. Seems to be ignored by a lot of people though.
    Came here to nominate them as well! Global Warming's lyrics always astound me!
    L'enfant sauvage, Vacuity, damn it Flying Whales, backbone, their lyrics moves me all the time specially when I'm down
    Nine Inch Nails
    Trent isn't able to write bad songs.
    I love how "Everything" has very upbeat tempo and it creates somewhat happy tone of the song but lyrics are pretty dark. Funny how most people don't get it at all and call it one of worst NIN tracks just because it doesn't sound sad and doesn't contain f word
    David Bowie Just listen to 'Life on Mars?', 'Blackstar', 'Slow Burn', 'Slip Away', 'The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (the whole album)', just to mention a few EDIT: Actually, just listen to his last album, 'Blackstar', all the lyrics are deep, and when you consider he died just a couple of days after the release, songs like 'Blackstar', 'Lazarus, 'Girl Loves Me', 'Sue' and 'Dollar Days' become eerily deeper.
    Hunky Dory is my favorite Bowie record. I love a lot of the lyrics from it. Changes: "And these children that you spit on as they try to change their world are immune to your consultations, they're quite aware of what they're going through." The Bewlay Brothers: "Now my Brother lays upon the Rocks. He could be dead, He could be not. He could be You. He's Camelian, Comedian, Corinthian and Caricature."
    Definetly one of the best Bowie albums, for instance, some songs like 'Andy Warhol' were way ahead of the time the album was released.
    Absolutely! Warhol is one of my favorite Bowie songs, it just shows how forward thinking he was when the rest of the album sounds pretty much nothing like that track yet the track fits so perfectly.
    Ironically, I read somewhere that Andy Warhol didn't really like that song even if he respected Bowie as an artist.
    Alice In Chains have some goodins
    Both Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell wrote very deep lyrics with meaning and soul
    Soundgarden, too. Sometimes.
    Apart from "Kickstand", and "She likes Surprises" Superunknown fucking kills it when it comes to lyrics. Both memorable, profound, and incredibly twisted.
    "Like Suicide" is incredible combination of very dark deep lyrics and atmospheric instrumentals. Whole Superunknown is a masterpiece from start to end but this song made me think for a moment
    Incredible sólo too
    Yes, I often dislike Kim's soloing because of abusing wah pedal but this is one of the most emotional solos ever, really underrated, should be there with the greats
    +1 man. Superunknown is a masterpiece and one of the most underrated albums of all time. It had a couple huuuuge hits and about a dozen other awesome cuts.
    I always thought that Chris Cornell is a hardcore fan of the existentialism movement, take a look at lyrics like the day I tried to live and overfloater, Sartre would be proud of him.
    "I'm lookin' California, feelin' Minnesota." I really like all the Bad Motorfinger lyrics.
    Actually Cornell's lyrics in both ultramega ok and louder than love doesn't tell me anything (except for some songs like gun and hands all over) but yeah Cornell started to shine as a lyricist in badmotorfinger, even I'm still trying to understand the lyrics to "mind riot" they are very complex
    Yes. "Roses in a vase of white, bloodied by the thorns beside the leaves that fall because my hand is pulling them hard as I can."
    The Dirt album has a lot of great lyrics. Hate To Feel particularly comes to mind.
    Devin Townsend. (I've checked to see if he's been mentioned further down. He hasn't, and there's only so far down you can go before your comment just gets totally lost, so, sorry for leaching...)
    Wings Part 2, dude.
    When I first heard that song, I thought it was some sort of edgy anti-religion thing. When I realized it was about his dead mother, I was blown away.
    The thing about the title 10,000 Days is that's roughly the amount of time MJK's mother was essentially paralyzed in life. She was a messenger of her God the entire time so when MJK writes "Fetch me the spirit, the son, and the father. Tell them their pillar of faith has ascended.." He's basically making them characters in this story about his mother. Whether you are religious or not, it's fucking incredible how he made that work.
    both parts, and also Vicarious, Reflection, and The Patient, just to name a few more.
    Plus with a song like "The Pot", who else could pull off 'cozened indigo', 'lemon juice' and 'fatty finger' in the same track? Tool, my friends. Tool.
    The Preacher
    Joy Division
    "To the center of the city where all roads meet, waiting for you, To the depths of the ocean where all hopes sank, searching for you, I was moving through the silence without motion, waiting for you, In a room with a window in the corner I found truth."
    Also Nick Cave. See: the Mercy Seat, Tupelo, Stagger Lee (well maybe not that one).
    After seeing Nick I remembered about the lyrical genius of Blixa Bargeld - so Einstürzende Neubauten.
    Converge "I'm that aimless arrow Lost from my very start Violence without purpose Born of broken hearts No one will ever guide me As I sail through the air Now I just bring sadness In those who choose to care"
    Also, then my vote goes to Neurosis too - Steve Von Till and Scott Kelly are true geniuses... Even more, I think sometime you need to feel the lyrics.
