Can you explain these lyrics for me? ("Bulimic Beats" by Catatonia)

I’ve lately fallen in love with an oldish song, “Bulimic Beats,” by Welsh singer Cerys Matthews and the band Catatonia. Gorgeous melody and sweeping orchestration that reminds me of a sea chanty, and though the singer’s voice is kind of odd, it’s very effective.

The trouble is that I don’t understand all the lyrics’ meaning. I won’t list the whole lyrics as the mods would frown on that, so I’ll just recount the ones that confuse me.

This beautiful, haunting song (as the title makes obvious) is about a woman with an unhealthy relationship with food. My trouble is that only in its last verse does it get specific. The song starts with a description of the woman’s unhappy state due to an inattentive / bored / neglectful man in her life (probably her lover/husband, possibly a father). I’ve italicized the stuff I don’t get, beginning with the first line:

I thought we’d escape
I packed up a fishing line and counted on it

She goes on to explain that her lover/father is too tired or ignorant to care that she needs to be free or travel or whatever it is she needs to escape from. All sorta clear so far. Then in the chorus she bemoans:

“I treat him like a lady
I treat him as I would he unto me
Give Rose rose-seller a run for her money
with silicone and poetry

And it’s the end of me…”

Who with the what, now? There’s no other reference to a “Rose” or silicone(??) in the song. Are there some Welsh legends about rose-selling or counting on fishing lines?

So what the heck do these lines mean, do you think? I couldn’t find any interviews with the writer that clarify them, alas. My nearest guess is that she’s saying she’s tried to please her man by changing her body (the silicone reference) and by writing love songs (poetry), like some rose-seller… but I’m almost certain I’m wrong. Any other guesses?

Now, I know songwriters loves them some opaque lyrics, and I promise I don’t need everything to be obvious and literal, honest. But my utter confusion about these lines is harming what’s otherwise a stunningly moving song for me, and I want to parse them in some way that makes sense.

(I admit I find a lot of modern lyric-writing is just so damn deep that it’s too poetic for me, so maybe I really am too literal or shallow. Just feels like songwriters nowadays go out of their way to include non sequiters in their lines, like, I dunno: “I kicked a can on the street / like Lacoon among the snakes / The stone-hard sky / A gambler raising the stakes.” I’m sure it makes sense to somebody but so many lyrics these days feel that random!)


I think your very much on the right track with how the song was meant to be interpreted, this is a quote from that someone posted which I think hits the nail on the head:

"I think the speaker of the song is digressing to meet her lover’s standards. she’s afraid he’ll leave her for other women (“rose rose-seller”) so she changes her being (silicone and poetry) by figuratively changing her appearance with silicone implants and taking interest in poetry, something she might not have taken interest in before meeting this guy. “it’s the end” of her. sadness. the end is definitely about bulimia. she’s in the kitchen “familiar with every brand” which means like all hardcore bulimics, she’s been planning her binge all day. “custard’s last stand” implies a double meaning to me. literally, it means the batch of custard she’s about to whip up will be devoured in a matter of minutes, and also reminded me of the historical Fall of Custer. this is a stab, but i remember reading about George Custer and Crazy Horse (?) or some native americans in which Custer, expected to conquer, was defeated. in this case, it means the same thing: the pudding is about to be no more "

If you like this song could I also recommend another Catatonia song…‘strange glue’, also Elvis Costello ‘I want you’

This truely is a great song that for me has never had the recognition it deserves…

If all else fails Cerys is on twitter, and fairly active. She might well answer:!/cerysmatthews