Are We Family references

 




"...It's only human to want to inhabit every feeling you've got
And more often than not let's take it to the Nth degree
Here he goes
'Gimme ten bucks and a head start
Here's where he goes,
The puzzle's pulling apart
And here's the scene
You're yelling calmly down the street
Are we family
or what"

A shouting match causes one member of a disagreeing duo to flee the scene, as the other party asks "are we family, or what?" Given the theme of the album, I've always interpreted the song to be about mankind. We're being pulled apart by polarizing politics, ethnic divisions and plain old fashioned ignorance. Mother Earth (or some other communal figure) can only stand back and ask "are we in this together or not?"

It's a poetic way of expressing the idea that we've all got far more in common than we often admit, and in the end, we'll all have to learn to co-exist. Like a family dispute or a lovers quarrel, disagreeable parties (even those that seem to be facing insurmountable political or social differences) can eventually smooth over their divergence if they accept the familial principles of "through thick and thin." We don't have any other option but to get along. 

"...The tribal jury to the Pakistani teen"

If the above theory holds true, this lyric may be a reference to Reena Virk. A British Columbia teenager, Virk was brutally beaten and drowned in 1997 by a group of fellow students because of her unpopularity at school, and the colour of her skin. The Virk trials made headlines in 2002 and 2003 when one of the killers was granted a new trial. In April of 2005, the last of Virk's murderers was finally convicted. 

"...The new caledonian crow to the chimpanzee? "

The crow and chimpanzee may serve as a metaphor for two different creatures sharing space in a common world (your guess is as good as mine) but "new caledonia" is undoubtedly a reference to British Columbia.

In 1808, Simon Fraser was employed by the North West Company: a Montreal based fur trading conglomerate competing against the Hudson's Bay Company. Simon went west searching for a passage to the Pacific Ocean. He found the passage and discovered a river that now bares his name.

He named the land that would become mainland British Columbia "New Caledonia." Fraser established the first European settlements in B.C. and worked with Native groups to build trading posts and forts.

"...Where you whisper down the crookedest street"

 Another nod to San Francisco's Lombard Street, which is also referenced in Mean Streak