    Bob Dylan
    Dylan shouldn't even be up for consideration. Because a.) he's not a band and b.) he's already without a doubt the greatest lyricist of all time anyway, this is merely a contest for second place.
    Greatest lyricist of all time!? Homie you need to broaden your horizons. I love and grew up listening to him and Bloomfield. But come on. If Dylan's as deep as you get you're truly missing out.
    Not saying as deep as I get, but in terms of the greatest lyricist including longevity, originality, and influence, who stands up to Dylan? Young? Cohen? Springsteen?
    Like I Is
    I guess this is a predictable answer, but Radiohead has some of the the best writing of any band from the last 30 years. You are not to blame for Bittersweet distractors Dare not speak its name Dedicated to all human beings Because we separate Like ripples on a blank shore In rainbows Who else can write a song about death and dress it up so nicely?
    IMO "Let Down" has the best Radiohead lyrics. One day, I am gonna grow wings A chemical reaction Hysterical and useless
    Man, there are so many great RH lyrics Street Spirit: "Cracked eggs, dead birds, scream as they fight for life, I can feel death, can see its beady eyes" Subterranean Homesick Alien: "Up above, aliens hover, making home movies for the folks back home, of all these weird creatures who lock up their spirits, drill holes in themselves, and live for their secrets" Let Down: "Shell smashing, juices flowing, wings twitch, legs are going, don't be sentimental, it always ends up in drivel" How To Disappear Completely: "Strobe lights and blown speakers, fireworks and hurricanes, and I'm not here, this isn't happening" Knives Out: "If you'd been a dog, they would've drowned you at birth, look into my eyes, it's the only way you'll know I'm telling the truth" Dollars and Cents: "There are better things to talk about, be contructive, bear witness we can use, be constructive about your blues" 2 + 2 = 5: "Are you such a dreamer, to put the world to rights? I'll stay home forever where two and two always makes a five" A Wolf at the Door: "Cold wives and mistresses, cold wives and sunday papers, city boys in 1st class, don’t know we’re born, just know someone else is gonna come and clean it up, born and raised for the job, oh I wish you’d get up, go over, get up, go over and turn this tape off." Videotape: "This is my way of saying goodbye, because I can't do it face to face, I'm talking to you before... ...No matter what happens now, you shouldn't be afraid, because today has been the most perfect day I've ever seen" Burn the Witch: "Red crosses on wooden doors, if you float you burn, loose talk around tables, abandon all reason" The list goes on and on, but at a certain point, it's really impressive how they've been able to uphold a high lyrical level throughout most of their career.
    Like I Is
    Let Down is amazing, you're right. Really glad to see them bring it out on tour this year.
    Don't forget Street Spirit, my god those lyrics are dark. Rows of houses are bearing down on me, I can feel their blue hands touching me. Gives me the chills.
    Smashing Pumpkins for sure, man those are some amazing lyrics If you need any examples, listen to literally any of their songs from the Siamese Dream/ Mellon Collie era
    Like I Is
    Adore too! To Sheila is a lyrical masterpiece.
    YES!! Even stuff on Machina had amazing lyrics. The songs "Wound" and "This Time" especially!
    Like I Is
    It's a shame Billy's fallen off so much, lyrically. He can't write anything that doesn't contain the word "lover" in it now.
    Steven Wilson/Porcupine Tree
    "I'm stoned in the mall again Terminally bored Shuffling round the stores And shoplifting is getting so last year's thing X-Box is a god to me A finger on the switch My mother is a bitch My father gave up ever trying to talk to me" Yeah man, so deep
    Part of a concept album about social alienation among today's teenagers through technology and prescription drugs, told in first person. I would call that deep.
    That is fucking terrible. No wonder I can't listen to more than 30 seconds of this guy before falling asleep.
    I really don't care about the lyrics usally. BUt there are maybe 3 or 4 artists that I actually get invested in lyrics. Jethro Tull, Sinfield era King Crimson and so on, Ayreon, Azra (ex-Yugoslav new wave). But SW/PT is the only artist that ever that I merely liked the music, but became a massive faan because of the lyrics. Heartattack in a Layby, Open Car, Where We Would Be, Way Out OF Here, Drag Ropes, Routine, The Watchmaker, Hand Cannot Erase, Happiness III. There's jsut so many beautiful pieces of lyrics that you can't mention them all
    Pink Floyd
    Honestly Pink Floyd always just struck me as trying hard to be deep just for the sake of it. Don't get me wrong, I love them. It just seems like they write nonsensical lyrics and people think its super deep.
    A lot of stuff that people see as deep comes across as pretentious to others. It's all on the listener to decide.
    I would agree for Waters-era. After Polly Samson started contributing to lyrics, it got kitschy as Brazilian soap operas.
    Yeah, I basically consider everything after TFC non-Pink Floyd, if not Gilmour solo albums.
    With the exception of the first album and Endless River, each album really hits hard on whatever they are trying to say while simultaneously being open enough for anyone to attach their own meaning too. Animals, The Wall, WYWH, DSOTM, and the Final Cut all are wonderfully written and beautifully performed. Roger Waters is a one of a kind writer. * I am a fan boy, I am sorry. Haha
    I have always been a team-Gilmour member but Roger wrote the best lyrics in PF and maybe in the 70's and maybe the best lyrics in this half of the century. They are very personal and universal at the same time.
    Floyd seems to make it to the top or close in a lot of lists on this website. Who can blame them though?
    Eclipse from The Darkside of The Moon has deepest lyrics I have ever heard. I think that Roger put it best when he said: "I don't see it as a riddle. The album uses the sun and the moon as symbols; the light and the dark; the good and the bad; the life force as opposed to the death force. I think it's a very simple statement saying that all the good things life can offer are there for us to grasp, but that the influence of some dark force in our natures prevents us from seizing them. The song addresses the listener and says that if you, the listener, are affected by that force, and if that force is a worry to you, well I feel exactly the same too. The line 'I'll see you on the dark side of the moon' is me speaking to the listener, saying, 'I know you have these bad feelings and impulses because I do too, and one of the ways I can make direct contact with you is to share with you the fact that I feel bad sometimes. THe song is pure gold.
    I adore Burden. If death should take me now Count my mistakes and let me through Whisper in my ear You've taken more than we received And the ocean of sorrow is you
    "Lullaby of the crescent moon took you Mesmerized, its kaleidoscopic face Granted you a hollow stare Another soul within the divine herd" Came here to vote for this.
    Damnation is a lyrical masterpiece IMO. Everything seems to fit so perfectly...
    The Smiths
    "Now I know how Joan of Arc felt As the flames rose to her roman nose And her Walkman started to melt"
    The lack of love for Katatonia here is disturbing "And it seems to be That consistency is not what lingers ahead But a virtue of the dead One of these days Hours pass yet the night stays When your spirit won't turn anew The world shuts down with no goodbye to undo you"
    Agent 00Awesome
    Dude yes. And the way he sings just makes it deeper. "Releasing the vapour Into the lung Letting the wings unfurl And for a moment i feel young I call on the bird Unfurl"
    The combination of how Jonas sings and the absolute nihilism of some of the lyrics. There is dark and then there is Katatonia dark. "My prospects have become less promising I find it hard to believe in anything Seems I lost my world and so I lost my faith And I can't go back to where I've been"
    Tom Waits
    I wouldn't say deep, he is just a good story teller. This list is going to be a fucking shit show.
    I hear what you're saying, but man...stirrin my whiskey with a Nial boys, stirrin my whisky with a nail.
    Tom Waits should at the very least get a honorable mention. Very strong writer, the song Bad As Me is usually the first song I show people when I want them to get into Tom Waits.
    Peter Gabriel - Genesis
    "Mild mannered supermen are held in kryptonite, And the wise and foolish virgins giggle with their bodies glowing bright. Through a door a harvest feast is lit by candlelight It's the bottom of a staircase that spirals out of sight"
    Yep. Peter Gabriel is center of the ocean deep. Where do you even begin with him? My favorite lyricist by far.
    Suppers Ready, Cinema Show, Firth of Fifth...the lyrics from that era are majestic as fuck
    Even Collins to that influence when he wrote the lyrics after Hackett left especially the more bizarre ones like home by the sea and keept it dark
    Nick Drake Just an example, with Day Is Done: "When the day is done Down to earth then sinks the sun Along with everything that was lost and won When the day is done. When the day is done Hope so much your race will be all run Then you find you jumped the gun Have to go back where you began When the day is done. When the night is cold Some get by but some get old Just to show life's not made of gold When the night is cold. When the bird has flown Got no-one to call your own Got no place to call your home When the bird has flown."
    Death...some of Chuck Schuldiner's lyrics are astounding. Take songs like "A moment of Clarity" or "Without Judgement" as examples
    Or weird al Yankovic lol
    I get goosebumps every time: Finally, at 7:37 early Wednesday evening as the sun was setting in the Minnesota sky Out in the distance, on the horizon, it appeared to me like a vision before my unbelieving eye I parked the car and walked with awe-filled reverence towards that glorius huge majestic sphere I was just so overwhelmed by its sheer imensity, I had to pop myself a beer Yes, on these hallowed grounds, open ten to eight on weekdays, in a little shrine under a make-shift pagoda, There sits the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota I tell you, it's the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota
    Type O Negative
    I agree but a lot of people probably aren't familiar with some of Peter Steele's more introspective songs on albums like October Rust and World Coming Down. Most people just know Black No 1 and Christian Woman. Another thing that people will misjudge about Type O Negative is Steele's use of satire and dark humor which at face value makes people think it didn't come from a serious frame of mind or subject. I upvoted you btw.
    Peter Steele wrote amazing lyrics...he was also pretty creative at times (see How could he) and so many other song were just deep. Good vote.
    Pearl Jam is vastly underrated in my opinion in terms of songwriting.
    Agreed. Eddie Vedder has some written some deep songs on diverse topics. The other members have contributed as well. Personally I love 'Inside Job', which Mike McCready wrote the lyrics for.
    You only have to look at Release or Black and you can feel the depth and emotion Vedder puts into his lyrics. And that's only the first album!
    Dude Sleight of hand is one of the most philosophical lyrics I ever read in a band. Vedder is a fucking genious
    BTBAM, especially the Parallax storyline (including Lost Perfection, Preque, Fossil Genera and Swim to thr Moon)
    Sleep on fly on. In your mind you can fly. They will send us to warn but that's part of the game as well, fucking weaklings. Mirror stares back again, I contort like wheels in my head. Still nothing ever happens; please wake up! Cut until nothing us left until new mateREAL, myself, day in day out. That band is my heart and soul I'm obsessed. Try it on lots of psychedelics.
    Lots of what?!!... isn't Paul Waggoner a straight edge? and I guess it's the case with the other members as well. Paul is a living example what a sober musician can do. Man, you don't need anything to enjoy such an exhilarating music. BTBAM is the mind dope.
    This, and I'm not knocking anyone who does drugs, but living a clean life is way cooler if you ask me. I've only learned as I've gotten older that it's not worth losing your life to something like that. I have bad depression/anxiety as is.
    Hmm. Neil Peart crossed my mind too, however, the question as to being deep? I think he's more clever than "deep". I tend to read his lyrics almost like a good argument. He his definitely good with metaphors.
    Never forget the time that they got accused of being Nazis for using Ayn Rand novels as subject material.
    Came here to say Rush. While not all of Pratt's lyrics are perfect, he's definitely got plenty of phenomenal moments as a writer. Losing It comes to mind.
    Led Zeppelin - Ten Years Gone, The Battle of Evermore, Going To California
    Shame this won't make it, them and the Beatles get deep as fuck like it's nothing to them
    I was waiting for this one on the list. JRR Tolkien fans should get quite a few references from LZ!
    Slint. It amazes me how they write the lyrics for Spiderland so quickly and they turned out so good.
    Have a Nice Life Depression in a lyrical form. Absolutely amazing. The last lines of "Earthmover" are my absolute favourites: "And when their earthen mouths will open up Just what words should come out? but "We wish we were dead"" and then the instrumental climax... I gotta listen to Deathconsciousness again.
    Great call! I also thought about Self Defense Family for some reason - sometimes really deep lyrics...
    The Mars Volta Specially their first two albums, but anything from them really
    Frances the Mute is my favourite... The story it tells is really well done
    Agreed. You've certainly got to dig pretty deep just to make any kind of sense of whatever Cedric is singing about.
    totally agree, doesn't look like many others do though yet? sometimes their lyrics are too deep and I can't seem to make any sense of them, pretty convoluted really
    To be fair to you, I've read interviews with Cedric where he has elucidated his lyric-writing process as trying to describe disjointed pictures in his head using the most obtuse poetic language he can come up with. It seems to be his preferred method if he isn't working with a larger concept in mind.
    Agreed, it's not too digestible, but Frances The Mute is a concept album and tells a story about a few characters. It's a whole musical journey and lyrically talking, it's a damn gem.
    Bruce Springsteen Very personal lyrics that have a lot of thought to them. The song "Youngstown" is the best example of this.
    Best storyteller in rock. period. If you drive around the hollowed out crumbling old manufacturing areas of Rust Belt America at dusk with Nebraska on you really understand what that album is about. Its pure visceral pain especially the last verse of the title track, "Johnny 99", and "Highway Patrolman."
    The last two minutes of Springsteen's Jungleland are a god damn musical landmark.
    Anyone that grew up in small town america and felt like an outcast can instantly identify with "Jackson Cage"
    I love the whole "Nebraska" album. "Atlantic City" is a very powerful song that I don't think a lot of people understand lyrically from that album. I myself for the longest time had no idea it was about the Italian mafia and young man trying to make ends meet by doing "work" for them. I'm in my twenties and got into Springsteen only like 3 or 4 years ago. Great stuff that a lot of younger people probably have no idea about.
    Cool post! I myself avoided Springsteen (foolishly) until i was about 25 or 26, then something hit, i bought the Darkness on the Edge of Town double B-Side album on a whim, and i now have about 10 of his albums. Very complex lyrical story telling, awesome stuff